From Hollywood brat to double-dipping villain: In his 50s, Josh Brolin's acting career is in full bloom and for good reasons

The 50-year-old Santa Monica-born actor has been in showbiz for over thirty years now - after all, he shares the same gene pool as his famous father, soap opera star James Brolin.


                            From Hollywood brat to double-dipping villain: In his 50s, Josh Brolin's acting career is in full bloom and for good reasons

Unless you are completely removed from the cinematic universe, the name Josh Brolin is bound to have popped up on your newsfeed in the recent times. The 50-year-old Santa Monica-born actor has been in the movie business for over thirty years now - after all, he shares the same gene pool as his famous father, the famous soap opera star of the seventies, James Brolin.

And yet, for his acting career to truly receive a Hollywood-style kick-start, it took him more than a decade. In 2007, Brolin landed a pivotal role in the Coen brothers-directed movie, 'No Country for Old Men'. Alongside a star-studded cast including names like Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, a mid-aged Brolin played the role of Llewelyn Moss - donning a Templeton High School jacket and an attitude that instantly turned him into this hot-selling Hollywood pie. 

Not only did the film appeal to the critics and earn rave reviews but it also was a big hit, speaking in terms of the box-office numbers. But the movie's incredible success or the multiple Academy awards that it won, didn't get to his head. Even years later, when Brolin talks about the movie, he has this same air of uncertainty that one would naturally associate with a Hollywood newcomer. 

"You never really know what’s going to work. Did we think No Country was going to be a hit? Not in the least," in a 2017 interview, the actor had said, recalling the phenomenal response to No Country for Old Men. 

"You really never know,” he emphasized later during the chat and citing another of his movies as an example, 2015's Sicario opposite Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro. “Movies you think are good don’t go anywhere and one’s you think are a flop… they hit.”

It's almost humbling the way Brolin, despite having spent years dabbling with the good, bad, and ugly of the entertainment industry, maintains a casual demeanor about his character roles. Agreed, it has not been a total cakewalk for the star since his 'The Goonies' days - the 1985 classic cult where he plays older brother Brand - and in fact, a look at his downward-spiraling graph before 'No Country for Old Men' can hardly be considered an indicator of the brand that he would end up building for himself. 

“It looks like a lot of work, but it wasn’t. There were a lot of small roles, and I wasn’t being paid a lot because I didn’t have a lot of value as a commodity," he told the New Times SLO website, dishing about the barrage of movies that he has been a part of in the late 80s through the 90s. 

Right after sharing screen space with Sean Astin, the future Lord of the Rings star in 'The Goonies', Brolin landed the lead role in Thrashin' - a 1986 movie that not only made him reassess his skills as a showman but also pushed him to the brink where he gave quitting acting a serious thought. 

The uncertainty was reflected in his real life too, as he dabbled with drugs and surfer gangs (the Cito Rats).        

Josh Brolin (Getty Images)
Josh Brolin (Getty Images)

"It was Santa Barbara. It was the 80s. It was punk rock. You either had the children of rich, neglectful parents or children of poor, neglectful parents, so it was a mix. But we basically grew up the same way. I've never seen a group like that before or since," Brolin candidly revealed to The Guardian. 

His confession was more than just candid, as, without much thought, the actor talked about his experience with substance abuse next. "I tried heroin," Brolin siad, "I mean, I never got into it and I never died from it, which is a good thing. I've had 19 friends who died. Most of those guys I grew up with, they're all dead now." 

Things, however, took a drastic turn for him between 1987 - 1993, the period around which the ranch-owner-turner-Hollywood-tough-guy-archetype made a U-turn to trace his way back to theater. Indeed, Brolin is no stage prodigy and to be honest, had it not been for his friendship with co-star Anthony Zerbe, he would have never thought of utilizing his acting hiatus in the world of theater.

"Anthony Zerbe, who’s still my best friend, told me to get my ass to Rochester, N.Y., to do a play on my hiatus, and that’s what I did for four or five years."

