Josh Rottenberg
May 18, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Take Advantage of the Resemblance

Brolin looks strikingly like a younger Jones, which meant there was no need for heavy prosthetic work. As Brolin puts it, ”I don’t know if it’s the Americana people see in me and Tommy. Or if it’s the size of our skulls. Or if there’s a Cro-Magnon feeling when you look at us — sort of a silverback thing.”


Brolin worked with Jones on two previous movies, In the Valley of Elah and No Country for Old Men, and had a chance to study his, shall we say, somewhat prickly demeanor up close. ”The ambience that Tommy creates on a set is just unparalleled,” Brolin says, laughing. ”The tension is f—ing amazing. I grew up with a lot of cowboys, so it doesn’t affect me as deeply as it would the urban norm. But it’s still uncomfortable. That’s his genius: ‘How can I make this the most uncomfortable moment anybody has ever had in the world?’ There’s no way he’s thinking it — it’s just intrinsic.”

Look for Speech Patterns

This part of the process was especially tough, says Brolin. ”It sounds like there’s this cadence [to Jones’ speaking], but there’s no pattern to follow. It changes all the time, so if you listen to Tommy in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, that’s a completely different Tommy than in Men in Black. He goes back and forth between this formality and this kind of hickdom that he embraces. I was trying to figure out, like, ‘Okay, on all his u’s the lilt goes up.’ Then the minute I noticed that, the next four u’s would be all down, and I’d be like, ‘Nooo! Why?”’

Practice, Practice, Practice

In the months leading up to the shoot, Brolin worked constantly to develop a convincing take on Jones. ”I was just sitting there with GarageBand [recording myself] going, ‘Hey, how ya doin’? Hey, how ya doin’?’ — over and over, for days and months, thinking, ‘I’m going to sound like an idiot in this film.’ I was down in Mexico at one point with a buddy of mine and I was so frustrated, I got so drunk — the stress level was just so high.”

But Don’t Overdo It

It would be easy to go overboard hamming up a Jones impersonation, but Brolin says he was aiming for something more subtle: ”You don’t want it to be showboaty. The hope is after five minutes everyone will forget they’re watching me doing Tommy playing K and just kind of lend themselves to the story. Hopefully that worked.”

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