Just then, Brolin's assistant arrives with a few sandwiches. Brolin digs in, then looks up expectantly, typically curious about what will next come his way – high-brow, low-brow, smart, stupid, ridiculous, he doesn't really seem to care, even if it's while he's eating.
So, how old was he when he lost his virginity? Does he remember the girl's name?
"I was 11. Her name was Gretel. She was a great girl to lose my virginity to. Really great. And it was right next to Jason, by the way, my best friend, who was with – I can't remember, I think he was with Teri."
"Most people are smart, where they go, 'I'm scared of heights so I don't go high.' I've always taken phobias and go, 'I gotta go jump out of an airplane! I have to go bungee jumping!' It's just dumb."
What's a TV show he and his wife like to watch together?
"'America's Funniest Home Videos'. We laugh our asses off. Love it!"
If he were a breakfast cereal, what cereal would he be?
"Oh, my God, how lame a question is that?"
Incredibly lame. What is the central problem of existence?
He takes a long breath. "Getting out of your own way."
Has he ever been asked to get his teeth whitened?
"Well, it wasn't necessarily about white teeth. It was the fact that I had this tooth that'd died and turned black. My agent wasn't happy about it and thought it was one reason why I wasn't getting roles. He asked me to get it fixed. I refused. And then one day I looked at my fucking tooth in the mirror and decided to get it pulled."
He frowns, nods. "They had to do with numbers, always had to do with half the number it started out with. One was of a ship, and the ship cracked in half right in the middle, and I woke up freaking out, and I was, you know, a different person for, like, 20 minutes or something."
And then for a moment there's nothing left to ask and nothing left to say. There's only all this stuff out there to think about in the heat: the cracked ship, the different person, the fiendish smoking, all those poems, the 20 years happily spent while not becoming a star, the 'Thrashin'' performance that caused him to skip town, the 'Fly' audition with him frothing on the floor, the black tooth that he refused to fix, the shame in being on a roll, the surfing, bungee jumping, and car racing, the Tasmanian Devil reputation, the inability to stay out of his own way, the calling of his current movie "cheese," the shy, shivering boy of his youth, the teenage goon who smoked heroin, the man who gets down on his knees and has questions about God. That's a lot to piece together. It hurts the brain. Maybe it's best not to try to make sense of it and just let it go.
How does he process the fact that his mother's car crash happened on his birthday?
"Um [long pause], you know [long pause], it, uh [long pause], you know, it's too [long pause]...." He rocks back, looking stricken, and combs his fingers through his hair. "I mean, the odds, man. What are the fucking odds? It just doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen."
No, it doesn't. But, sadly, it did.
"My father thinks she was avoiding a deer. But she was a drinker, and she'd pulled a .22 rifle on her boyfriend that night and went after him, and I think she was reaching for her cellphone and overcompensated."
Did he speak to her that day?
"Yeah, man!" But then he remembers. "I did not speak to her that day. I did not. On my birthday, I always called her and sent her flowers, saying, 'Thanks for this life.' I'd sent her flowers that day, but I hadn't called yet – I was in New York, the day wasn't over – so she called me and got my answering machine with a trick message on it that was like, 'Oh, hey, what's up? I can't hear you very well. Who is this?' And she started laughing hysterically. That's the last I heard from my mom. Four hours later, she was dead." He shifts around. "Yes, I still have the message. It's in storage. I put it away after a while, because I was listening to it too much. I adored her. I miss her terribly."
He grabs his pack of cigarettes and stands.
"For two years after that, I was lost and just spinning," he says. Clutching that cigarette pack, with his back to the sun, he says, "You know what it is? It all comes down to a look she once gave me. I was in jail, and she came to see me. I was walking down a hallway, and when I got to her, I saw a little smile. That was it. Her love for me was hugely, hugely conditional, so it all comes down to that moment and me spending all my days trying to re-create that moment, putting myself in positions of self-destruction. I succumbed to that. And the truth is, although my mom being around was fantastic, after her death, I didn't have to live up to that anymore. I was liberated. I matured."
There it is. He's said it, and he looks relieved to have said it. So much is made sense of, so much explained, although his liberated-and-matured declaration seems perhaps more hopeful than accurate, given that 18 years after his mom's death, while he's no longer stealing radios and getting arrested for brawling with cops for no good reason, he's still doing stuff like riding his motorcycle into a collision two weeks before starting the most important job of his life and having his wife say to him, "Why do you always make it so hard for yourself?" It's the word "always" in that question that brings it all home, as if Cat Woman lives and somewhere she is still on the prowl.