JONAH HEX: ANOTHER GRAPHIC NOVEL COMES TO THE SCREEN
by Paul Fischer
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One of the most eagerly awaited comic book adaptations is Jonah Hex, that will be released early next year, starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox. Set in the Wild West, the film tells of a scarred bounty hunter who tracks a voodoo practitioner bent on liberating the South by raising an army of the undead. The film offers something different for the two stars, who, along with director Jimmy Heyward, and producer Andrew Lazar, were at Comic Con last month to help preview footage from the movie. They also talked to the press. PAUL FISCHER was there and fired off the first question.
Q: Josh can you describe your character?
Josh Brolin: I don’t know how to describe my character, I really don’t because in the comic book he’s this alcoholic curmudgeony kind of guy, you know he’s a bounty hunter, kind of goes from place to place just trying to get trough the day, he’s kind of — not in the comic book — but from my perspective he’s loosely based on this guy Al Seever, who existed back in civil war times who is stabbed and shot forty-some odd times and grew to a nice ripe age before he died, but it’s a hybrid of a lot of different people. This is one of those movies that before the day we shot I didn’t really know what I was going to do, you know the voice and the this, and how do we go about this, what’s going to work, so it sort of developed as we were shooting and everything seemed to do that, the who story and script, what rewriting while we were doing it. It was a very tough shoot. Luckily I didn’t have a ton of dialogue so it was okay. It was challenging as a movie, as an actor, figuring out what it is as you’re doing it but I like how it turned out. I think we got very, very lucky in what we’ve come up with and seeing what we have now, I think we were extremely fortunate given what we had to work with.
Q: Megan, what about your character?
Megan Fox: I’m Jonah’s love interest I guess you could call it but it’s not very conventional. She’s a prostitute that he’s been coming and visiting for years. They sort of have a special relationship. He doesn’t want to get too close to her or allow her too close because everyone he loves dies. She doesn’t really understand that concept. So it’s a push and pull sort of situation.
Josh Brolin: There’s love in the air, but a weird love. A prostitute type.
Q: How big is the supernatural element?
Jimmy Hayward: There is a supernatural element. There’s been a lot of talk on the Internet about how deep it is. I don’t know where the voodoo practitioner raising the army of the undead came from, but that has nothing to do with the film. John Malkovich’s character is more of a terrorist who’s upset about the civil war than he is someone who’s trying to fight and rewin the Civil War. I think Jonah Hex, he’s been shot so many times, the legend is he’s got one foot in the grave and one foot here on earth and so we approach it by everybody else’s version of who Jonah Hex is and at the beginning of the film we bring out the John Albano quote, “He’s a hero to some, a villain to most but wherever he goes, they speak his name in whispers.” So at the beginning of the film, he’s a scarred bounty hunter, just a horrible guy, this murderous guy. You tear the layers off, you see that there’s this normal guy in there, but he’s kind of in purgatory until he settles the score. So he might be mentally ill but he definitely talks to the dead sometimes.
Q: What was your entry point to the character?
Josh Brolin: I didn’t read a lot of comic books as a kid. I read a lot of Ray Bradbury that was my thing, so there’s a similarity there and I appreciated it very much When I got into it. I loved the fact that he was an antihero. I loved that it wasn’t an extremely successful comic book. There were three different manifestations of the comic book, but I loved the fact — like the character himself — it refuses to go away. There’s a great survivalist element to this guy, and the comic book itself so I like the fact that he’s an antihero, I like the fact that there’s not another comic book character like him and that like I said in the panel, there’s no model to base a film on him on, so we were really starting from scratch and got to create what we wanted to create with the blessing of those guys.
Q: Jimmy what excited you about working in this project?
Jimmy Hayward: Being a skater, I did love that Josh was in that.
Q: Andrew how did you know Jimmy was the right guy for the job?
