How Quentin Tarantino Helped Josh Brolin Land His No Country For Old Men Role

An actor putting themselves on tape for an audition is always a tricky proposition. Sure, it gives the casting agents and filmmakers a decent idea of how you read on camera, but it also places the actor in the strange posidtion of performing the scene in some place at their home, perhaps without even a scene partner. They are also responsible for choosing the right camera angle and setting up some lighting to best capture their own performance, which isn't in the job description of an actor. Taped auditions are unavoidable, though, and are a key part in finding the right people for the right roles.

Sometimes, you get lucky and a friend helps you out with your audition and films it in such a way to maximize your performance. Sometimes, the friend has no idea how to work a camera and ruins an audition you might have otherwise nailed. Sometimes, you happen to be working on a movie with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and they shoot your audition tape. Such was the case for Josh Brolin when he was trying to get the part of Llewelyn Moss in the Coen Brothers' Best Picture winning film "No Country for Old Men."

Planet Terror Wasn't a Total Waste

Remember how excited we all were for "Grindhouse?" The retro exploitation double feature experiment by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino came right at the height of these two directors perceived at their most badass. Rodriguez had just done "Sin City," which was seen as a major accomplishment in pushing visual effects (though its horrendous sequel certainly has made that bloom fall off the rose). Tarantino was coming off of the two "Kill Bill" films, which saw him work on massive scale he had yet to tackle. "Grindhouse" was sure to be a hit, right? Wrong. It was quite a financial disappointment, making not even half of its budget. Though Tarantino's half of the project, "Death Proof," has its fans, many would call it his worst film, including Tarantino himself. "Planet Terror," outside of the image of Rose McGowan with a machine gun leg, has no cultural footprint whatsoever.

However, Josh Brolin was one of the stars of "Planet Terror." (To be completely honest, I did not even remember him being in the movie until writing this piece.) One day on set, he had Tarantino and Rodriguez shoot his "No Country for Old Men" audition during a lunch break. In an interview, Brolin told Collider that they used the Panavision Genesis camera that "Planet Terror" was being shot on for the audition. Funnily enough, the professionally shot audition from two directors with distinct styles took emphasis away from Brolin's performance on the tape. Brolin recalled, "It was turned down. They watched it and their response was, 'Who lit it?'" It was not until a meeting with the Coens themselves that they saw he could really do the part. Not only did Brolin get the part, but the film won Best Picture, so you could say it worked out in the end.

Josh Brolin Is Now a Coen Regular

Like so many of the great filmmakers, the Coen Brothers have a stable of actors they return to time and time again. John Goodman, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Turturro, and the late, great Jon Polito are just a few of these actors who the brothers can pluck out at anytime and place them in their worlds. Josh Brolin has become one of those stock company players. He went on to appear in two more films by the Coens, and both roles couldn't be more different from Llewelyn Moss. First was as the dimwitted murderer Tom Chaney in their adaptation of "True Grit." Then, he was the Hollywood studio fixer Eddie Mannix in their highly underrated showbiz comedy "Hail, Caesar!"

At his core, Josh Brolin is a character actor. That's probably he why he never became a traditional leading man in Hollywood. Thankfully, the Coen Brothers feast on character actors. They might not have seen that potential in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's rendering of him with that initial audition tape, but I bet having such a unique audition tape made an impression on the filmmaking duo. They obviously didn't throw him aside completely if they were willing to meet with the actor. Luckily, his talent shined through the bells and whistles, and now we can just enjoy the films they make together, as Brolin's work with the Coens stands as the best of his career. Whether he is delivering a deadpan joke or is in extreme terror, the range that this actor/director combo can provide has not failed to entertain yet.