Watching Josh Brolin emerge from the snow as a kind of Lazarus in Everest has led critics to believe that his real-life character, Beck Weathers, deserves his own movie. The Texan millionaire paid Rob Hall's Adventure Consultants US$65,000 ($103,500) to scale the summit in 1996 but, suffering snow blindness, he had to give up hope of making it to the top.
Refusing offers of help to get him back to base camp, Weathers, believing his sight would return, waited for Hall, who never came. Ultimately, the tenacious Texan had to rely on his own resources to make it out, albeit minus his hands and nose. He wrote a book Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest and, of course, Brolin met him to play him.
"Beck's a great guy," the actor admits. "I asked him if he was still climbing and he said 'no'. I asked, 'What do you do with that thing I know you possess?' He looked at me and after a pause he goes, 'I am flying jets now'."
You can't keep a burly Texan down and the same can be said for the ever-garrulous Brolin, 47.
The son of actor James Brolin (married to Barbra Streisand) had been languishing in obscurity until No Country for Old Men came along.
His casting as the lead in one of the Coen brothers' best films, coupled with his two turns for Oliver Stone as George W. Bush in W and as a hedge-fund manager in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps turned his career around. He has been working frenetically ever since. Perhaps too much.
"I've actually made myself take a break," he admits, after filming Everest, Sicario and Hail, Caesar! with the Coens. "I'm grateful to be in the position where I've said, 'no work'."
But he gladly accepted the challenge of working on a bigger movie like Everest, even if it meant braving the ice and wind.
"At the time, you think it's the worst decision you've ever made but then you see the movie and you understand why you did it," he explains.
"You are putting yourself in situations where you are assessing where you are in life. I dealt with a lot of fear before this movie and I am a better man for it. I changed my life because of it."
How so? "There are things that I was doing that were probably a little self-destructive. I would never take it back, but I am now at a point where I am really enjoying being more focused."
Beck was changed too because of Everest, he says. "He starts out this arrogant prick from Texas who you just want to slap.
"So much bravado: 'I didn't tell my wife, ha ha'. He didn't have much sensitivity. Then you see his vulnerability - he actually starts to miss his kids. Being out there in the elements alone and isolated changed him."
In preparing for the role, Brolin climbed Mt Whitney and Mt Shashta in his native California. "I did it with my fiancee and we were doing a lot of stuff that was scary to me.
"You put yourself in these precarious situations to try to get a little closer to the idea of what you think this guy did, but we will never do anything even close."
Somewhere amidst the onslaught of work Brolin's eight-year marriage to actress Diane Lane broke down. The actor, who has two adult children, Trevor, 27, and Eden, 19, with his first wife Alice Adair, is now engaged to the much-younger Kathryn Boyd, a model and his former assistant.
"She's a wonderful human being," he says, as he peppers his conversation with his new love, who accompanied him to the filming in Nepal. (The mountain scenes, though, were mostly filmed in the Dolomites in Italy.) "We were going to churches, cemeteries and seeing the sights. Having her there was a major plus."
Maybe they can come to scale a few mountains in New Zealand? "I knew nothing about the New Zealand culture beforehand," he confesses. "But Tim Bevan [the film's producer] is from New Zealand. I thought he was an Englishman and I know how much this story meant to him.
"And getting to know Rob's wife Jan and daughter Sarah, I now really, really want to spend some time there, because what is there, 11 natural climates? It's like New Zealand and Hawaii, or something like that."
Brolin greatly enjoyed the easy collaboration on Everest and it was a similar case on Sicario, a movie he was reluctant to accept until his good buddy, the film's cinematographer Roger Deakins (they've done five films together since No Country for Old Men) twisted his arm. The burly actor was a natural fit to play the gung-ho macho task-force leader out to get the Mexican drug cartels, because he has such a gift of the gab.
"I know, I know, man. That's what I do, I talk."
The film's subject was close to home, he says. "I've spent a lot of time in Texas with my mother and have often gone on to Mexico.
"I've seen the country transition from being a great holiday spot, even just going over to the bars in Juarez or wherever, and now it's the most dangerous place on Earth. About 28,000 people died last year because of the cartel wars."
Interestingly, in his latest film, Hail, Caesar! his fourth time with Joel and Ethan Coen, he does a voice.
"It was very difficult to find that voice and it tortured me.
"I sent it to Joel and Ethan and I didn't know they were screwing with me, because they go, 'Maybe more like number two but less smoky or something'. They started saying things back and I'd go 'Oh, they are actually f***ing with me now'.
"You don't understand what it's like dealing with these people," he jokes. "But it's actually so gratifying because there is such trust. It's the kind of environment I like working in now."
• Everest opens Thursday