Although he’s made more than two dozen features since his debut in The Goonies (1985), Josh Brolin has distinguished himself mostly by appearing in the worst movies of great directors: Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda, Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man, Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic. True, he did make a brief splash as a bisexual federal agent obsessed with licking women’s armpits in David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster. But that didn’t turn out to be the breakthrough you might imagine.
All this could change now that Brolin is appearing in a slew of high-profile movies. Probably the hottest is the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s bestseller No Country for Old Men, in which he plays a leathery Texan who comes across a suitcase full of drug money but must then contend with a sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and a hitman (Javier Bardem). When he arrives in Boston to promote the film, our conversation begins somewhat inauspiciously. He asks, “Didn’t I just see you a minute ago downstairs looking wide-eyed?” I’ve just bumped into him in the hotel lobby, and apparently I gawked like a star-struck rube. So my first question is more of an answer . . .
Yes. I was confused. But you must be used to people staring.
Not really. Not unless someone is picking a fight.
Not me! But surely people must recognize you with, what, four movies out . . .
Five. Grindhouse, The Dead Girl, [In the Valley of] Elah, American Gangster, and this.
So is this the breakout year people keep saying it is?
Does that annoy you?
It doesn’t annoy me. But I would never want to negate the amount of work that I’ve done before, you know? But these movies are being seen. That may be the difference. And they’re by established, iconoclastic filmmakers, you know? You have Ridley Scott and the Coens.
Enigmatic, aren’t they, the Coens? Putting people on?
They don’t really put people on, no.
What about the article in Esquire in which they claimed they thought they had hired your father James and were shocked when you showed up?
Well that’s me and Ethan, you know. That’s just us having a good time together. A lot of people believed that article, which is kind of phenomenal. But that’s okay — it got a lot of press.
So your last thoughts as you were flying through the air after you crashed your motorcycle were: “I missed my chance to be in that Coen brothers movie”?
Exactly. It was right after I got the role, and I was going from one wardrobe fitting to the other, and the car was just there. I’ve never been in a street accident ever — a lot of dirt-bike accidents, but never a street accident. And I fancy myself as someone who can get out of that stuff pretty quick. I could do nothing. The skid mark was like that long. I was just very pleased to hit the top of the car. I probably would have broken both my legs. [He broke his collarbone.]