Josh Brolin plays a man mysteriously imprisoned in Spike Lee's version of the South Korean cult classic "Oldboy." Credit: Getty Images
The catering staff at the press junket for Spike Lee's update on "Oldboy" has laid out a spread almost entirely made up of different kinds of dumplings, and Josh Brolin does not think that's very funny. (The dish features prominently in the film as one of the only things Brolin's character is allowed to eat during his mysterious 20-year imprisonment.) "I think it's a dumb thing. It's a marketing ploy. Who wants dumplings for breakfast?" he scoffs.
Food, as it turns out, has been factoring into Brolin's film roles so much that he's growing weary of discussing the extreme amounts of ingestion that go into presenting eating on-screen. "I ate, I'd say, probably 200 dumplings or something like that,” he reveals. “But I've done that. In [the upcoming] 'Inherent Vice' I eat chocolate-covered frozen bananas. In 'W.' I ate sandwiches, and I ate 18 sandwiches in one scene. I seem to be the food guy."
"Oldboy" also asked a lot of Brolin's body in that his character goes from a bloated alcoholic to a lean and mean tool of vengeance after his imprisonment. Of course, he didn't have 20 years to pull off the transition. "I like the idea of theater. If you're going to do it, do it. That was something that I'll never, ever do again," he says of getting the bloated look out of the way first. "It was more about water retention, so I gained 28 pounds in 10 days, and then I lost 22 pounds in two and a half days. I'll never do it again because it killed my body. I was rehearsing the fight at the same time, which was not smart. So I pulled a lot of muscles and stuff that I'm still dealing with now."
That fight he's talking about is quite a doozy, an update on the original Korean film's single-take tracking shot of the film's hero taking out an army of goons with just his bare hands and a carefully deployed hammer. Obviously for the remake they had to up the ante a bit.
"That was five weeks of prep, and it was difficult, to say the least," Brolin says. "The fight, I think, is at least three times longer than the original fight. I was having a really tough time in the beginning, and then I panicked. And then I started working out a lot — like two hours in the morning and two hours at night between 12-hour days. So I wasn't sleeping a lot, which I think lent to the movie, too, because I was more emotional, I was more on edge, I felt more exposed, vulnerable, whatever.”
That level of self-abuse paid off, apparently. "We did it in seven takes, and the seventh take was the one," he remembers. "I walked away after that and had a little moment to myself, had some tears and was just happy that a 45-year-old dude was able to pull that off. It was a geriatric moment that I had."