Before He Was Thanos, Josh Brolin Was A Day Trader And Almost Quit Acting
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When you think of Hollywood stars, day trading probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But did you know that Josh Brolin, the actor behind iconic roles like Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men, also used to be an avid day trader?
Day trading is the practice of buying and selling stocks within the same trading day with the goal of making a profit. In the case of Brolin, it was a means of investing in the stock market and generating income outside of his acting career.
Brolin has talked openly about his interest in the stock market and his experience with day trading over the years, even going so far as to consider quitting acting to pursue it full-time at one point.
In an industry obsessed with glitz and glamour, Brolin’s story shows the value of pursuing diverse interests and finding financial stability through unconventional means.
Why did Josh Brolin pick up day trading?
Over the years, Brolin has discussed why he learned the ropes on day trading stocks. The often actor chalked it up to not making enough money from acting, along with not enjoying the parts he was getting in his 20s and 30s.
In 2010, Brolin told The Independent that he got started day trading after selling his family ranch in Paso Robles, California and starting an online trading website called marketprobability.com. The website is now defunct and offline, but you can still take a peek at what it looked like via the Wayback Machine.
He told the paper that he didn’t like the films he was doing at the time and wasn’t making a lot of money anyway, so he decided to lean into a career pivot.
“I’d rather do something else than act in the stuff that I’m acting in. I’ll do theater and things that I like that nobody will see. But that’s OK, as I hate these movies and I’m not interested,” Brolin told The Independent in 2010.
A 2007 SF Gate profile noted that Brolin “made far more money on the stock-trading Internet site marketprobability.com than he ever has acting,” but noted that his Hollywood career was just starting to take off thanks to his iconic role in No Country For Old Men.
Brolin described day trading as “just such a rush, like watching a boxing match” to the Bay Area newspaper. He also noted what some of his returns looked like, telling the paper: “are lucky to make 10 percent a year, we are making on the average 4 percent a month.”
In a 2021 Men’s Journal profile, Brolin told the magazine that learning day trading was “just another circus to learn.” In another 2019 profile, Men’s Journal noted he “paid the rent as a day trader, waking up at five in the morning to read the market’s tea leaves before the opening bell.”
In an interview released around the time of his role as the head of an investment bank in 2010’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Brolin elaborated on his day trading days:
“There was no connection between me learning how to trade and me getting this movie. I learned how to trade because I had a trading company. Before No Country for Old Men, I wasn’t making a lot of money. I had a ranch that I was taking care of, and it was my ranch. I sold the ranch, and I took the money that I made from the sale because that was the top of the real estate market.
I was always fairly good at finance, and I was good at math. Through a friend of mine, Brett Markinson, who I met on a plane going over to New York to go to the premiere of “Into the West,” which was a miniseries that I did, we talked for six hours. I asked many questions, and from that point on, I became obsessive about learning.”
Josh Brolin even considered quitting acting because of his day trading returns
A 2014 profile with The Guardian notes that Brolin briefly considered quitting acting in his 20s when he started day trading. The Guardian notes that Brolin learned that the markets work on “fear and greed” and began putting that analysis to work.
Brolin reportedly day traded for three years and, according to the Guardian, “apparently made a bundle.”
“So it wasn’t a chart I was looking at, it was people reacting. Fear and greed, that’s all that there is. And I traded very specifically. I found momentum stocks that had room to breathe and I just grab a little of the breath,” Brolin told The Guardian.
What kind of day trading did Josh Brolin do?
Brolin wasn’t just randomly picking stocks he liked to flip. He had a method to his madness on his website, telling The Independent in 2010 that he offered investors five- to ten-day “stock baskets” that was “based on trends and the current state of the market.”
He also elaborated his trading strategy in a 2008 appearance on Charlie Rose, noting that he specialized in “pull backs”:
“[I use a very specific type of trading] which is Pull Backs, that is what I do. I find a momentum stock, I wait until it pulls back a little bit, and then it hits a support, I get it then, it will go back and test where it started to go down which is called resistance, and I nab that percent, that percent and a half, and if you do that enough then you got, you know, fifty percent, sixty percent, seventy percent.”
At the time of the Charlie Rose interview in late November 2008, right as the mortgage-backed securities Global Financial Crisis was heating up, Brolin told Rose that he was up 58 percent on the year.
“I’m almost embarrassed,” he told Rose at the time, noting that he was “beginning to get into hedge funds.” The actor, who was promoting his Oscar-nominated role in the movie MILK at the time, added that he and a business partner were about to “manage a $40 million hedge fund.”
Josh Brolin on having an “edge” in day trading
He further discussed this to the now defunct website Rope Of Silicon Valley. Brolin told the website that “I’ve always had my hand in several different jars,” noting that he also had a real estate business at the time, in addition to Market Probability.
“Market Probability came out of my partner and I just trading, real time trading,” he told the Rope of Silicon. The interview can still be read via Archive.org’s Wayback Machine. He also noted that trading required a mathematical edge in order to be successful.
“We were doing very well and we were coming up with different indicators beyond what trade station was providing and those indicators started to work pretty well and we realized there was no real way you can win in the market without having some kind of mathematical edge based on the history of the market and what it has done compared to now… So, I don’t know man, I liked it, we got into and we were making money, a lot more money than the pros that were telling us not to do certain things.”
As Brolin’s career continued to take off in Hollywood, interviewers stopped asking him about his day trading days, focusing on his more recent work as an actor in leading roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dune, and Deadpool 2.
Judging by its Wayback Machine history, Brolin’s website, Market Probability, appears to have been shuttered during the Global Financial Crisis, sometime between 2008-2009.
Josh Brolin on the risks and rewards of day trading
Throughout his experience with day trading, Brolin remained grounded in his understanding of the inherent risk involved. As proven time and time again, day trading is an inherently volatile pursuit that can lead to significant losses and gains, making it statistically challenging to succeed.
“I learned an incredible amount of discipline doing it,” Brolin told the Independent in 2010. “It’s almost like gambling.”
Josh Brolin’s foray into day trading is a reminder that everyone has to start somewhere before making it big in showbiz. It’s also a reminder about pursuing diverse interests and finding unconventional means of financial stability can be beneficial.
Despite the inherent risks involved, Brolin seemed to approach the day trading game smartly, with discipline and understanding of the market.
His story encourages us all to broaden our horizons and seek opportunities to pursue our passions and financial goals.