Andrew Lazar: It was just a great meeting. The truth is we met a number of talented people that wanted to direct a movie and Jimmy just came in with an incredible understanding of the character and a passion for the project, I don’t think he sat down. Did he sit down in the meeting with you?
Josh Brolin: In the beginning. Then he jumped.
Andrew Lazar: in the meeting. He had a very specific vision for how he was going to deal with the character and it’s an origin tale. You could tell that he had a genuine love for the comics. It was a pretty easy choice for me.
Jimmy Hayward: How did it feel after 15 years to get it done?
Andrew Lazar: For me, I also want to say that Neveldine and Taylor wrote a really good script. I developed several different iterations of Jonah Hex and couldn’t really get the movie off the ground. Neveldine and Taylor came in with a take on Jonah and wrote a really good script that eventually roped in these talented guys.
Q: Any horror stories from makeup?
Josh Brolin: It was a horror story in itself. 3 hours of makeup per day. We figured out the end, with 46 shooting days, that I spent 5 ½ full days in the makeup chair, 24 hours a day. It’s great for the first five days. Then after that it starts to gets a little old. But, we were very lucky because I did a couple prosthetics in Louisiana in the summer also for W. and we had some problems with it. This was basically how it worked was a piece of tape on my cheek and also a piece of tape behind this ear and then we fastened that to the back of my neck and I had a prosthetic over that. Then I had a mouthpiece that held my mouth all the way back as far as it could go and then I had another prosthetic over that and then we painted all to make it look even. The eye thing, I wasn’t going to bring that up, but it’s one of those things. Jonah Hex is a comic book. It’s drawn. In reality, if Jonah Hex had had an eye like that it would be a little raisin somewhere in the back of his brain, you know what I mean? So we thought about it. We didn’t have the money to do CGI and all that kind of stuff and we really didn’t want to because it’s all about right here. You go back to the Clint Eastwood-Spaghetti westerns any spaghetti western, the Japanese, whatever, it’s about right here. It’s all about that expression. I tried it, I pulled this eye down. Within an hour, my eye started to get infected. So I realized I’m not that committed of an actor. I actually fought for it. I actually fought for it for a little while, but that’s just because I’m an actor.
Q: How gratifying is it to see fans in the Comic-Con community so excited for Jonah Hex?
Josh Brolin: Honestly, no bullshit, it’s amazing. To have 6800 people react to that teaser, I reacted. I saw it on my computer at home with a friend of mine, next to me, who had been on the set, and he said, “That’s movie magic.” He had been on the set, he saw what we went through, the realities of dealing like this with a camera her and all of the decisions that have to be made and then he saw that manifested in a couple of minutes — it was a six minute teaser — and he said, “That’s amazing, that’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.” It was nice to feel the buzz in the audience and that’s what matters. This came out of nothing, this was a blank piece of paper at one point. it’s very nice to get the reaction that we got.
Megan Fox: I think I just meant having to try and keep my head above water in a scene with Brolin is a really, really difficult thing to do.
Josh Brolin: Nobody laughed.
Megan Fox: No, because it’s true.
Josh Brolin: That’s right.
Megan Fox: It was only five days that I filmed and I’ve never been more exhausted filming something. I mean, I shot 108 days on transformers and the five days I spent on this were by far a lot more difficult. It’s just hard, I’m way out of my league. Everything is so far over my head, I’m just trying to stay alive.
Q: And how about doing that period piece with the costumes?
Megan Fox: That was a lot of fun. The corset obviously changes the way you walk and your breathing patterns and things like that so I enjoyed that. I wanted that cinch to tighten me as much as possible.
Q: Lazar and Mr. Hayward, I wonder if you have ever seen the animated version and what you thought of it?
