In December, Josh Brolin stars in the Coen Bros. remake of True Grit. But first, he has dueling performances as a philandering novelist in Woody Allen’s Tall Dark Stranger and a vicious capitalist in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Kevin Gray recently profiled (and bro-hugged) Brolin for New York. Here, Brolin tells us about Woody Allen’s predictably bizarre eating habits, borrowing money from the Donald, and getting relationship advice from Jane Fonda (“How many times she been married?”).
What TV shows do you like?
You know the whole Trump thing, I love Trump. I used to watch The Apprentice. In my family, we watched it religiously for like three years and once they hit the celebrity thing, it was retarded. I had dinner with Trump when we were shooting Wall Street. I still owe the guy twenty bucks because I forgot my wallet. I told the cabbie when I got to the 21 Club, I said, “Dude, I forgot my wallet.” I said, “Wait here, I’ll be right out.” And I run in and it was Oliver and Donald and Shia and I said, “Somebody give me twenty bucks, I got the cab waiting.” Trump pulls out his money. I take his money and run back to the cab. So I still owe him twenty bucks. But you know what I love? He had three twenties on him. There was no thousands, no hundreds. I love that he had three twenties. And he peeled one off for me.
You’ve got this totally star-studded family. Between you, your wife, Diane Lane, your dad, James, and stepmom, Barbra Streisand, you guys must get mobbed when you go out.
We’re not all out in public often. If we do go out, you know, you don’t complain about going out in public if you go to frickin’ Spago. I never understood that. These celebrities who are like, “Why can’t we just go out and have dinner?! Please leave us alone.” Well, don’t go to fucking Spago! You know? Or what’s another one in L.A.? Nobu. Or the Ivy. “Please man, no pictures, all right!?” What’d you go to the Ivy for? The food’s not even that good. To me, it’s just a self-fulfilling prophesy and it’s pretty obvious what all that is.
Nearly all of the married characters in your new movie with Woody Allen, Tall Dark Stranger, are cheating on each other or want to. And you told me you dislike your own character because he’s so selfish.
All the characters in the film are selfish. You know, in our worst moments, we all go, “If I had that, I’d be okay.” It’s not necessarily material stuff, but emotional: This woman looks at me across the room, and my wife doesn’t look at me like that anymore. If you take action in that moment, your whole life turns into chaos. That’s why people get married, especially in this industry, like nine times. I was talking to Jane Fonda last night at a premiere. And out of nowhere — we were all talking, having a great time, laughing — and then she looked at me and goes: “Do you find it hard to be in a marriage being as busy as you are?” I mean literally, like out of fucking nowhere. I was like. Hmmm, makes sense, coming from her. How many times she been married? I said, “No. I don’t find it difficult.” But you know, marriage is hard, there are ebbs and flows.
What’s the deal with these four one-act plays you’re doing with Ethan Coen at St. Anne’s Warehouse in the summer of 2012?
There’s this one play that’s basically based on a story I had written during the shooting of No Country for Old Men. I wrote in a little journal and then I vanity-pressed it, and then gave it to everybody as wrap gifts at the end of the shoot. My son did the art on the cover and the back. It was the moment where Llewelyn, after getting shot, goes out in the street running from Javier Bardem’s character, gets into the pickup truck with this guy, and then the guy gets shot right away. So we were setting up the shot, sitting in the truck with the guy — who also ran the Shakespeare festival in L.A. — [who] gets shot in the head. We’re sitting, no one’s talking, we’re waiting to shoot, and he’s like, “Wow, these Coens are pretty good, aren’t they?” I’m like, “Yeah.” Then he goes, “God, I wish I had a joint right now.’” And I’m like, “What?” And he says, “Nothing.” That was one of those really awkward bizarre conversations. I wrote it down afterward and Ethan took that little story and wrote a whole one act on it. Two actors waiting for a shoot to happen and the crazy dialogue that happens. The only through line for all four plays is there’s a truck in each one.
What’s it like working with Woody Allen?
Terrifying. And exhilarating. We had this six-page scene we had to do in one take. We shot it three times because things didn’t work. Owen Wilson, who’s working with him right now, just wrote me. I said: “How’s Woody?” He said, “Great guy, not shy about going back and reshooting something.” Which says it all, you know? And it’s true. There was one rumor going around that he had Scarlett [Johansson] change her wardrobe five different times for the same scene in one of his movies. But it’s so old-school with Woody. It doesn’t feel like Oliver [Stone], who’s doing these crane shots and all this wee! stuff.
What about downtime on the set? Did you hang out with Woody?
Not really. I remember Anthony Hopkins [who plays Brolin’s philandering father-in-law] went out with him and Soon Yi one night, and he said Woody ordered a big plate of shrimp. But then he didn’t eat any of it. And Tony asked him why. Woody goes, “I felt nervous by the, by the waiter and I just wanted to order something to please him.” Serious, man. And it’s organic. It’s not meant to be funny. Just: “I dunno, the waiter wanted me to order something so I ordered something.”