As much as I went into the interview with Brolin knowing it could go any direction — watch how ebullient and
off-script Josh is in chat shows — I didn’t think that was where we were going to go. A chat with Josh
Brolin is a journey, it’s not a cookie-cutter process that can sometimes be the case with these kinds of interviews.
He brings his truth with him: he is nothing if not authentic and honest. He is someone deeply committed to
discovering the human condition, and he searched for it in me despite the interview being about him.
Nothing about Brolin’s upbringing was particularly conventional. He grew up in Paso Robles, California, what he calls
“Steinbeck country, blue-collar and bucolic”. It is now known for its winemaking prowess, but back then it was more
livestock than agriculture. It was there he worked from a very young age in his birth mother’s (he refers to his
father James Brolin’s current wife, Barbra Streisand — the very same — as his mother) 230-acre Carole Baskin-esque
ranch, looking after rescued wild animals including lions, wolves and bears. He says: “I would get up at 5:30am
every morning and drive a 1978 green Chevy truck with a couple of phone books under my ass so I could see over the
The day-to-day routine would involve working with the sixty-plus horses on the farm, but there were also the animals
his mother looked after before she released them or sent them to a zoo. “My mother was perhaps the number one most
irresponsible mother of all time,” he says. His brother ended up with 60 stitches in a leg because a wolf had
escaped from its cage. “But my mother thought if you were a boy, you were a man and did ‘manly’ things,” Josh adds.
It seems like his experience at the ranch had a larger bearing on his future vocation than the fact his father was
an actor. He says: “I think [my interest in acting] was maybe in the fascination in why people do what they do,
because I was so confused at such an early age and was privy to a lot of insanities.”
As a young man (between the age of 11 and 16), he found himself embedded with a group of young men who called
themselves the Cito Rats, a Santa Barbara-based surf crew that experimented with drugs and misdemeanours but who
also, perhaps, provided a sense of belonging to kids from dysfunctional families. “My outlets were all
self-destructive,” Josh says. “When I moved to L.A. I tried to find a positive manifestation of myself. I did my
best but I had this habit, and the habit was this culture I grew up around, so I kept resorting to that.” It often
felt when speaking to him that huge chunks of his life were being skipped: we’d go from youth to older age in
double-quick time, though purely because one might not believe that his love of Harley-Davidsons, drinking and drug
use were all being explored while he was still at school.
Read the full Josh Brolin interview in Issue 73 of The Rake - on newsstands today.
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