Josh Brolin Enters the Noir World of Frank Miller’s ‘Sin City’

Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Josh Brolin enters the dark, sexy world of Frank Miller’s and Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” as a private investigator who comes face to face with the woman (Eva Green) who broke his heart, sending him on an alcohol-fueled spiral four years earlier. He instantly falls back under her spell, even though he instinctively knows she’s bad news.

The Dwight McCarthy character he plays is the same one played by Clive Owen in the original 2005 crime drama based on Miller’s bullets and babes-filled graphic novels.

Miller, who created the popular graphic novels and co-directs the sequel with Rodriguez as he did with the first, describes Dwight as a metaphorical figure.

“He’s the character that changes the most over time in ‘Sin City,’” he says.

When Ava Lord (Green) begs Dwight to save her, he feels compelled to become her protector again, even though it means putting his own life at risk. He’s even willing to kill for her. (Hence, the title.) Three other Miller-penned stories are sprinkled throughout the stylish crime thriller, which also stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke (reprising his beloved Marv character).

Brolin’s Dwight is a man of few words but his inner thoughts come across through the actor’s narration.

The 46-year-old son of famed actor James Brolin has established himself as a reliable leading man in his long career that began when he was a teen. He starred in the classic childhood adventure fantasy “The Goonies.” As an adult, he has delivered memorable performances in “No Country for Old Men,” “Milk,” the remake of “True Grit” and most recently he provided the voice of Thanos in this summer’s smash hit “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He previously worked with Rodriguez on the 2006 film “Grindhouse,” starring in in the Planet Terror segment. He recently wrapped the P.T. Anderson dramedy “Inherent Vice,” co-starring Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix, due out in December.

Dressed sharply in a grey suit for a press conference, Brolin recently spoke about joining the “Sin City” franchise and playing a man overwhelmed by the allure of a beautiful but dangerous woman.

Q: To step foot into this city that Frank Miller has created, there’s an anachronistic quality to it. The dialogue isn’t naturalistic and there are such extremes. What were the challenges and opportunity that came with that?

Brolin: As an actor who has been doing this for 30 years, every movie you’re trying to figure out a way to make it more naturalistic and more organic to humanity. You have lines like, “Never let the monster out,” and stuff like that. It’s hard. You have to find a cadence. The cadence doesn’t come to you. As I said at Comic-Con, it’s the kind of movie that you really have to dive into. You can’t really manipulate the movie. You can’t manipulate Frank Miller’s mind. Many have tried. The fact that Robert’s the only one that’s gotten Frank to trust him with a wonderful movie says something about him.

Q: Did you go back and watch the original “Sin City?”

Brolin: I was a big fan of the first movie, but this one is different. I especially love Benicio (del Toro)’s character (in that film). He’s got this thing sticking out of his forehead and he’s still talking throughout the whole thing. There’s an absurdity to it that I completely understand, which I haven’t really talked about until now. Now, I can use it and hopefully you’ll go see the movie if I talk about it. It’s one of those shameful things where it’s like, I understand this completely. So the opportunity to be able to do it was really unnerving, but when I watched it, it was one of the few movies that I’ve done where I thought, “Thank God I’m in this movie!” I really feel proud to be in this movie. I think it’s just the next level. Everybody says that during press (conferences), but truly I thought they’ve gone to the next place. I enjoyed it so much. It’s really dark. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very sexy. It’s one of those things that I would go and see a few times if I weren’t in it. Because I’m in it, (seeing it multiple times) would seem pretentious, so I don’t.

Q: Your co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt says he loved acting in the green-screen environment and fully embracing the abandonment of reality, and going inside the graphic novel and into the mind of Frank Miller in this surreal world he has created.

Brolin: If you don’t see the movie after that, there’s something wrong with you.

Q: How does this experience of working with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller on this film compare to other films you’ve worked on?

Brolin: You think it IS “Sin City.” You come in and Robert usually shoots you up a week or two and you kind of lend yourself (to it.) You dive into this green (screen) world and you don’t know how it is going to look until you actually see the movie. But it’s an easy idea to think, “Oh, this is just Robert’s thing, and he does his thing, and then between takes it is going to be a lot of fun. But to take it that seriously is wonderful and I think it really shows up in the film. There is just a different level to what you did in this film than what you did in the last one. I loved you in the last one, but I loved you in this one!

Q: Nobody ever looked so good with scars as you did.

Brolin: That’s weird, but thank you.

Q: Sex is a big part of this story. Knowing the amount of post-production that your sex scene was going to have later, did that affect your attitude towards the scene? Eva said she didn’t feel that sexy standing in there topless against a green screen.

Brolin: Yeah. You know, she say’s that it’s not sexy, but she is sexy. She trusted Robert. She did not trust me. Nobody trusts me, and that’s why I do movies like this. (He laughs.) It’s unnerving, but you get in there and you do your best. You try to be fearless, but you are extremely fearful during these times because you are not sure. You have no idea, especially with green screen. You have no idea what movie you’re doing. You really don’t. Then, when you see the (completed) movie you’re like “Oh my God! I’m on a cliff right now!” or “I’m having sex right now! I thought I was dancing!” (He laughs.)

Q: Technically, how difficult were those scenes to do?

Brolin: When we did it, it was really uncomfortable but when you do it there is something about this cast. I’ve been very lucky, especially recently with this movie and the one I’m doing right now, and that is where you just kind of jibe immediately. There’s not a lot of pretense on the set. When you trust somebody as much as you trust (Miller and Rodriguez), you’re like, “I just know that I’m going to be taken care of, so I’m willing to go that much further.” It may be a total manipulation, but it works and when you see the movie. You see how beautiful it truly is. Whether it’s artistic or not, it’s truly beautiful, and it’s truly unique. That’s when, as an actor, it’s the best feeling in the world, and this will go down, whether people see it or not, we’ll be able to look back on this and say, “That was great! That was really great to be involved in.”