Andrew Wright interviewed Josh Brolin for the release of the Coen Brothers' adaptation of No Country for Old Men, in which he plays an unlucky bastard who stumbles upon a briefcase full of cash from a drug deal gone wrong. He's also had roles in the 2007 releases American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, The Dead Girl, and Grindhouse.

So I feel duty bound to ask this and get it out of the way: When you're at a Q and A, how many questions about The Goonies do you get?

I got asked once at the Seattle Q & A, and I basically laughed at him and made a joke of the whole thing. I said, "You will always be remembered, from this moment on, as the guy who stood up and asked a Goonies question in front of an audience." To be honest, I don't get asked about it that much anymore.

I'm sure I'm not the first to point this out to you, but you've had a helluva year. How did the ball get rolling?

Well, I've always worked, you know? I don't think what I do has changed all that much, really, it's just become more visible now because of the filmmakers. The first thing that happened in this string of five movies started with Robert Rodriguez, who I've known for years, and Grindhouse. He came up with the role and we expanded and expounded on it and came up with something that was really fun to play. And from that moment, The Dead Girl happened and then No Country happened and then American Gangster and then In the Valley of Elah. So it's been a productive year. But I think what sticks out is the level of filmmakers. These are all masterful storytellers, and I'm really lucky to have worked with them. It makes me look better.

Do you think the facial hair you had in all of the movies played a part?

Oh, Jesus. [Laughs] No, I think the different styles were all appropriate to the characters. It's something you don't really realize until you look back.

I don't know where you can go from American Gangster. That was one fierce mustache.

It's definitely an expansion from the others. It's fun to use every element you can to build a character. You know, do I want to be small and speedy like a fox, or big and surly like a bear? And then you start to juggle the possibilities.

On to No Country. Had you read the book beforehand?

Yeah, Sam Shepard turned me on to it when I was filming Grindhouse in Austin. He'd done a quote on the back jacket and just said, "Man, you've got to go get a copy." We didn't talk about it as a movie or anything, just as a literary work of art. Then I found out they were making this movie, and I went, "Huh." That was really my only response, just "Huh." I didn't think about being in it, just that wow, I'd like to see that when it comes out.

The book is interesting in that it's Cormac McCarthy's most stripped-down work on the surface, especially compared to his more baroque books like Blood Meridian, but there's still an awful lot going on beneath.

Yeah, they're all just amazing pieces of art. This is the first time that I've ever thought about this, but maybe there's a small parallel between him and me. You're doing good work, you're putting all of yourself into your craft, but then a certain book comes out and everyone goes, oh wow. It becomes more accessible somehow, unintentionally, and it strikes a chord, and then there's this incredible oeuvre of books that people go back and read, and say, "Oh my god, why didn't I know about this?"

And then Oprah does her part.

You know, that was the only on-camera interview McCarthy has ever done. And as uncomfortable as it was for him, it's a sign of the down-home guy that he is, that he did it purely out of appreciation for the support she'd given him. Purely.

One of the things that struck me about your character in both the movie and the book is his sense of inevitability, that as soon as he takes the money, he knows that it's not going to end well. How did you approach the character?

Just moment by moment, really. We talked a lot in the beginning about things like how dim do we want him to appear in the beginning so that we can take him through a trajectory of revealing the fact that he is actually incredibly resourceful. And then we wanted to show the level of love he has for his wife. There's a scene where she and I are just sitting in the trailer just making small talk before going to bed, and the fact that we don't look at each other was a conscious choice, a way of showing the shorthand between people who are really connected to each other. Really, though, it's just about finding your hook, and then figuring out how to best evolve from there. Both Javier [Bardem] and I basically came to the roles as blocks, and began figuring out how to chip them away.

A large part of your performance is nonverbal. You don't really have a lot to play off of in many scenes.

Yeah, it's great, because then you have to use your imagination, and make sure that it's really acute. As an actor, you don't ever want to be boring, but you have to keep asking yourself, how does this scene fit the dynamic of the story? How much nothing can you do in a scene where nothing seems to happen? I think the Coens are really into investigating dialogue through other means.

Who do you see as the main character? Or is there even a main character?

Well, I suppose it's my character's story, in that he really gets the ball rolling. But you could say that there are three main characters, or even that the three are all different facets of something bigger. Fear, will, and a melancholic kind of guilt.

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It seems like every article I read about the Coens mentions that they finish each other's sentences and sort of share the same brain. How are they on set?

Quiet. I mean, they'll speak when they need to, when there's some small tweaking of a performance, but most of the time, they're just quiet. There's an incredible lack of ego about them—they don't argue, there's no petty stuff going on behind the scenes, which makes for a really productive and easy environment. It's hard to get used to, but they're just way ahead of the game. You could make up stories, I guess, like "They're Martians, man, the geniuses over in the dark corner who emerge like Brando in Apocalypse Now and then they go away." But that's not the case. I kind of wish it was.