Cover Story Excerpt: The Reckless, Rebellious Spirit of Josh Brolin

Photograph by Mark Seliger

For the new issue of ‘Men’s Journal,’ contributing editor Erik Hedegaard sat down with veteran actor Josh Brolin, who talks candidly about losing his virginity at 11, smoking heroin, his mother’s death, and the mass shooting in Colorado that delayed the release of ‘Gangster Squad.’ The 44-year old star, who was arrested on New Year’s Eve for drunk and disorderly, also opens up about his propensity for trouble. An excerpt from our cover story:

Just last night, some wacko kid in Colorado marched into a movie theater and began blasting away, killing 12, injuring 58 (and, in the aftermath, forcing Warner Bros. to push back ‘Gangster Squad”s release date so it could come up with an alternative to the existing ending, which featured its own movie-theater massacre). Right now, all Brolin can think about is the tragedy. “I’m just fucking stunned,” he says. “I’m beyond blown away. When I woke up to that, I immediately started crying, and the stresses of my life immediately became irrelevant, meaningless confetti. I mean, fucking Christ.” He pauses, squinting at the sun. “It’s weird, though. I feel a modicum of pain for the perpetrator. What happened to this kid to put him in that position? Is he truly mentally deranged? Was he born that way? Is he a John Wayne Gacy? A Ted Bundy? Is it about abuse? Neglect? An insatiable need for instant gratification? Is it about – you know what I mean? I go through this whole plethora of possibilities.”

That he does, and it seems entirely characteristic of him. He’s intense like that, and curious. He wants to know what’s going on inside, where the normal so often combines with the abnormal to produce the unexpected. He’s had to deal with this in his own life, many times. In 2006, for instance, two weeks before filming started on ‘No Country for Old Men’ – the movie that made him more than just a great character actor – Brolin was zipping around L.A. on his Ducati when he collided with a car, looped through the air, and broke his collarbone, putting himself in the position of having to lie to the Coen brothers about his health in order to keep the job. At the time, his wife, the actress Diane Lane, said to him, “Why do you always make it so difficult for yourself?” as if he brought on the accident himself, like maybe it was no accident at all.

Brolin thinks about this now, the unexpected possibility of that being true. He kind of grimaces. “It does seem that way,” is all he can think to say. And he’s right. For whatever reason, it really does seem that way.

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