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In 'Only The Brave,' The True Story Of Fated Wildland Firefighters

Josh Brolin stars as Eric Marsh, supervisor of a wilderness firefighting team, in the new film <em>Only The Brave.</em>
Richard Foreman
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Josh Brolin stars as Eric Marsh, supervisor of a wilderness firefighting team, in the new film Only The Brave.

The ongoing wildfires in Northern California have reminded many Americans of the courage — the heroism — of the men and women who fight fires in forests and wilderness.

A new film called Only The Brave is based on the true story of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who battled, and ultimately lost their lives, in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire during late June of 2013. Hotshots are the elite crews that attack and try to contain wildfires with chainsaws, shovels and flames of their own (to create firebreaks).

Only The Brave is directed by Joseph Kosinski, and features Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly. Josh Brolin stars as Eric Marsh, the supervisor of the crew based out of Prescott, Ariz. In an interview, he says the film takes on new relevance in light of current events.

"With what's happening in California right now, I've had extended family be evacuated from their homes," Brolin says. "It's very close to home. So I think it's very apropos that we have something to bring more awareness to what these people go through every day – these common people doing very uncommon and very dangerous things in order to assure the safety of their communities."

Interview Highlights

On his line "This is the best job in the world"

Me, I was a volunteer firefighter for 3 years in my twenties, and I've been around the firefighting community for 30 years. So I know these guys extremely well, and I've heard that said many times. Many times. Firefighters love what they do because there's a brotherhood. It's like saying, you know, going to war. Guys, troops who are in war will tell you that the brotherhood in war is unlike anything you will ever experience outside of that situation. And I think the same thing goes for firefighters.

On the film's conflict between duty and family

Yea, it deals with the realities, with the tensions that exist when you have somebody in such a heightened reality coming home to somebody who's living this kind of domesticated existence, and trying to keep things, you know, moving forward on the home front. And there's no way that you're not going to have some kind of clash, some kind of compromise that needs to come out of that reintegrating or trying to reintegrate.

On getting his fellow actors to check their egos for the film

During the training of what we did, they had 45-pound packs, and I made sure that they were always 45 pounds. They had shoes that they had to break in, so it was a very bloody two weeks of breaking in those Nicks [boots]. We were hiking maybe six to eight miles a day. We were going from 8,000 feet elevation to 11,000 feet. I mean, they did it. They really, they truly went through it — they had an experience. And what came out of that is a brotherhood and a camaraderie that I don't know if I've ever felt in any other movie to that extent.

Tim Peterson and Viet Le produced and edited the audio of this interview. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.