Interview: Josh Brolin Talks Spike Lee’s OLDBOY

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Film Pulse writer Ernie Trinidad recently had the opportunity to speak with Josh Brolin, star of the upcoming Oldboy remake directed by Spike Lee, and to ask him about the process of creating the remake, deviating from the original, and the demanding physical requirements of the film.

Telling the story of a man who is mysteriously imprisoned alone in a room for two decades is one that is decidedly filled with emotion, and that’s not even taking into account what happens after he is freed.  

Brolin said that, before setting out on the project, he was sure to receive the blessing of Chan-wook Park, the director of the original South Korean version. He also pointed out that this is not a mirror image of the original and that Lee was sure to craft it into something with its own voice.

For fans of the original, however, certain key scenes will remain, most notably the infamous hammer fight, which is three times longer than the original and was still done in a single take.

“That was five weeks of prep,” said Brolin. “We did seven takes, and the seventh take was the one. I walked away, had a little moment to myself, had some tears, and was just happy that a 45-year-old dude was able to pull that off.

As an actor, Brolin admits to having an ego but, as a storyteller, he understands that directors need to sift through all the footage more objectively to get the best “nuggets” to build the narrative. There was a lot more in the original cut that Lee opted to leave on the cutting room floor, but Brolin calls this part more “scientific” yet necessary to tie together the story arc.

Brolin discussed the full-body transformation he underwent – gaining 28 lbs. in 10 days and losing 22 lbs. in 2 1/2 days – as well as his admiration for his 24-year-old co-star Elizabeth Olsen and her ability as an actor to quickly take herself to dark emotional places.

“Me, I have to work myself into it,” he said.

And when asked if he was ever concerned about the places he would have to go and the raw emotion he would have to bring, Brolin said “all the time…still actually.”

“I look back and [think] ‘Did I go far enough’ or ‘Was that real? Was that organic?’ but that’s the whole point; my job is to embarrass myself in the extreme and have Spike work it out in the end.”

Oldboy is hitting theaters tomorrow, November 27th, check back later today for our review of the film.