Actor and Democrat Josh Brolin portrays President George W. Bush in director Oliver Stone's biopic, "W.", which opens in theaters this week, and said one thing about the role really surprised him.
"I told my wife, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really like the guy," mused Brolin about the 43rd president of the United States in an interview for ABC News Now's "Popcorn with Peter Travers."
Brolin grew up in a Republican household, he said. "My dad and my mom were Republicans," yet he became a Democrat "organically ... and on my own."
Despite his left-wing leanings, he not only grew to like the president but also found a new appreciation for "certain aspects of the Republican Party." But his esteem only goes so far.
"No matter how much you may identify or humanize somebody, it doesn't mean he's the best leader," he said. "Fifty million of us looked at him and identified with him -- that's all well and good, but we need real leaders." Bush, Brolin resolved, was not one.
Brolin admitted on "Popcorn" that "there is no serious bone in my body" and said that, initially "there was a moment when I thought maybe I could drink through the whole movie (and act with) a film over my eyes."
Yet, while he could have parodied Bush like a "Saturday Night Live" skit, he and Stone approached it "very scholastically." They created a "graph of milestones and how he [W] would sound like and move" at various stages of his life.
While Stone has what Brolin called an "unfounded reputation" of being a die-hard leftist, Brolin insisted he "is very fair" as a filmmaker.
He described his acting style as being more like the "Tasmanian Devil -- you can worry about it in editing."
Comparing himself with his wife, actress Diane Lane, he noted that "Diane is different; she shares her deepest emotions. She opens herself completely [while] I create characters I hide in." This came at the expense of his family, on whom he practiced his W persona for three months.
But even with the practice, Brolin told Stone he didn't know if he could "make it right," so he "put it out there in front of the crew of a hundred so I wouldn't have to embarrass myself in front of millions."
When challenged to do an impromptu Bush impersonation, he squirmed in his chair muttering, "I get embarrassed doing it."
Brolin was not Stone's first pick. Christian Bale was lined up to star but changed his mind.
"He got nervous," Brolin acknowledged. "I haven't talked to Christian about this, but I'm glad he decided it wasn't for him."
But Brolin wasn't easy to convince, either.
When Stone first approached him for the part, Brolin, puzzled, asked why him? Because there is "a great bucolic meanness to you," Stone responded. Brolin turned him down without reading the script. It was his son, Trevor Mansur, who read the script and convinced him to do it.
Brolin also spoke with his father, actor James Brolin, who did nothing to calm his nerves by saying, "It's amazing you're the first guy to play an incumbent president -- are you nervous?" He wasn't -- at least not until two weeks before they started filming, he said.
"W." is a story about the relationship between a father and his son. Brolin, putting himself in Bush's shoes, reflected "it would be like me redoing all my father's movies ... I couldn't imagine doing that ... it must have landed like a ton of bricks," he said.