To play the leader of an elite team of Arizona firefighters in his latest blockbuster, “Only the Brave,” Josh Brolin had to go a little outside his comfort zone.
“It was an unnatural thing for me to be in charge of 19 guys,” joked the Oscar-nominated actor, who grew up in the Templeton-Adelaida area and still calls it home.
“Only the Brave,” which opens in theaters Friday, tells the inspiring true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a dedicated firefighting squad from Prescott, Arizona, that suffered major casualties battling a massive wildfire in 2013. Out of the 20 team members who fought the Yarnell Hill Fire, only one survived — making the blaze one of the deadliest in U.S. history.
The movie, which also stars Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly and Jeff Bridges, is directed by Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”) and written by Ken Nolan (“Black Hawk Down”) and Eric Warren Singer (“American Hustle”).
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Brolin, 49, dropped more than 40 pounds to play Eric “Supe” Marsh, the tough, gruff superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Together with his co-stars, the “No Country for Old Men” star underwent an intensive two-week wildland firefighting training camp that found him climbing up to 10,000 feet with a 45-pound pack and a 25-pound saw.
“We were representing 20 guys that this really happened to, (so) it was very important for me” to make the effort, Brolin told The Tribune in February. “It’s a great motivator when you’re working.”
Brolin said “Only the Brave” “really resonated for me.” In his 20s, he spent three years battling blazes with a volunteer fire department in Arizona.
“I’m interested in something that really moves me,” Brolin said, and “the idea of the heroic act moves me. ... I was so moved by that movie.”
“There’s something amazing about a community that actually comes out of their homes and congregates and tries to make a difference,” he added. “People banding together ... (is) never a bad thing.”
The son of actor James Brolin and wildlife advocate Jane Cameron Agee — his stepmother is singer Barbra Streisand — Josh Brolin moved to Templeton as a baby, attending Templeton Elementary and Templeton Middle School. Although he sold his family’s ranch in 2004, he bought it back six years later.
“Paso was always screaming at me to come back. That’s why I’m there,” he said.
In March, the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival awarded Brolin, whose credits include “True Grit,” “W.” and “Sicario,” its highest honor — the King Vidor Award for Excellence in Filmmaking. Bridges, a past King Vidor honoree, presented his “Only the Brave” co-star with the statuette.
“I love the community here,” Brolin said during the March 18 awards ceremony in San Luis Obispo. “This is my home. These are my roots. ... This is what matters most to me.”