The King Of 2018
Empire Australasia|May 2018

Villain. Warrior. Soldado. Josh brolinis about to light up screens in three feverishly awaitedsequels, a new twist in a career of many highs and lows.

Chris Hewitt Icons Olly Gibbs

IMAGINE NOT LIKING JOSH BROLIN.

Imagine not having a soft spot for the guy who was Brand in The Goonies. Imagine not warming to the guy who brought such humanity to Llewelyn Moss in No Country For Old Men. Imagine not being able to stomach the old-school charms of one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, a talented and tenacious character actor in the bullet-headed body of a leading man.

But there are many who can’t get on board with Star Wars, so it stands to reason — it’s almost dictated by the law of averages — that there will be those who can’t stomach Josh Brolin. Well, just in case you’re one of those poor unfortunates, a word to the wise: you’re shit out of luck this year. In fact, best to just skip the whole thing. We’ll wake you when 2019 begins.

Because this year you won’t be able to throw a stone in a cinema without hitting a film starring Josh Brolin. He’s bestriding the blockbuster movie season like a colossus. “Nicely put,” laughs Brolin. “Did you write that and then read off your notebook?” Of course we didn’t (we totally did), but there’s no question that Brolin is having a moment. April saw him terrorise Marvel’s mightiest heroes as the mad Titan, Thanos, in Avengers: Infinity War. Then, in May, he affixes a metal arm and perma-scowl to trade blows, and mad bantz, with Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2, where he’ll play future-mercenary Cable. And last but not least, he returns to the role of charismatic CIA agent Matt Graver in Sicario: Day Of The Soldado. Quite the hat-trick, by anyone’s standards. “People keep telling me this is a great year, but I’m always in this place of ‘I’m still starting out’,” claims Brolin. “I’m hoping to graduate out of the Lower East Side black-box theatre that I’ve been working in my whole life.”

Blockbusters have not exactly been Brolin’s bread and butter over the last decade. The closest he’s come was playing a (dead-on) young Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black 3, and that was six years ago. Otherwise, he’s since chosen to work with the kind of directors for whom multiplex is usually a four-letter word. The Coens, thrice. Oliver Stone, twice. Gus Van Sant. Denis Villeneuve. Paul Thomas Anderson. Spike Lee. Jason Reitman. So, why now?

“The most important thing to me is, how do we fuck up what we already have? I’ve had wonderful character roles with amazing directors, but just out of my own intrinsic need to mix it up I go, ‘What if we do something else now that I’m 50?’” Brolin hit that milestone — true middle age — back in February and, rather than diving headlong into a mid-life crisis (“I don’t want to buy a Ferrari”), he decided to have some fun. It’s in his nature. “I was at Taylor Kitsch’s new house in Texas,” says Brolin. “And it’s great. And all I see is how close the roof is to the pool. It’s what I go to. My agent goes, ‘Why do you want to jump off the roof? It doesn’t make any sense to me.’ I said, ‘Why you don’t doesn’t make any sense to me.’”

So, Infinity War and Deadpool 2 are Brolin’s career equivalent of leaping off a roof into Taylor Kitsch’s pool. Although neither, being sequels to two of Hollywood’s most successful films in recent years, is much of a risk in that sense. There’s plenty of water here to break his fall. They’ll be, comfortably, the biggest hits of his career, commercially. Instead, the risk for him lies elsewhere, in making sense of the absurd, and in doing something he’s been reluctant to do: bringing comic-book characters to life.

COMIC BOOKS HAVE been following Brolin around his whole life. “If it wasn’t for Batman, we wouldn’t be talking,” he notes. He’s not kidding. His father, James Brolin, and his mother, the late Jane Cameron Agee, met while working on the 1960s Batman TV show (he was acting; she was casting). A little POW! and BAM! later, along came young Josh. Yet, despite that — or perhaps because of it — Brolin swerved superheroes. “Is it deliberate?” he asks. “Almost. It’s not that I turned them down. It’s just not what I wanted to do at that moment. The bigger things, I just stayed away from.”

One of those bigger things was — holy circle of life! — the most recent iteration of Batman, for which Brolin had a brief chat with Zack Snyder, before the latter plumped for Ben Affleck. “We indirectly talked about it, but we never got to the point because I wasn’t the guy to him,” says Brolin. “I’m really glad it didn’t happen. I haven’t thought twice about it.”

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