Jimmy Hayward: Yeah, those things are great. He kind of looks like Johnny Winters in that one, the Bruce Timm-ish kind of one, but it’s cool to see. I’m a Jonah Hex fan, so whenever I get to see Jonah Hex moving around or doing anything, I’m pretty stoked on it. Those came from sort of different eras. I guess there’s a new one. Warner Brothers is making a new one to go on some direct to video stuff, like a 10 minute thing that’s going to be coming up which I’m not too sure. I think it comes from one of the Jimmy Pamiatti???
Q: How about getting Josh on screen with Christian Bale’s Batman?
Megan Fox: You would kill him, I think.
Jimmy Hayward: Well, they’ve been on screen. I don’t know if that would happen.
??: You would have to update some of your weapons I’d imagine, your toys.
Josh Brolin: My alcoholism’s enough.
Q: Michael, can you talk about your character?
Michael Fassbender: I play John Malkovich’s right-hand man, Burke. I guess he’s sort of just like a child in a candy store because he has this environment where he can basically do whatever he wants, which mainly is killing and creating mayhem. I think he’s a mercenary. He’s pretty self-centered in terms of he’ll do anything that he thinks will propel himself forward. He doesn’t have a cause that he’s fighting for, and he’s pretty twisted.
Josh Brolin: But what he’s done with it, what Michael has done, I love that nobody really knows — you know, it’s like, “Ladies and gentleman, please come for a signing with Megan Fox and Josh Brolin, [whispers] Michael Fassbender,” Nobody knows Michael yet, it’s hilarious because we know and we know what you don’t know yet, and I don’t know if anybody saw Hunger, it’s this very little film that not a lot of people saw, he’s in Inglorious Basterds and it’s not about the fucking resume per se, but it’s about what he did with the role. The role was not flushed out in the writing and what he brought to the role, this idea that he talks about of A Clockwork Orange, you see it in the teaser and to me it’s the greatest moment of the teaser. This is more obvious. You see the head come up and me and Jonah and the Megan, everybody goes wow. Then you have the silence in the middle of the teaser with Michael’s character spinning his hat and total silence and him just whistling and pointing that thing. Everybody reacted to that great character moment, I think it will be a resounding character for everyone for sure.
Andrew Lazar?: It was also because Malkovich’s character, Turnball, is so rooted in the Civil War. Jonah has a backstory that’s related. So the idea of having someone that was Irish, that actually wasn’t invested in anything, that these two guys were that juxtaposition was really exciting for us, somebody that didn’t care. They weren’t rooted in this heavy backstory because they were just out for themselves.
Jimmy Hayward: He brought a detailed and humorous sensibility to a character that could’ve been simple and flat. It’s in the details.
Josh Broline: And then I had a friend of mine that saw some dailies, didn’t feel Michael did a very good Irish accent and he’s from Ireland, which I love.
Q: You were hilarious last nigh.t have you been waiting to show us that side of you?
MEGAN FOX: Show the press that side of me? Thanks. That’s just how I am. That’s my personality. So when I’m allowed to talk…
Q: Do you think, given full disclosure you’d kill them, most guys would still opt for a night with you?
MEGAN FOX: I don’t think so.
Q: Did you walk around last year with nobody recognizing you?
MEGAN FOX: Yeah, totally.
Q: Can you do that now?
MEGAN FOX: If I was dressed like that and I kept my head down, sure, because I’m so short, people don’t notice.
Q: Did you do any research on prostitutes?
MEGAN FOX: No, not really. The kind of prostitution that existed back then is very different than the kind that exists now. That was a very common way for a woman to make a living and we didn’t really show. If there had been more graphic scenes, I probably would have but the only sex scene that is in there is between Jonah and Leila and they’re lovers, so that wasn’t really the same sort of situation. Good question.
Q: You said five days but you’re second billed.
MEGAN FOX: Oh, I think that’s just for the Comic Con poster.
Q: But is it a significant character?
MEGAN FOX: I’m the only girl so I guess it is.
Q: How did you get the old fashioned look?
MEGAN FOX: I don’t know, I didn’t do anything. I just showed up and they did my hair and makeup.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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