Brolin recalls: "The natural trajectory was to use your hiatus to do a film, but theater work turned out to be the best thing that ever happened, and he [Zerbe] turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. During that time, I found the ability to lose myself in a character and to understand the bigger psychological and sociological implications of each role.”   


The following years, marked by his comeback movie The Road Killers (1993), and the subsequent releases including Hollow Man, and the Paul Walker thriller Into the Blue; somehow remain a big blur for Brolin. He was acting, starring in a mix of lead and side roles, but nothing significant enough to catapult him into outright stardom.   

Driving a final wrench through this phase of mental, emotional instability for the actor was a 1995 tragedy when his mother passed away (wildlife activist Jane Cameron) after meeting with a fatal accident. And on the day Brolin rang in his 27th birthday. 

But that was just the tip of the iceberg for the struggling thespian. While his professional life seemed to be stuck in a never-ending spiral of mediocrity, his personal space was a little less than convoluted. Having endured the loss of a parent, Brolin was headed towards another tumultuous situation - a failing marriage with Alice Adair, with whom he shares two children.

The actor would go down the wedding path twice more in life - a short-lived marriage with actress Diane Lane and in 2016 with model Kathryn Boyd.    



In dire need of an intervention, Brolin would fall back into the same pattern of drinking and self-sabotaging. At the time, if his firefighter buddy Danny Martin along with some other close aides hadn't staged a rescue, there might have been no saving for the star. 

 "I was all over the place. Always in the news. I was arrested like nine times," said Brolin, while fessing up about his troubled years to Esquire magazine in the past. 

"I just had a switch, and you never knew when it was going to go off. It was like a switch of adrenaline when I'd drink. I'd see a building, I didn't have a choice—I'd just have to climb the building. Or I'd see a guy below the building and I had to jump on the guy. It just happened."

A series of run-of-the-mill releases and turbulent life events later, Brolin, finally seems to have found a "stability" switch that strikes the much-needed balance between his larger-than-life portrayals and his off-limelight life. 

Come May 18, the actor will be taking on a fan-favorite role - as the time-traveling cyborg mutant Cable opposite Ryan Reynold's anti-hero Deadpool. The beefed-up role not only cements his almost permanent status in the quick-evolving Fox movie universe but also consolidates his place amongst the A-listers, who shoulder the mammoth task of bringing pop culture's worshipped characters to life. 


Interestingly, the sequel seems to be just one of his first roles as the ass-kicking, futuristic weapon-wielding mutant Cable. Brolin, as per reports, is signed up for at least three more R-rated films. For any die-hard comic book lover, this news is pure gold - more Cable means more Deadpool and judging by pre-release ticket sales records, the buzz surrounding the R-rated blockbuster is just building up. 

Asides the big screen rendition of the Marvel-Fox commodity, Brolin is also in charge of antagonizing a bunch of Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the purple-skilled alien king Thanos, he wrecked havoc last month in the latest release, Avengers: Infinity War.  

Unsurprisingly fans were thrilled with the outcome and comics loyalists satisfied as, after ages, Brolin's stoic portrayal solved an inherent problem within the MCU - the problem of vanilla villains. 

"I'm gonna sit here and enjoy watching #JoshBrolin have the best year of his career..." tweeted one thrilled viewer. 

As another chimed in, writing: 

Oddly enough, Brolin's Hollywood experience is largely defined by the big-baddie archetype. He, by far, has mostly stood out as the dude amongst the men. The one who stands out from a crowd of good-looking actors not because he is outrageously gorgeous (which he is) or incredibly talented, but more so due to his charm - a delicious mix of rugged and soft. 

It takes a big man to confess that he has failed, that he loves rom-coms (a big fan of Ryan Reynolds-Sandra Bullock starrer Proposal). And definitely, an even bigger one to turn stereotypes into success. 

The seriously-impressive types, where the actor has been double-dipping as the nemesis to beloved superheroes and yet all that fans can talk about is #JoshBrolin!