Men in Black III’s Josh Brolin takes crack at K

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LOS ANGELES—Josh Brolin was just 17 when he made his first film, 1985’s hit children’s movie The Goonies. He assumed things would just get better when, a year later, he was a finalist for the lead role in the TV series 21 Jump Street. His only competition was a friend of his named Johnny Depp. In an L.A. hotel room, he recalls that they decided to hang out together when the show’s producer, Stephen Cannell, was making his decision.

“We were in his apartment, waiting to see which one of us was going to leave on a plane that night. Of course, Johnny got the job, but a year later he called me and said, ‘Dude, this is awful.’ ”

Brolin got his own series a few months later when he was hired, at the age of 19, to star in Private Eye. But the series only lasted a season, and his career stagnated for several years. It has picked up in recent years, however, with a string of starring movie roles, including one in Milk that earned him an Oscar nomination and the lead in Oscar winner No Country for Old Men.

Now he has a lead role in one of the summer’s more anticipated movies, Men in Black III. In the film, which opens on Friday (May 25) in Vancouver, Agent J (Will Smith) is told that his long-time partner, the gruff Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), actually died in the 1960s. In order to save him from being killed by a vengeful alien (Jemaine Clement), he has to go back in time before the murder and save him. When he arrives in 1969, he discovers a young, more pleasant version of K (Brolin) and wonders what changed his partner.

Brolin imitated a famous Texan in the film W., the story of George W. Bush, but he admits that there was more fear in taking on a younger version of Jones. “If you were asked do an impersonation of a friend, that is one thing, particularly if you are drunk at a bar. But it’s a different thing if they say, ‘A billion people are going to see this movie. Do an impression of your friend.’ It ups the ante. Everyone said, ‘You are playing a young Tommy,’ but I was playing a young K, and Tommy is very different from K. I realized that after going through all his movies and doing desperate research, the best thing to do was to watch Men in Black over and over again. I thought W. was difficult until I did Tommy. He has seen the movie, but I don’t think he would ever give kudos to me. I think he would say, ‘I don’t really understand what he was doing.’ ”

Brolin says his career started going in the right direction when he was in his late 20s and made the film Flirting With Disaster. He says it was the first film since his teenage debut that he actually liked. “It was like Goonies in that I was happy just to be in a good film. I think that started me feeling that I would rather be in a good film than play a good character. If it’s a good film, that’s great. I got very lucky with No Country, and then Milk came along and W. came along and they were all films that I am really proud of.”

He is also proud that he has mostly put the quality of the film ahead of the quantity of the paycheque. “I don’t think I have sold out. I feel good about the characters and the movies, and the money is neat and fun, and when someone is going ‘Wanna, wanna?’ and offering tons of money, it’s so hard to say no. You get tired sometimes of the money being loaded on a truck and pulling away, but after a while you say: ‘I will be all right. I have enough. I am fine.’ ”


Watch the trailer for Men in Black III.

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