Oscar-nominated actor Josh Brolin stars in the new film “Only the Brave” as the late firefighter Eric Marsh, the leader of Arizona’s Granite Mountain Hotshots. Nineteen of the 20 forest firefighters from that group were killed in a blaze in 2013. That horrible moment and its aftermath are depicted in the film, but most of the movie focuses on the strong bond forged by the firefighters in the years leading up to that tragedy.

The subject matter is especially close to Josh Brolin’s heart since he served as a volunteer firefighter in Arizona in the 1990s. He disappears completely into the role of Eric Marsh, and it’s clear to see Josh took the time and effort to get this part right.

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He tells Rare Country, “I think it was more just a stripping away of ego and entitlement and vanity and all that stuff that actors bring to a set. Where’s my coffee? Where’s my lunch? I have a real sensitivity to these guys, cause not only do I love the people who I’ve met and I’ve spent time with, but the firefighters that I’ve spent the last 30 years with, especially in Arizona and some in California.”

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Josh and the film’s director, Joseph Kosinski, took great care in assembling the cast to play the firefighters and creating an atmosphere of comradery on the set. The sole survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, Brendon McDonough, and another former Hotshot, Pat McCarty, served as advisors on the set and led the cast in an intense boot camp to prepare them for their roles.

“It was about pulling these guys together and what actors are going to play this,” Josh says. “Not that we’re going to pretend to be Hotshots. We’re not Hotshots. We’ll do a little bit of training. We’ll have Pat and Brendon help us out, but we do what we do, and we’re actors. We want to bring the spirit of these guys to the screen.”

Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch and James Badge Dale are among the actors portraying the Hotshots in the film, and they’re bond is visible onscreen. Josh tells us that connection among them has lived on beyond the film set, which is a rare occurrence in the movie business.

He says, “You usually go and you create a bubble and you go from movie to movie, but we’ve kept the relationships for the last year. We created a bond that I think was very, very similar to the bond that these guys know in the firefighting community.”

Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly also star in “Only the Brave,” now in theaters everywhere. Dierks Bentley collaborated with S. Carey to write and record a new song for the film, “Hold the Light,” which plays over the credits.

Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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