As the son of actor James Brolin, Hollywood runs in Josh Brolin’s genes. So it’s appropriate he stars in “Hail, Caesar!”, a portrait of the Golden Age circa the 1950s. The actor, 47, plays Eddie Mannix, a slightly fictionalized version of Hollywood’s most notorious “fixer”: a studio figure whose job involved hiding up scandals, even ones about sex and murder. The Oscar nominee’s third film with the Coen brothers (after “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit”), it finds him dealing with an AWOL movie star (George Clooney) and other headaches.
Our phone interview begins like this:
I don’t even have any questions. This is all I've got.
Let’s just keep doing this.
So your first name is Josh.
My first name is Josh, my last name is Brolin. My middle name is James, but we don’t use that because then it gets confusing.
It’s odd that your father would give you his name but as the middle one, not the first.
Yeah, why would you do that? I don’t get it. I understand naming your kid your actual name, because there’s some pride in that. But when you get the middle name it’s like you weren’t good enough for the first.
This leaves me with no smooth segue into “Hail, Caesar!”, so I’ll just say, like a lot of Coen films, there’s a lot to unpack. Some of it doesn’t become clear till after it’s over.
It was very interesting to watch it. I didn’t think it was nearly as interesting when I was doing it. And I’m the first guy to watch a movie I’m in and say, “Eh, it’s OK!” I was as objective as I could be and I thought it was one of their better films.
Is that nerve-wracking for you: watching a film once it’s completed?
It’s enervating. It’s unnerving. You [the audience] are seeing it after the fact, but I’m starting it before anything happens. We’re all living in nervousness about what could go wrong. [Laughs] This role is hyper-specific but the guidelines are so general. There’s no way to play it with any specificity. There’s a lot of room for failure. Which I like, in hindsight, but not during the process. I hate it during the process.