It is rightly considered one of the best movies of the 21st century, and the Coen brothers’ masterpiece No Country for Old Men also contains some fine acting performances. While Javier Bardem’s truly psychotic portrayal of Anton Chigurh is worthy of its huge praise, Josh Brolin‘s performance should not be overlooked.
Brolin played Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam serviceman and welder who comes across a vast sum of money in a briefcase while hunting for antelope in the West Texas desert. In conversation with the Coens, Bardem and Charlie Rose, Brolin once explained how he successfully got the part that would reignite his film career.
“I was doing Grindhouse with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino,” Brolin said. “I said to Robert, ‘There’s this Coen brothers movie that’s happening.’ I had read the book a long time ago. I asked Robert if he would videotape me, and he said, ‘Why don’t we just use the camera we have?'”
The resultant videotape must have looked about as good as an actual feature-length film. It used a “million dollar Genesis camera”, was directed by Tarantino, and was lit and shot by Rodriguez. Brolin called it “truly, the most brilliant looking audition tape.”
When Brolin sent the tape to the Coen brothers, their response was, “Wow, who lit it? We’re looking for a new DoP.” The directors went on to explain how they knew Brolin was right for the role. “It’s an everyman part, but it’s unbelievably difficult because a lot of it is nonverbal,” Ethan said.
“A lot of it is watching the character do his thing physically,” he added. “You need somebody who is going to be compelling to watch.” Joel then followed up with, “Well, we had already cast Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem in the other two parts. It’s very much a film about three men of equal weight.”
With Bardem and Jones in their roles, Joel Coen admitted that the “bar had been set very high”. Detailing further, he said: “We didn’t want the audience to think when we cut away from Javier and Tommy, ‘Okay, we’re going with the dull guy for a while’. There had to be somebody who had to be able to hold their own in terms of that sort of compelling presence in the movie.”
After Brolin read some scenes for the Coens in person, they knew they had their man. “That told us what we need to know,” Joel added before saying directly to Brolin, “It’s true that after you left the room, we knew we were going to cast you in the movie.”