Third time lucky
Despite his showbiz pedigree, for years, Men in Black 3 star Josh Brolin’s acting career floundered. ‘Acting never seemed all that glamorous to me,’ he tells TARA BRADY
IT’S A GOOD thing that Josh Brolin – actor, rancher and algorithm designer – knows a thing or two about maths. The latest movie in the Men In Black sequence is, to borrow some Sesame Street jargon, brought to you by the number three. The third picture from a franchise inspired by Lowell Cunningham’s larky comic books arrives in (surprisingly purposeful) 3D. Following on from No Country for Old Men and In the Valley of Elah, MIB3 is Brolin’s third film with Tommy Lee Jones and the third time the actors never actually share screen time.
What gives? How can two people make that many films together without doing a single scene together? “I don’t know,” says Brolin. “We get along pretty well. We’ve gone out a couple of times. I really like the guy. I really want to work with him. It’s a strange anomaly. I don’t understand how it’s happened. It’s weird.”
It’s just as well they get along. Preparing for his role as the younger, late-60s vintage Agent K, Brolin spent many hours watching the senior thespian.
“I studied him. Most of it was meaningless but I still did it,” says Brolin. “I looked at a lot of interviews and I looked at a lot of his early films – The Eyes of Laura Mars, Executioner’s Song, Rolling Thunder – I wanted to remind people that there had to be a younger, more agile, romantic K before he became Tommy.”
Brolin has known the franchise since he brought the kids to see the first MIB film some 15 years ago. He’s always loved sci-fi. As a kid, The Outer Limits and Lost in Space were on his TV; Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury were on the bookshelf.
“The Martial Chronicles and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 hit me like nothing else,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe someone had come up with this stuff.”
MIB, nonetheless, occupies a special place in his heart as the film (along with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) that scored the most repeat viewings among the younger Brolins. They ought to have been thrilled with dad’s latest movie. But, at 44, Josh Brolin is already a victim of Empty Nest Syndrome.
“It’s wild. They’re 24, 18 and 19 and they all left home within two weeks of each other. My son left to go teach in Bangkok. My two girls left California for New York. It’s completely weird. I don’t remember an adult life without kids. I was a kid then I had kids. My wife and I are looking at each other going ‘So . . . What now? How do we fill the time?”
Josh Brolin ought to be Mr Hollywood. His showbiz pedigree is impeccable: his dad is James Brolin, his stepmom is Barbara Streisand; his missus is Diane Lane. His career highlights extend back to 1985’s The Goonies, a movie he appeared in at the age of 17. He was once – a true celebrity badge of honour, this – engaged to Minnie Driver for six months. The credentials are in place and yet Brolin could hardly be less Hollywood.
“We grew up on a farm, far away from the whole epicentre of my dad’s career,” says Brolin. “His job never seemed all that glamorous to me. We struggled. My parents were all over the place in monetary terms. It never looked like a secure job. But when the bug bites . . .”