Fight­ing the odds


The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - by Rob Low­man

As wild­fires dev­as­tate parts of Cal­i­for­nia and the West, Only the Brave serves as a timely re­minder of the courage of those who pro­tect oth­ers and of the sac­ri­fices their own fam­i­lies make.

The movie that re­leased yes­ter­day stars Josh Brolin and

Jeff Bridges. The two, who pre­vi­ously worked to­gether on Joel and Ethan Coen’s re­make of True Grit, have a fa­mil­iar ease with each other as they dis­cuss the new film.

Only the Brave tells the true story of the Gran­ite Moun­tain Hot­shots, a group of fire-fighters spe­cially trained in wild­fire sup­pres­sion tac­tics.

During the Yar­nell

Fire in 2013, the Prescott, Ari­zona-based Gran­ite Moun­tain crew lost

19 of its 20 mem­bers — in­clud­ing Chris Macken­zie and Billy Warneke of Hemet — when winds sud­denly whipped up and changed di­rec­tion. Only the Brave does not sim­ply re­count the tragedy; it paints a pic­ture of the lives of the men who are will­ing to face such dan­gers.

“For these guys, it’s a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity. They are walk­ing to­ward the fire while the rest of us run away from it,” says Brolin, who plays Eric Marsh, known as “Supe” (as in su­per­in­ten­dent), the out­fit’s boss.

Bridges plays Prescott Wild­land Fire Chief Duane Stein­brink, who over­saw Marsh and his crew.

“These guys are so phe­nom­e­nally brave,” ob­serves the Os­car­win­ning ac­tor, “but if you strip them down they aren’t su­per­men. Some of them started as (screwups) but are into self­im­prov­ing. They have im­per­fec­tions like the rest of us and per­sonal sto­ries.”

Stein­brink was not part of the team fight­ing the Yar­nell Fire, and Brolin and Bridges say that the chief was wary at first that a movie was be­ing made about the tragedy.

“I knew it was a sen­si­tive sub­ject, be­cause we’d have to deal with the fam­ily and friends of those who died,” says Brolin. “Par­tic­u­larly

when it was first pro­posed. It was only the three-year an­niver­sary when we were shoot­ing it.”

Both Bridges and Brolin have played real-life peo­ple be­fore and know as an ac­tor you can’t com­pletely trans­form into the per­son you’re play­ing.

“When I met Eric’s par­ents, the first thing his mother said to me was, ‘Eric was a lot taller than you.’ So it’s tough,” says Brolin.

The ac­tor says he told Marsh’s par­ents that “No mat­ter what I do it will never be right, but I will rep­re­sent him in the best way I can. I won’t be lazy about this. I’ll give it 110 per cent and I hope at the end of the day you feel that I’ve rep­re­sented your son well.”

Even­tu­ally, Stein­brink came around to sup­port the film.

Bridges and Stein­brink con­nected over mu­sic.

“With Jeff, it’s al­ways about mu­sic,” Brolin says with a laugh.

Stein­brink has a cow­boy band called The Rusty Pis­tols. Bridges has been a long-time mu­si­cian and song­writer, even win­ning his Os­car in Crazy Heart play­ing a coun­try singer. The ac­tor per­forms a song as Stein­brink in the film.

As is cus­tom­ary in ac­tion films like this,

Only the Brave had a two-week boot camp — this one in the moun­tains out­side Santa Fe, New Mex­ico — so the ac­tors could train for their roles.

“It made us ac­tors step for­ward to get it right,” Brolin says.

The ac­tor al­ready had some ex­pe­ri­ence with fire-fight­ing. Nearly 30 years ago when he was shoot­ing the Western se­ries The Young Riders in Ari­zona, he struck up a friend­ship with Danny Martin, a wild­land fire­fighter, and he started hang­ing out with him as a vol­un­teer fire­man.

“I liked the com­mu­nity. It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the fire­fight­ing or that I wanted to be in a re­ally dan­ger­ous place,” says Brolin. “I came from a surf com­mu­nity that was very tight, and when I didn’t have that any­more I missed it.”

Martin has re­mained a friend, and knew Marsh, at­tend­ing his fu­neral.

“So this movie is maybe my most per­sonal,” says Brolin.

Only the Brave also stars Miles Teller, James Badge Dale and Tay­lor Kitsch as mem­bers of the Gran­ite Moun­tain crew. Os­car-winner Jen­nifer Con­nelly plays Marsh’s wife, Amanda, while Andie Mac­dow­ell por­trays Stein­brink’s wife, Marvel.

One thing Jeff and

Josh have in com­mon is that their fa­thers were Hol­ly­wood stars — James Brolin and Lloyd Bridges — and their ca­reers have also been marked by their col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Coen broth­ers.

De­spite seven Os­car nom­i­na­tions, Bridges, 67, will for­ever be known as the laid­back “Dude” in 1998’s The Big Le­bowski. After some two decades in the busi­ness, Brolin’s role in the 2007 Os­car­win­ning No Coun­try for Old Men proved a boost for his ca­reer.

When asked about the Coens, both ac­tors light up.

“They are the masters,” says Bridges

“It’s so un­pre­ten­tious work­ing with them,” adds Brolin, who was in last year’s Hail, Cae­sar!

The pair then launch into a dis­cus­sion about the kinds of di­rec­tors they like, a topic, con­sid­er­ing how many films they both have been in, about which they have plenty to say.

Bridges has had three films re­leased in as many months — The Only Liv­ing Boy in New York City, Kings­men: The Golden Cir­cle and now Brave.

Brolin has four more al­ready in the can after Brave — the in­die The Legacy of a White­tail Deer Hunter, Avengers: In­fin­ity War, Dead­pool 2 and Soldado, the se­quel to Si­cario.

“I don’t nor­mally walk around look­ing like this,” says the T-shirt-wear­ing Brolin, in­di­cat­ing his bulked-up physique.

He’s hop­ing to film a TV se­ries he’s cre­ated early next year.

Like all Cal­i­for­ni­ans, the ac­tors have had to worry about wild­fires. Bridges says his wife had to evac­u­ate their Santa Bar­bara ranch by her­self three times be­cause of blazes when he was off mak­ing movies and also lost a Mal­ibu house to fire.

“We just lost 400 acres on our Mon­tana ranch to fires,” he says. “I was just up there giv­ing my daugh­ter away at her wed­ding, and there was smoke in the air. You know the world is get­ting crispier and crisper. Thank God, we have guys like the hot­shots”

“We’re go­ing to need more of these peo­ple,” adds Brolin.

“Hope­fully, the movie can be in­spi­ra­tional to ev­ery­body to en­gage the prob­lem rather than throw­ing up their hands,” says Bridges.

Josh Brolin (left) and Jeff Bridges in the movie.

The movie also stars Miles Teller (left).

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