CANNES, France – Josh Brolin doesn’t have to choose between love and money.
He has both in his two Cannes Film Festival entries, playing a financial shark in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and co-starring in Woody Allen’s darkly comic romance “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.” Both premiered over the weekend.
The films mark the second time each director has worked with Brolin, whose long but fitful career finally took off with Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men,” the lead role in Stone’s “W.” and an Academy Award nomination opposite Sean Penn in “Milk.”
Brolin sees some irony in his “Wall Street” role as a financial baron whose mantra on money is: “More.” He freed himself from having to sign on to so-so movie roles for a paycheck by investing on a smaller scale, as a day trader.
“I got very, very disciplined and very good at it, and then, right when I didn’t need the money anymore, suddenly I started making money in films,” Brolin said.
In Stone and Michael Douglas’ sequel to their 1987 hit “Wall Street,” Brolin plays Bretton James, an investment banker ruthlessly engineering deals amid the financial meltdown of 2008. Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan co-star.
Though Brolin, 42, invested on a much smaller scale, his experiences as a day trader helped prepare him for the role.
“I didn’t work for a huge firm. I don’t know about billions of dollars, but I do know about trading,” Brolin said. “I know what it’s like for a stock to go down so fast your finger literally can’t catch up to it, and I also know what it is to tackle my own emotional discipline regarding stocks. I think I got very good at that, and I think that it definitely facilitated other areas of my life. With acting.”
The actor, whose father is “Marcus Welby, M.D.” co-star James Brolin, started his own career with a splash in the 1985 action comedy “The Goonies.” He was a regular on the Western series “The Young Riders,” but he later languished in character roles, often in bad movies such as 1999’s “The Mod Squad.”
Allen first cast Brolin in a small role in 2004’s “Melinda and Melinda.” That brief collaboration had not given Allen the best grounding in Brolin’s talent.
It was only after the director caught Brolin as George W. Bush in “W.” that he saw what the actor could do, prompting Allen to get in touch with him about “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.”
“When I worked with him, I couldn’t get a line out of him. He had two lines to say. It was like I was working with a mummy. Then I see him in `W.’, and the guy’s amazing,” Allen said. “I felt I had to write him because it was one of the best performances I’d seen.”
Allen’s new film casts Brolin as a failed writer being supported by his wife (Naomi Watts) and mother-in-law (Gemma Jones). As his marriage crumbles, he begins a flirtation with a neighbor (Freida Pinto) and commits a loathsome literary crime to salvage his writing career.
The film, which also features Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, is due in theaters this fall. Brolin also stars in the title role of the summer action tale “Jonah Hex,” based on the DC Comics book, and rejoins the Coens for their remake of the Western “True Grit,” due out late this year and starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.
Brolin said his new career highs result simply from landing steady work with better directors than he used to work with.
“I honestly think it was luck. I think I capitalized on that luck in a way that I wanted to and in a way that it was important for me to stick with great filmmakers,” Brolin said. “Everybody’s intentions in the beginning are great, and even great filmmakers can make bad movies. But you have less of a chance of making a bad film with a great filmmaker, whereas the odds are very low with a bad filmmaker that you’ll make a great film.”
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