Josh Brolin – Fear is the Mind Killer
Men's Journal|September - October 2021
How did Josh Brolin build one of Hollywood’s coolest careers? By finding ‘fuck it’ mode.
By Jesse Will

Josh Brolin holds his laptop askew off the balcony of his room above the plaza near La Fonda, an old adobe-walled hotel in Santa Fe. In the Zoom window on my computer screen, tourists amble around in the late Saturday afternoon light below the Gothic Revival spires of the Loretto Chapel. Brolin, in his scraggy-timbered voice, tells me he’s spent the last hour in one of its pews. He says he’s just been sitting. Not praying. Not meditating. Just sitting.

“I’m not particularly religious,” says Brolin. “I’m just tired. Man, things get weird when you get tired.”

Brolin says he worked all night and is in the last week of a seven-month shoot where he’s playing a Wyoming rancher on Outer Range, a mystery series set to premier next spring on Amazon.

Down at the church, he says he’s gone unnoticed. This is not uncommon. Despite Brolin’s very recognizable look—a topographic map of lines between his temples, a head that he’s described as an “oversized vegetable” and a body detailed in one movie as having “Flintstone proportions”—he somehow manages, most of the time, to evade getting ID’d.

This seems difficult to fathom. In 2018 and 2019, movies Brolin starred in made a combined $5.7 billion worldwide, including Avengers: Endgame, where the actor completed the character arc of Thanos, the would-be destroyer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“I can still kind of go everywhere I want. Part of the reason might be that in the biggest movie that ever was, I was the, I know, 700-pound purple guy.”

What exactly has the actor been up to in the time since the entertainment press dubbed 2018 the “Summer of Brolin,” where three films he appeared in, including Sicario, Avengers and Deadpool sequels, took top spots on box-office charts? “I took a long break,” he deadpans.

Brolin unplugged. He surfed. He ate. He relocated, for a while, to Atlanta, where Kathryn, his wife since 2016, was raised. Then Covid hit.

“People dealt with it in one of two ways. You either went insane or you shifted into reprioritizing your life.” Brolin’s reprioritizing, in part, resulted in conceiving another kid. The chapel was born on Christmas Day 2020, joining Westlyn, now 2½.

It’s not Brolin’s first go-round at fatherhood. Now 53, he’s been a dad since age 20—essentially, his whole adult life. With their first wife Alice Adair, an actress, he had Trevor, now 33, and Eden, now 27. This iteration of family life, Brolin says, has been a long time coming and very welcome.

“I’ve been with a lot of people in my chosen industry. A while back, something shifted in me—like a psychic shift. And then I met this woman. She didn’t need me in any way.” Kathryn (she was once Brolin’s assistant) runs the boutique jeans brand Midheaven Denim and is a photographer. She took the shots here, in locations across New Mexico, from the Bisti Badlands to Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch.

RIPPED AND READY

During his long break, Brolin said no to most projects. But after some cajoling, he was roused from the house to join the cast of Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, slated to open in late October. It’s an epic, in every sense.

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