As a seventh generation Californian, Josh Brolin was a logical choice to star in Gangster Squad, a tale of good guys vs. bad guys set against the backdrop of Los Angeles in the late 1940s.
Almost as soon as he read the script, Brolin felt like he understood LAPD detective John O‚??Mara, a real-life officer tasked with driving Brooklyn mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) out of the City of Angels.
But as comfortable as Brolin was with the rat-a-tat dialogue ‚?? and the period setting ‚?? he didn‚??t realize he had something of a personal connection to the material until his father, actor James Brolin, visited the set.
My Pop just kind of went off on all these stories about when he was nine years old and he used to peek in the back door of [Cohen‚??s club] Slapsy Maxie‚??s and go down the street to Ciro‚??s to look for Mickey Cohen and his goons, said Brolin.
My Pop was talking about all this and the corruption and how gangsters were celebrities back then. But, oddly enough, there was an innocence to that time‚?Ľ And there was an innocence to [O‚??Mara] and to [his belief] that you could actually be honorable and have it make an impact.
Chock full of Tommy guns and vintage cars, Gangster Squad is a movie heavy on testosterone. Emma Stone (The Help) co-stars as an actress-turned-moll, but she‚??s about the only woman in the cast. Ryan Gosling is the Gangster Squad‚??s other head honcho, Jerry Wooten, and the supporting actors include Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, and Robert Patrick.
Over the course of the $70 million movie, O‚??Mara and his team break just about every rule in the book in the name of catching Cohen, a mobster who had many local government officials in his pocket. Even though the cops‚?? behavior is sometimes outrageous, Brolin believes they were always trying to do the right thing.
How do I see O‚??Mara? I think he has a lot of integrity‚?Ľ I think the boundaries of law were a lot more malleable back then than they are now. Guys thought outside the box. So, the good guy‚?Ľhad to think dirty in order to snuff out these bad guys who were trying to turn Los Angeles into the Wild West, into a cesspool.
Gangster Squad, which was originally scheduled for release in the summer of 2012, was delayed after the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings because of a sequence in which thugs open fire in a crowded cinema. The controversial scene has since been deleted and a new one filmed to take its place.
While he‚??s happy Gangster Squad was re-edited, Brolin doesn‚??t believe that violent movies should be scapegoated as the cause for real-life violence.
Of course there‚??s sensitivity, said Brolin, 44. But you have to look at the grand scheme of things. You have videogames. You have [drugs]. You have low employment. You have parents that aren‚??t at home‚?Ľ There‚??s many, many different factors.
There‚??s always been violence in movies and there always will be violence in movies. Whether it [influences] the one psychotic out there that‚??s thinking the worst thoughts you can possibly think is always going to be a mystery.
Gangster Squad was inspired by a series of stories that L.A. Times reporter Paul Lieberman published in the paper in 2008 and subsequently turned into a book. From the get-go, the film‚??s producers opted to take an energetic, action-based approach to the material.
Will Beall, a former member of the LAPD, was tapped to the write the script and Zombieland‚??s Ruben Fleischer was hired to direct. Just as the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. revived a somewhat musty hero, Gangster Squad was designed to bring plenty of pizzazz to figures that‚??ve already been treated a bit more solemnly in movies like Bugsy and L.A. Confidential, as well as the upcoming Frank Darabont series L.A. Noir.
Even Brolin was surprised at just how much humor Fleischer managed to inject into the final film.
Sean and I snuck into a screening of ‚??Gangster Squad‚?? in Glendale, and not only were there a lot of laughs, but at the end, there was a wild reaction, said Brolin, who is married to actress Diane Lane. There was clapping, standing up, hooting, hollering.
To see that kind of reaction was kind of great [because we realized] it was an escapist movie. You follow the testosterone‚?Ľand just kind of go along for the ride and take it for what it is. It was quite a treat.
For Brolin, a highlight of working on Gangster Squad was reteaming with Penn, with whom he‚??d already co-starred in Milk, a movie which netted Penn a Best Actor Oscar and Brolin a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Penn has a reputation for being among Hollywood‚??s most intense actors, but Brolin says he and his old pal know how to have a good time on set.
We don‚??t go around with furrowed brows and stuff like that, reported Brolin. We have a lot of fun so we have a place to springboard from and dive into. So, working with him is actually a great pleasure.
Brolin knows Penn so well off-screen, in fact, that their confrontation scenes were challenging to shoot.
When you‚??re looking at somebody in the pupil and they‚??re doing their best to be as intense as they can be, and you‚??re doing the same, when you know each other as well as we do, it‚??s kind of dumb, Brolin related with a laugh. But, hopefully, [audiences] will enjoy it.
The most intense scene between Brolin and Penn is when they wind up in a fist-fight that, for many reasons, was tough for both actors to perform.
Sean didn‚??t rehearse as much as I did, so his fists were flying wildly during the fight, hoping we might get something that was useable‚?Ľ I love the way that it turned out. But I think for both of us, being the current and ex-smokers that we are, it was challenging on an oxygen level.
Brolin made his film debut at age 17 in The Goonies. When he caught his performance in the follow-up ‚?? Thrashin‚??, a skateboard drama ‚?? he was so disappointed in himself that he retired in order to study stage acting with mentor Anthony Zerbe. The pair worked together on a series of plays in Rochester, N.Y.
A turn as Wild Bill Hickok on ABC‚??s The Young Riders revived Brolin‚??s Hollywood career. Since earning rave reviews for playing a bisexual FBI agent in Flirting with Disaster (1996), the actor has rarely been without a job.
Among his film highlights: Gus Van Sant‚??s Milk, Oliver Stone‚??s W, Woody Allen‚??s You Will Meet A Talk Dark Stranger, and the Coen Brothers‚?? No Country For Old Men and True Grit.
Brolin will next be seen in Labor Day, the last from Jason Reitman (Juno). In the drama, the actor plays an escaped convict who seeks refuge with a depressed woman, played by Kate Winslet.
Brolin will also star in Spike Lee‚??s hotly-anticipated remake of the 2003 cult Korean classic Oldboy. The film revolves around a man who has only five days and limited resources to discover why he was imprisoned in a nondescript room for 15 years without any explanation.
The general structure of ‚??Oldboy‚?? is the same, but it‚??s more of a reinterpretation than a remake, noted Brolin. I called [original director] Park Chan-wook myself and I said, `I need your blessing in order to do this.‚?? He said, ‚??Absolutely. Just don‚??t do the same movie.‚??
And we didn‚??t. I think it‚??s going to turn out really good.