Josh Brolin's had a pretty amazing 2007 career-wise. Brolin had a part in Robert Rodriguez' half of Grindhouse and a supporting role in the dramatic film, In the Valley of Elah. And Brolin played a dirty cop in American Gangster with Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington. With No Country for Old Men directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, Brolin completes his busy year by playing a man who stumbles upon the scene of a drug deal gone bad. Amidst the dead men is $2 million in cash, which proves too much of a temptation. Although he expects trouble for taking the money, he has no idea just how far the people behind the deal will go to get their money back.
Working with Very Little Dialogue: No Country for Old Men is told without much dialogue which meant the actors – and in particular, Brolin - had to convey much of the story through body language. “I mean it was a fear, for sure, because dialogue that’s what you kind of rest upon as an actor, you know?” said Brolin regarding the limited dialogue in the film. “Drama and all the stuff is all dialogue motivated. You have to figure out different ways to convey ideas. You don’t want to over-compensate because the fear is that you’re going to be boring if nothing’s going on. You start doing this and this and taking off your hat and putting it on again or some bulls--t that doesn’t need to be there. So yeah, I was a little afraid of that in the beginning.
But I also knew people, like the Coens, who feel absolutely no need to uphold their end of the conversation or only really say what needs to be said. They don’t sit there as directors and manipulate you and go into page after page to try to get you to a certain place. They may come in and say one word or 2 words, so that was nice to be around in order to feed the other thing. ‘What should I do right now? I’ll just watch Ethan go humming to himself and pacing. Maybe that’s what I should do, too.’”
Brolin continued, “Everybody has a lot more dialogue than I do. I mean, for me there was a part that we actually rehearsed that I said, ‘Hey, I think we should inject something here and I think it’s important. I’m afraid if we put something here, he’s going to be talking to himself so much that it’s going to seem like he’s crazy and we don’t want him to come across as being crazy.’ He’s just a guy who once in a while answers an inner monologue, an inner dialogue that he has, because he spends so much time alone.
…I’m used to improvising and this is a whole different monster. The fear is being boring and the fear is overcompensating. So, I don’t know, hopefully we pulled it off.”
The Audition Process: Brolin admits it was an uphill battle to land the role. “Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino filmed my first audition on a $1 million Genesis camera during lunch during Grindhouse, and so that was a really cool looking audition. But I didn’t get the part. It was turned down. They watched it and their response was, ‘Who lit it?’ I was much bigger and I had a goatee, but it had nothing to do with the physicality. They just didn’t see it. It’s not what they were looking for at that moment. It wasn’t resonating and I have a brilliant agent who just became a persistent pest and just said, ‘Meet him, meet him, meet him, meet him.’ Not, ‘He’s perfect for the part.’ Not, ‘You’re making a mistake.’ Just, ‘Meet him.’
What I found out now was their last casting session, they were focused on a couple of actors. They called me the night before and they said, basically, no harm, no foul. ‘Leave us alone, have him come down.’ I studied a few scenes and I came down and I met them, and there was really no reaction in the meeting. I walked out thinking, ‘It was great meeting the Coens. I’m a big fan. That’s cool.’ And by the time I got home I found out they wanted me to do it.”
Very, Very Bad Timing: Brolin was involved in a motorcycle accident on Highland Avenue two days after getting the role in No Country for Old Men. As he was flying through the air he thought to himself, “Oh, I didn’t get to work with the Coens.”
Brolin recalls how it all went down: “Two days after I got it I was going from a wardrobe fitting for the Coens movie to a wardrobe fitting for this movie that I did called The Dead Girl and somebody just… It wasn’t my fault, but you’re on a motorcycle so it’s inevitable and I hit it and snapped my collarbone in half.”
Brolin still rides. “Not as often and not in traffic. I try to get out. And not on Highland. No, but it was a whole process and story in that. It’s really boring but I lied and I told them it was much more minor than it was. And then I was told I was liable if anything happened to me. Then I talked to my doctor and then he lied for me and then, really, the only reason I was able to do the movie is I remember Ethan said to me after he talked to the doctor. He said, ‘What shoulder is it?’ I said, ‘It’s my right shoulder.’ He said, ‘Moss gets shot in the right shoulder. We’ll be fine,’ he said and we never had to change anything in the movie. I couldn’t plate it because of the risk of infection of cutting me and going in and plating it, so it was a floating break. During the river scene it was moving all over the place.”
It was extremely painful but Brolin dealt with it the best he could. “Later on it was okay, and the dog didn’t friggin’ help - the untrained dog, the non-movie dog. They thought that was funny. I remember the trainer saying at one point, I was sitting in the water and the trainer goes to the crew—he’s not talking to me—but the trainer looks at the crew and says, ‘If the dog runs after you on the beach, do not move.’ I was like, ‘What the f—k, man? He comes swimming after me every take.’ So it wasn’t fun.”
He can move his shoulder now and says it’s 100% healed without the benefit of rehab. “People ask me that, even doctors they go, ‘It doesn’t heal like that. When you have a floating collarbone, it doesn’t heal like that.’ They said, ‘What did you do for rehab?’ I said, ‘I swam away from a rabid dog. I got shot. I got this and that. I ran away from the Mexican’s in the truck. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that technique. It’s a good one.’”