Posted by: abcdyg | December 10, 2009

Brolin’s ‘The People Speak’ relates history ‘verbatim’

Josh Brolin discusses his passion project, The People Speak with USA TODAY’s Donna Freydkin.
Brolin’s ‘The People Speak’ relates history ‘verbatim’

Josh Brolin and other stars perform and re-enact key parts of Howard Zinn’s The People Speak in a History Channel production that airs Sunday.    
Enlarge image Enlarge     By Todd Plitt, USA TODAY
Josh Brolin and other stars perform and re-enact key parts of Howard Zinn’s The People Speak in a History Channel production that airs Sunday.

He greets friends with hugs. He takes his cappuccino extra-hot. When he clicks with you, he’ll text or call to let you know. And when he produces a passion project, he’ll talk about it for hours.

His latest, History Channel’s production of the Howard Zinn book The People Speak, airs Sunday (8 p.m. ET/PT). It features stars such as Marisa Tomei, Kerry Washington, Viggo Mortensen, Matt Damon and Brolin performing and re-enacting key parts from Zinn’s tome, which looks at the past through letters, diaries and speeches from Americans.

Brolin, who produced it along with Damon, hopes the special does Zinn’s progressive work justice. “I need to really know how you feel — if you saw the whole thing and if you didn’t, admit it now,” says Brolin, 41, demanding to know which parts soared and which ones tanked.

He collaborated with Damon, who had been trying to get Speak made for 10 years.

“This is the perfect format for a history lesson. You’re getting the actual historical text verbatim, so there’s no spin, performed by these great actors,” Damon says. “History is intimidating. There’s so much to know. If I could go back to college again, I would be a history major.”

Brolin, too, feels deeply connected to Speak. He first read it at 17 and again about 12 years ago — after seeing Damon’s character praising it in 1997’s Good Will Hunting. It’s being taught in his 16-year-old daughter Eden’s high school in California, and it’s why Brolin woke up early to promote it.

After all, he was instrumental in getting some of the production’s biggest names on board. “We brought in Bob Dylan. We brought in Bruce Springsteen. It turned out Bruce was a massive fan of Howard’s,” Brolin says.

Springsteen taped at his ranch in New Jersey while Brolin was at work. “They ended up spending five or six hours. And I got this little card from Bruce Springsteen that said: ‘Josh, thank you so much for making my childhood dream come true. I had the greatest day of my life.’ I was very stoked,” Brolin says.

Thanks to a mutual admiration of Zinn, Brolin is friends with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. “I write him these random things, and he’ll write me these random things. I know he misses his family a lot,” Brolin says before sharing a story he e-mailed to Vedder about how years ago he got his son Trevor, now 21, to stop sucking his thumb.

Vedder’s reply? “I’m crying a bit this morning. As a receiver, I was wide open. Nice throw. Miss my girls. Just been two days. Luckily a few more. Cheers, daddy-o,’ ” Brolin says. “Isn’t that sweet? A couple of dads.”

Brolin just visited daughter Eden in Louisiana, where she was on a school trip — and where his wife, Diane Lane, is shooting a movie. Since his first Oscar nomination for playing the killer in 2008’s Milk, Brolin has been jetting from movie set to set. He just wrapped Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps in New York. And he tended to his appearance after filming Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger in London.

“I went to this place called the Ashram that my wife made me go to because I was fat, at that point. I gained a lot of weight for the Woody movie. I didn’t want to go at all — and had the time of my life.

“I hiked 13 miles a day. No sugar and an 800-calorie-a-day diet. It was miserable, but I had a great time.”


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