Adaptable Hollywood star Josh Brolin has the ability to play almost every kind of role - ranging from intense Woody Allen characters to former President George W. Bush. In the 2010 remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic True Grit, Josh teams up again with the Coen brothers, who previously featured him in their existentialist-Western-of-kinds No Country For Old Men. Brolin is once again on the run, this time as dim-witted killer Tom Chaney, hotly pursued by Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn, in another beautiful, quirky new take on what a Western can be here in the 21st century.
Buzzine's Izumi Hasegawa recently sat down with Josh Brolin in Los Angeles, CA for an exclusive interview and gets the behind-the-scences scoop on the motivations, preparations and research that went into his performance in True Grit.
Izumi Hasegawa: Where do you have to go to find a violent simpleton in you?
Josh Brolin: No stretch! Well, it found me, didn't it? I wasn't in the film. I don't know what you're talking about. They just asked to use my name. When I came, I talked to Joel and Ethan [Coen] about it in the beginning and they said something about he's sort of a dim bulb, and I thought no, he's more like a broken bulb--no filament at all. I like the idea of doing this duality of a guy who he's talked about throughout the whole movie, so when you see him, you expect a monster. Especially when he turns around the first time - that shot with the horses. He's got that look, whatever he's doing - I'm not sure what the look is. Then he starts talking and it's a different kind of guy. It's like, "So what are you doing here? I don't understand what you're doing out here." It's almost conversation.
I like that better because the mythology of what's been created through the movie is ripped from you - whatever pigeonhole you've created in your mind of what a sociopath is. Then you see it come back when he's alone with her. You see that great low shot that they do of that transition that happens of "I'm not taking this shit anymore and now I realize I'm out in the middle of nowhere and now I have to manifest this rage again." You realize it's a true sociopath. It was fun to be able to do that. Talking about the language, I think a lot of things came together in rehearsals because I don't think anybody really knew how to do the language. Then you see Jeff [Bridges] come in and raaashaaa. Then you go, "Oh, I can say mine like that too." Then Barry [Pepper] comes in and says rashararara. "Oh, so I can pull off the no contractions by doing that" and it's true. You do. When I did the voice, I thought, oh, this is going to stick out so horrible. It's too much. I think I did too much. And then I saw everybody else in the film. You don't even notice it.
IH: What was environmentally friendly on the set?
JB: The trash that we saw there we left there.
IH: How did you prepare for the campfire scene?
JB: I don't know how to answer that question really. [Hailee Steinfeld is] so precocious and amazing and present and just kind of went with it. There was never any moment. I think it was more nerve wracking for me than it was for her. She's very comfortable in her own skin. That scene was about her talking and being super confident, and this little manchild hating the purity of her. Josh loves her purity. He loves it. I'm so taken by her in every which way. I just think she's incredible. So it was much harder for me.
Everything she did was easy. The rest of us make it really hard, but it was great. I had a really good time. Other than the cursing between me and Matt [Damon] and Barry... Barry doesn't curse so much. I think the F-word was $5, the S-word was... She made about $100,000. An incredible experience, though. We had a really great time. I can't really tell you the process because it was a fairly easy process. In rehearsal, it was different. We really searched a lot in rehearsal for character and all that, but she was the one person who had it down before the rest of us really started.
IH: What kind of research did you do for the characters?
JB: I think there are a couple of things that happen. One is being authentic is really important, but authenticity in place of fluidity seems to... There's like, "Wow, that movie is perfect. They didn't do anything wrong and I'm bored out of my mind." There has to be a fluidity there, and I think that's what happens in rehearsal when you go yes, you're authentic. Listen, they wouldn't have that gun. That's 1871 and that actually wasn't issued until 1873. You're like, are you joking? There are a few people out there who that really matters to a lot, and I do think it's important, and you have amazing props people like Keith Walters, who is extremely wound up about that stuff. That's great. That's his job. I love him on the set, but you try to create these composite things.
You get in rehearsals and you go, "How does this work?" Even with my character - and I'm not in the movie very much - but you go, "Well, what works?" What I came in with wasn't working at all. We all knew it. There was no damning going on, but we were like, "Okay, that doesn't work, but what do we do? I don't know, let's just keep mixing it up and keep mixing it up." Then the little voice things come out and Joel goes, "Oh, what was that?" Ethan goes, "I like that," or I heard Ethan in the background like [laughing]. Things start to come together, and I think that's it. Instead of the western perfect authentic, this is what they say to do, let's make that.
Paramount Pictures' 'True Grit' is released in theaters on December 22, 2010.