Josh Brolin Calls Playing George W. Bush The ‘Ultimate Risk’ And ‘Ultimate Reward’

Brolin's bold decisions and leading-man leap make him one of the actors we're thankful for in 2008.

The leaves are falling, and the turkey is practically in the oven. Yes, according to the calendar, it’s time to take stock and give thanks. So that’s precisely what we’re doing by talking to the actors and filmmakers that made 2008 a memorable year at the movies — a year filled with self-loathing kick-ass superheroes, Manolo-wearing women and the return of a very familiar man in a hat .

How did [movieperson id="7725"]Josh Brolin[/movieperson] get here? Two years ago, he was best known as Sean Astin’s big brother in [movie id="13995"]“The Goonies”[/movie] and [artist id="501071"]Barbra Streisand[/artist]‘s stepson. Today, he’s sitting on a body of work that in the last two years is virtually unmatched by any other film actor alive. Sure, 2007 was great too, with scene-stealing supporting turns in [movie id="307963"]“American Gangster”[/movie] and [movie id="277166"]“Grindhouse”[/movie] and a captivating (if nearly wordless) leading performance in [movie id="298136"]“No Country for Old Men,”[/movie] but 2008 took it to another level.

First, he took on the unenviable task of portraying a sitting president in Oliver Stone’s [movie id="377460"]“W.”[/movie] and crafted a full-bodied, complex and, yes, thoughtful performance. And next week, he brings more of that humanity and complexity to what could have been an easy target in [movie id="374161"]“Milk”[/movie] as Dan White, the man who murdered the famed San Francisco politician in 1978.

Brolin took a look back at the year that was 2008 with MTV News, revealing how his friends and famous family felt about his role in “W.,” whether that infamous bar fight in Louisiana was a regret, and why 2009 might see him become an action hero.

MTV: I’m guessing taking on a role like George W. Bush came with some skepticism among your friends and family.

Josh Brolin: Everyone said, “Why would you want to do that?” And most of my friends continued to ask “why” until it came out. I don’t know how we’re getting the praise and accolades we’re getting. It’s amazing to me. It was the ultimate risk, and it’s the ultimate reward.

MTV: Is it true that your stepmother, Barbra Streisand, wasn’t thrilled about you taking the role on?

Brolin: Not true. I know — it’s no fun, right? OK, I kicked every cop’s ass in Shreveport, and she hated that I was doing this movie. No, we really didn’t talk about it in the beginning. About three weeks ago, she saw it and loved it. She called me last night and told me that Bill Clinton had seen it and loved it.

MTV: Can you point to one moment as the highlight of your year?

Brolin: There were a couple. The reviews that I got that I didn’t expect for “W.” made me very happy. And Oliver [Stone] and I in a dark room coming up with about five different versions of the film and picking the one that we did.

MTV: You mean there were different cuts of the film?

Brolin: Yeah. There was a more satirical version. A more sardonic version. One that was more darkly humorous. A more pathetic one. We were really scrambling to find the right tone.

MTV: Would that bar fight and arrest in Shreveport be considered a low point in the year?

Brolin: No. That was just pathetic. Nothing went on. I keep saying that, but people go, “It was Brolin. Something went on.” But nothing went on. They’re really out to get me right now. They need to figure out what the f— they want to do. There’s this contrasting thing [in Shreveport] of a tax incentive where they welcome all these movie people, and then on the other hand, they have a police force that says, “We don’t care for strangers in our town.” My feeling is, everybody should let Shreveport be Shreveport, and let’s film someplace else.

MTV: Your “W.” co-star [movieperson id="77809"]Richard Dreyfuss[/movieperson] recently called Stone “a fascist.”

Brolin: Richard needs to be quiet. He played Cheney, who’s a laconic guy, and that’s almost impossible for Richard. So now he’s overcompensating. Now he has it out for Oliver, which I don’t understand, because he should be so thankful that Oliver cut together the performance that he did. Why the guy is turning on him, I have no idea.

MTV: A lot of people thought you deserved an Oscar nomination last year for “No Country for Old Men.” Were you disappointed when it didn’t come?

Brolin: Absolutely not. Nobody believes me. I feel good about the decisions I’ve made since then. I had an opportunity to do other movies. My bank account isn’t happy, but I am, ultimately. And now I’m thinking about doing this movie next year, and it’s something people won’t expect at all. It’s really [about] having fun with a movie and getting a director that’s phenomenal.

MTV: You’re talking about “Jonah Hex”?

Brolin: I love it.

MTV: What’s intriguing about that project?

Brolin: The absurdity of it. It almost allows you to create a new genre. I love going back into the spaghetti-Western idea and completely turning it around.

MTV: When are you going to decide whether you’ll do it?

Brolin: Soon. In the last couple months, I’ve been going back and forth about it. I went back to my gut: “Is it a sellout? What is it I like about this movie?” When I first read it, I thought, “Oh my God, it’s awful!” And then I had a moment a week later, and I thought, “Why is it awful?” Maybe the thing to do is to do the most awful movie I can find.

MTV: What’s so awful about it?

Brolin: It’s so tongue-in-cheek. It’s so ridiculous. But once I started putting people in my mind and saying, “What if I put [John] Malkovich in this role? Then what does this movie become? Now let’s put this producer and director on it and think about how it plays out.” Then it becomes fun. Now I love that movie. If you have a great filmmaker come in, then suddenly, these gags and characters become interesting.

MTV: Are the filmmakers behind “Crank” still directing it?

Brolin: I don’t know. It’s all up in the air.

Check out everything we’ve got on Josh Brolin.

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