Gallows Humor

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

So, you two enjoyed yourselves at Cannes with No Country for Old Men?
Josh Brolin: You know, we can’t actually talk to each other on any kind of personal basis, but we leave messages for each other that are freaking hilarious.

Like what?
Javier Bardem: The thing is, there is a cell company in Spain called Movistar. The voice mail, in Spanish, it says, “Bienvenido a Movistar…” Josh was like, “You’re such an asshole, Javier.”
Brolin: I thought Javier had literally downloaded an outgoing message that said if you want to leave a message for the movie star, wait for the beep. I mean, the narcissism! He’s literally sitting there on his throne in Spain.
Bardem: When I heard Josh’s message, I was walking down the street and I almost fell. Here, I’m a huge star—not like in the fucking States. So people were like, are you drunk or something?

You sound like you had a blast together—but this is Cormac McCarthy material. It’s pitch-black.
Brolin: It’s like those early Tarantino movies: Audiences don’t know whether to laugh or to climb under their seats. But we had a load of fun making it. Maybe it was because we both thought we’d be fired. With the Coens, there’s zero compliments, really zero anything. No “nice work.” Nothing. And then—I’m doing this scene with Woody Harrelson. Woody can’t fucking remember his lines, he stumbles his way through it, and then both Coens are like, “Oh my God! Fantastic!”

You supported each other because no one else did?
Brolin: Exactly.
Bardem: Actually, with me they talk a lot.
Brolin: It was just me?
Bardem: Yeah.

Could you review each other’s performances?
Bardem: I don’t know how he does it. He completely transformed himself as the sheriff. I can’t believe that he looks so much like Tommy Lee Jones. [Silence] That was a joke, guys! [Tommy Lee Jones plays the sheriff.] I get lost in translation! Nobody ever gets my jokes! Seriously, Josh has done something that is really difficult, and that is to take a passive character and not give a passive performance. He’s actually going forward in every scene—it’s haunting.
Brolin: Look, Javier’s character’s one of the worst, most evilly written characters ever. I’ve read all of Cormac McCarthy’s novels, I’ve seen a lot of bad guys in a lot of movies, and I’ve never seen anything like this. But the way Javier plays him, he’s not a guy that just gives you a scary look. He’s completely open. You feel something for him. Like, I’m doing this behind-the-scenes film, and there was a point when me and the editor, all we fucking had was Javier—it was like Javier-fest! I finally said, “You have to put in more me.”

It looked like a rough shoot. Was it?
Brolin: Two days after I got the movie, I was on my motorcycle and a car cut me off. I said that I had a hairline fracture on my collarbone, but it was completely snapped in half. When we started the movie, I couldn’t even lift the gun. The only reason I was able to do the movie is because [my character] Llewelyn gets shot in the right shoulder at the beginning of the story. I wore a sling the whole time when I wasn’t working.

Javier, your haircut in the movie also looked pretty painful.
Bardem: The hairdresser did it very fast, and next thing I know, the Coens were laughing. I go, “Wow, man…Now I’m really fucked up.”
Brolin: Right after, we went to the Cowgirl Bar in Santa Fe. Javier just looks at me and goes, “Man, I’m not going to get laid for three months.”

No Country for Old Men
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, Miramax; November 9.

Gallows Humor