You really have to see this place to believe it: With the custom-made millhouse and the oh-so-perfect pond, it looks like some kind of movie set, but it’s really James Brolin’s Malibu backyard.
Correspondent Tracy Smith asked Brolin, “How much time do you spend out here, you guys?”
“We visit a lot,” he replied. “This is heaven.”
“I do kind of feel like I’m in the movies, sitting here.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not. It’s all too real!” Brolin said.
He said most of the credit goes to his wife of 23 years, Barbra Streisand: “All of the flowers around are in that exact spot because they have to be. She designed pretty much everything. Me, I just work here!”
And his other job? Narrator of the Netflix series “Sweet Tooth,” about a post-apocalyptic world of hybrid animal people and a terrifying pandemic. Brolin provides a calmly reassuring voice when everything seems to be going to hell.
But it took him a while to get it right: “The first day of any job, [I’ve] got what they call the collywobbles,” he said.
The collywobbles? “Yeah, yeah. Just not sure I like these people. I’m not sure if I should have taken this job. Where are we? You know, I got a plane ticket somewhere … Second day, piece of cake!”
“Then you’re in?” said Smith.
Seems Brolin has been “in” for most of his life. You might recall that he came to fame as the dashing Dr. Steven Kiley opposite Robert Young in TV’s “Marcus Welby, M.D.” Brolin did well on “Welby” … so well, in fact, that he earned an Emmy (and that was just for the pilot).
Smith asked, “So, how did life change?”
“By the sixth show, we were number one, and we stayed there all year,” Brolin replied. “Life changed – I got a better dressing room!”
And there’d be even better dressing rooms to come, in series like “Hotel,” where he starred and directed, and in movies like 1979’s “The Amityville Horror.”
But then, there’s the one that got away.
“A lot of people may not know that James Brolin was almost James Bond,” said Smith. “How close did you get?”
“I had the job,” he said. “Roger Moore said he wasn’t gonna do any more.”
Brolin did some screen tests, and even learned a James Bond move or two, but after that … nothing. “We heard through someone else that Roger had decided to do one more. That was ‘Octopussy,’ by the way. And yeah, could have been fun, you know?”
Smith asked, “What do you tell yourself when things like that happen?”
“Ehh. Stuff happens.”
And life happens, too: Brolin has three children. His eldest son, Josh, was born in 1968, and in his case the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
“What is it like for you, as a dad, to see the success that he’s had?”
“Well, it’s great,” Brolin said. “But if he didn’t have any success, it would be the same to me, you know?”
The elder Brolin is 81 now – really. He’s also a highly-qualified pilot and a former pro race car driver.
He doesn’t get out on the race track any more, but he’s still more active than people half his age. He gets out on the water, “but not with a board anymore.”
Smith asked, “You just bought a skateboard?”
“God bless you.”
And he’s the first to admit that meeting his wife was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Smith asked, “You’ve been married 23 years. What’s the key to a long marriage?”
“Negotiation, I think,” he replied. “Kindness. Usually a referee is good, which means a marriage counselor or somebody that you know that comes over and talks and has you talk and has [them] talk. We’ve done well at that.”
In public, the two sometimes look like lovestruck teenagers, but Brolin said it’s been that way since they were dating: “I went off to a location in the Philippines. And I would call her. And this was before cell phones. I think I spent every nickel I made on this movie because we would be on from three to five hours on the phone, yeah, at $5 a minute from the Philippines!”
“Oh my goodness. What were you talking about?”
“Just teenage crap! I don’t know,” he laughed.
“Is that how you felt? It was like a teenager in love?”
“Yeah. I could almost feel her lying on her bed on her stomach with her feet up. You know how teenage girls do? Anyway, so when I got home, we felt quite close by then, you know?”
Along with “Sweet Tooth,” Brolin has three new projects on the way, and a sense that maybe his best work is still ahead.
Smith asked, “Do you think about legacy?”
“No, I don’t, actually!” he laughed. “No. Unh-uh What I got to do is still gonna happen, if it does. In other words, I haven’t done the thing that makes legacies, yet. And I may never.”
“But you just may.”
“I’m open and optimistic about everything, always. But I feel like there’s part of me that’s been also-ran – you know, all these horses are running, and there’s the winner, and then there’s the also-ran or the almost-made-it, you know? There’s a part of me that, yeah, yeah, still feels that. That I’ve got something to do, or I didn’t do something, or even maybe the Bond thing, if that’d happened, something might have changed, just from that one film, you know?”
But don’t mistake his wistfulness for regret: James Brolin loves what he does, and just wants to do more.
“I never felt like I’m ready to move on to the next best thing,” he said. “My favorite days have been at work, other than the days my kids were born or the days I was married. Every day at work has been just gold to me.”
“What does that do for your soul?” Smith asked.
“Makes me miss it right now. Here we are talking, wasting time!” he laughed.
To watch a trailer for “Sweet Tooth” click on the video player below.
- “Sweet Tooth” (Netflix)
- Barbra Streisand’s “Encore” (“Sunday Morning,” 8/28/16)
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