Josh Brolin has been having a storming few years. The Californian-born actor who first came to prominence in ‘The Goonies’ has deftly mixed up quality fare like ‘Sicario’, ‘Inherent Vice’, ‘Labor Day’ and blockbusters such as ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, ‘Men in Black 3’ and ‘Everest’ in recent times.
His latest project saw the star win rave reviews for playing Eddie Mannix, a film studio fixer in the Coen brothers’ strange comedy about the 1950s studio system ‘Hail, Caesar!’. Mannix’s job is to sort out the outrageous personal problems of Hollywood stars, played by real life A-listers like Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum, while keeping their scandalous exploits out of the tabloids.
We spoke to Brolin about the mixed critical reaction to ‘Hail, Caesar!’, which is now on DVD, as well as his interest in Donald Trump and upcoming appearance in the ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ movies, which will see him finally get some serious screentime as the villainous Thanos.
What did you think of the critical reception towards ‘Hail, Caesar!’?
JB: I didn’t really pay attention because I knew it was the type of movie that some people would love or some people would really not get. I heard that part of the criticism was that the story, the narrative, was a little weak. But I was like it was a day in the life of somebody. So I don’t know how that can be any stronger, you know? You know you are following a guy go through the absurd insanities of what Hollywood, or at least our perception of what Hollywood was back then. And we are making it a little more tongue in cheek and extreme and caricatured in a way that makes it fun.
The thing is with Joel and Ethan’s movies is…like ‘The Big Lebowski’ comes out and it does okay and then 20 years later it is the number one cult hit basically of all time. So who knows with that? What I do know is that they are making movies for themselves and want people to see the movies. I really enjoy going through that process with them because not a lot of pandering going on. They just do what they do.
You never know what will be a success…
JB: I mean if you look at ‘True Grit’ [another Coen brothers film], that is a model for absolute complete failure. It is a western. You can’t understand Jeff Bridges’ character at all because he is drunk the whole time. I am just doing a voice that is totally incomprehensible. And yet it was by far their most successful movie that they have ever done! So that is what I am saying, who knows? The great thing about CDs and iTunes and all that is that if it doesn’t resonate now maybe it will ten years from now because it will still be on iTunes.
How do you compare the interactions of movie stars and journalists in the 50s compared to today?
JB: It was much worse, more stage-managed back then. It was much more controlled. There was more face time but there was a lot more control because of all… [the] debauchery. It was unbelievable man. Every drug they could do. 90% of them were homosexuals or lesbians which is just amazing. Every studio head was f**king some starlet that had a six-month contract. That is the reality of what they based it off of and then [the Coens] just made it more tongue in cheek. But the thing is you could hide things back then. There are similarities between what is being done now with publicists – it is what a publicist would try to do now. But you can’t. There are too many iPhones and cameras. You can’t get away with anything now.
I read that you are a fan of Donald Trump, is that true? If so what do you find appealing about him?
JB: Oh not much right now. But what I did find appealing was his vision in the beginning, going out on his own; away from what his father did which was build brick apartment buildings in Brooklyn. As a visionary and somebody who is as persistent as he was I found that very inspiring. So when I met him during ‘Wall Street 2’, I probably knew more about him than he knew about himself. I was very intrigued with him from a business point of view. Even in his bankruptcy.
He told me this story when he was $3 billion dollars in debt. It was raining outside and he had to go to his lawyers office, which was ten blocks away and he couldn’t get a cab because it was raining in Manhattan, so he decided to walk. Along that walk he saw a homeless guy who had his hat out and he had a dollar in the hat and he said that in that moment he realised that guy was $2,999,999,999 richer than he was. I thought that was a great story. But that being said I can like the businessman – because I am not a guy who says ‘Pete, because you are a Republican you are a piece of s**t’ – [but] when you get in to politics there is just a different side to his personality that I don’t find attractive.
It’s a shame that he feels he has had to adopt a different persona in recent months…
JB: Also it’s more of a great study of our society. It might be a horrible parallel but when you see what was going on in Germany in World War II – right before and you see where they were socially after WWI, after losing. The morale was way, way down and then somebody came along and said ‘right lets kick those people out and we want to work on the deficit’. Yes. ‘And we want free education’. Yes. Whatever is being said, you forget he is not going to be using his own money, he is actually going to be paying taxpayers money for so many different things that are impossible to mend. And we all know it is impossible. But we so desperately want it to be truth. I get it. I totally get it.
It is like people don’t want to sort out gun control whatsoever. I get that they have one emotional connection to that. When their dad taught them how to shoot as a little kid. I get that. We have to be sensitive to it. But we have to keep in mind that more kids died in 2016, the few months of this year, then any other time in history because of guns somehow.
To change topics completely, how much of a time commitment will ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ be for you?
JB: Not so bad because of the nature of the films and because of the amount of green screen and stuff like that, they can piece it together and they are very malleable with schedules and all of that kind of stuff. It is a commitment you know. I did commit to them for a few movies.
I sat down with them recently. I have known the co-president of Marvel for over 20 years [and he said:] “Hey will you come to The Valley, so we can tell you the story of what we are going to do?” I obviously got in my car immediately and I went to The Valley, which I don’t like to go to! And then I sat at a big table with all these guys and they just went through the [‘Avengers: Infinity War’] story very specifically and I was completely and utterly blown away. It really is a fun world. It is a new world for me. Some people have been doing this since they we’re even kids and as much as I was into a few comics I don’t know a lot about this world but I do know how deeply it affects people and I think these guys are just masterful at telling stories. They are into it. It is really fun. They [the directors Anthony and Joe Russo] are like the Coen brothers in their own way. You know they go to Palm Springs and they rent a house for a week and they flip burgers. They talk about the things Thanos could do. It is amazing.
‘Hail, Caesar!’ is available to own on Digital HD™ now and on Blu-ray™ & DVD now, courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK).