Soldado stars Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin talk to Flicks

Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are both back for Sicario: Day of the Soldado, the blistering follow-up to 2015’s cartel thriller Sicario. In the new film, Brolin’s shady CIA operative Matt Graver and Del Toro’s enigmatic revenge-seeking former lawyer Alejandro team up to disrupt the Mexican cartel’s people-trafficking power. This involves a daring plan to kidnap the young daughter (Isabela Moner from Transformers: The Last Knight) of the cartel head who previously killed Alejandro’s family.

Flicks recently sat down with Brolin and Del Toro (separately) in Los Angeles to talk about the film.

Josh Brolin

FLICKS: Were you nervous about returning to the world of Sicario with a new director [Stefano Sollima]:

JOSH BROLIN: You just kind of take the dice and you hope for the best. I think we’ve got really lucky. I think even when you have amazing people that there’s still a chemical reaction that you can’t call exactly. There’s no reason why this movie should have been as good as it was from my point of view. I love seeing the reaction; the people are viscerally responding to it. It’s great. It’s cool.

How would you describe where Matt Graver is at in the new film?

He’s arrogant in the beginning and then you see something’s different, something’s just heavier and then you go through this experience and then you see him by the end he’s like, he’s vulnerable. He’s not that great arrogant American empire that he represents anymore. He’s somehow human again and you hope if there’s any parallel – not trying to teach a lesson at all – but you go ‘That’s what happens when you get too arrogant, that’s what happens when you feel invincible’. I don’t care if you’re an empire, I don’t care if you’re a human being, something is bound to go wrong. Now hopefully you don’t just react and kill more and become more evil.

With Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and now this, you’re having a massive year – how’s that going?

Pretty crazy man. It’s an interesting thing psychologically. I’ve been working out with Laird Hamilton who’s a big wave surfer and he was saying success can sometimes breed lack of empathy, and that’s like the death of an actor, you know what I mean? So I think there’s been something that’s very like this with me right now where people go ‘God you must be so happy; you’ve arrived!’ but what does that mean? I think I have a healthy paranoia and within that paranoia I’ve taken a couple moments – one was the Sunday after Avengers was released that I said ‘It’s okay to enjoy this’ like I reminded myself, this is a special moment, this doesn’t happen to a lot of people and definitely doesn’t happen with film a lot.

Do you have to work at staying grounded?

I don’t know if grounded…I don’t like that word because it almost sounds pretentious. It’s like ‘Well, as a successful actor how do I stay grounded…’ – already that’s not grounded, you know what I mean? But I think it’s about remembering why you do this.

I’ve been very lucky, things have fluctuated, I remember when I was like ‘Get me an episode of CSI man! I’ve got to pay the bills! I have kids!’ I remember that like it was yesterday. So this moment, really nice moment, is it gonna last? For sure not. But if we can take this moment and stretch it out into good roles? Like maybe we can do five more years of good roles and interesting roles and being able to work with studios to finance things that they wouldn’t necessarily finance – that’d be great.

Because movies like this one are ….they have a noose around their neck and they’re on the gallows. And movies like this doing well is important and I love doing movies like this. Only The Brave was the same way for me. I love Only The Brave, I’m so proud of that movie. People didn’t see it in the theatre but after it came out on DVD people started seeing it. When you have a guy come up to you in a grocery store, fucking jacked, tattoos and the whole thing and he’s got tears in his eyes and he’s a firefighter and he gives you a hug, that’s it, you don’t get that very often and I don’t want to lose that aspect of what filmmaking is.

Benicio Del Toro

FLICKS: What did you think when you learned they were planning a follow-up to Sicario?

BENICIO DEL TORO: I was surprised, maybe a little scared, but excited at the same time. This doesn’t usually happen. If you’re doing a Marvel movie or a Star Wars movie, it might happen, but to do a sequel like this, it doesn’t usually happen. It’s an opportunity and you just try your best and it’s not easy to do.

I thought Sicario did a really good job in what it tried to do as a movie. I think it’s a good movie. And so [director ] Denis [Villeneuve] was not gonna be doing [this one], [cinematographer] Roger Deakins was not going to be filming it, those were the reasons I was scared.

The film obviously turned out great – what was different about working in this world with Stefano compared to Denis?

I think Stefano adjusted really quickly and really well. I also think Stefano looks at violence differently than Denis. Denis is subtle; Stefano just keeps the camera right there and just [pounds on the table]. This movie is a bit more violent and bloodier and that’s his choice as a director and me as the actor I respect that.

Do you think Alejandro has evolved beyond the character we met in the first film?

I think in the first movie we just learn that he’s a quiet guy and he’s bent with one mission and that is vengeance. And I think in this one we see that there’s another side to him, that there’s a human side to him.

I did like the idea that this journey kind of rehabilitates him. I’m not saying he’s innocent, because he’s not, but let’s start by saying everything [Alejandro and Matt] are doing from the beginning is evil, is wrong. Everything they’re doing. But within that, it’s interesting that you find yourself looking at this guy and kind of rooting for him in a way. He kidnaps a young girl, about the same age as his daughter was when she was kidnapped. That fact that he makes this girl experience the terror and the horror that his daughter probably felt when she was kidnapped before they killed her. And through that mirror of his actions, he starts to become just like the guys that he hates.

You play a lot of bad guys and bad-asses – does it bother you that filmmakers tend to see you this way?

It doesn’t bother me. But I find it interesting if someone comes in with something interesting. These bad guys that I’ve played, for the most part … not all of them, but for the most part, the bad guys that I’ve played, I’ve had a chance to work with really good filmmakers and good actors. Very talented cinema people.