"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Josh Brolin as John Brown?

Er, well, maybe. Josh Brolin is a fine actor, but he just wouldn't be one of the actors that I would readily think of playing our man Brown in a film. But if Brolin is willing and able to portray Brown, my greater concern is that he will portray him fairly--and I think he will. As noted below, Brolin read some of Brown's words in a kind of history-meets-drama program produced by historian Howard Zinn (Brolin's reading/performance is featured on YouTube), and I think Brolin would give us a healthy and balanced representation compared to what Hollywood has previously produced.

As to the details of Brolin's possible role as the controversial abolitionist, according to a contributor to the entertainment website, ComingSoon.net, Josh Brolin was interviewed on Tuesday, May 19, in New Orleans, La., on the set of Warner Brothers production entitled, Jonah Hex. In the interview Brolin revealed that he is considering the production and starring role in a biopic on John Brown from a script by Mark Gordon. The report continues:
"It's a great, great project," Brolin told us. "The script was already out there; I read the script, I loved it. It would be a very tough character for me to play. We're going to do some tests once I'm done with this, but it's a great script and story. Somebody who I know, because of Howard Zinn's thing, and I know the character really well. Mark Gordon and I had a conversation, and we said, 'Let's do this, let's get this done.' People have been wanting to do it forever and there's a lot of directors who'd love to be involved, so I think now's the time."
The "Howard Zinn thing" Brolin mentions is the documentary he's producing called The People Speak, based on Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States, which will feature a who's who of American actors including Matt Damon, Marisa Tomei, Sean Penn, Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle and many more enacting some of the greatest speeches in American history.*
Pardon me for saying so, Mr. Brolin, but if you're going to portray John Brown, I hope you'll pick up my book, John Brown--The Cost of Freedom first. If you want to know the man who lived, it's a good place to start.

*Source: Edward Douglas, Coming Soon.net, May 20, 2009

P.S. 21 May 09. A reader has kindly responded by inquiring as to my preference in the lead role of a movie about John Brown. First, let me say that I would not want to disparage Mr. Brolin because I think his performance would be excellent and I think his thinking on Brown is at least fair. Secondly, as a mere movie-watcher my suggestions as to who might play John Brown would be (in no particular priority): Kris Kristofferson, Sam Shepherd, William Sadler, Robert Patrick, Christopher Walken or Chris Cooper. Of course, as theater goes, my vote goes for my friend, Norman Marshall, who's been keeping Brown alive on stage now for years.


David Marin-Guzman said...

any ideas for john brown casting then? Michael Shannon has been mentioned. Also i thought Sam Shephard could be a possibility...or Michael Douglas...

amecoy75002 said...

Christian Bale!

gtmagpie said...

For years my preference to play the role of Brown in a film has been Willem Dafoe. I heard Brolin's interpretation of Brown's speech to the court at this blog, and I thought he completely missed the mark as an interpreter of this most powerful oratory. He read it as if he were a high school history student who had been asked to read it for the class by the teacher. Boring. One would expect if he were to portray Brown, he'd put a little more into it. They'll have to give him blue contact lenses, since his eyes are brown and Brown's were famously grey-blue. As for a theatrical presentation, check out "Sword of the Spirit," in which actor Greg Artzner portrays Brown and Terry Leonino portrays his wife, Mary. It's being performed in many events around the country this year, including the sesquicentennial celebrations at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. An excellent portrayal and telling of the Brown story. Check out http://www.magpiemusic.com/spiritsword.html