The new movie Jonah Hex is a sort of cinematic proving ground for a number of reasons: the film itself hopes to successfully combine western conventions with fantasy and horror ones; Josh Brolin hopes to turn critical acclaim into commercial viability; Megan Fox hopes to prove she doesn't need "giant f*cking robots" in order to be a box office success; and director Jimmy Hayward hopes that he can make a smooth transition from animated to live-action moviemaking.
Whether or not those hopes are realized remains to be seen. But Cinematical recently spoke to the cast and crew at the film's Los Angeles press day, where they dished about the process of putting this unconventional picture together. In an informative and remarkably entertaining press conference, Brolin, Fox and Hayward talked about tackling challenges physical, professional, and emotional, and we've assembled the five most interesting facts you should know when going into watch Jonah Hex.
1. Josh Brolin plays the title character, a soldier-turned-mercenary with an extra, unsightly orifice where his cheek should be. Brolin buried his good looks beneath a bunch of prosthetics and gave birth to the film's badass hero. "It's kind of the story that Alec Baldwin told before he did The Edge, which was out in Alaska, with a bear," Brolin said in response to a question about dealing with the make-up. "He was sitting in his nice, really warm apartment in New York, reading the script, saying, 'I think this could be cool,' and then smash cut to out in the middle of nowhere, when it's forty degrees below zero, and going, 'Maybe I shouldn't have done this movie.' We did three hours of makeup a day. It was very tough, there were many different layers: I had a mouthpiece that held my mouth all the way back and that was attached to the back of my neck, and then we did three more layers on top of that, and then I walked around with half a mustache and half a beard in New Orleans for three months. So there was nothing attractive about it."
Although Brolin revealed that the make-up presented some serious medical problems for him, it ultimately contributed to his creation of the character. "We actually had the eye, which is in the comic book," he recalled. "I started to get an infection like within the hour, and I'm not that dedicated. But to be honest with you, I think – it sounds like bullsh*t, but it's not – it lent to the curmudgeon-y feel of the character itself. We actually worked fourteen, sixteen hours a day, so I couldn't eat that whole time. I would stuff myself in the morning, and then just drink water throughout the whole day, and it was a hundred degrees. So it was a pain. Would I do it again? Yeah. Because it's like having a baby, now I look at the end result, and go, 'that's pretty cool'."
2. Although Megan Fox bid farewell to one fan boy property, she says she looked forward to taking on another, even though the physical challenges were even greater. "This was more intricate, the action in this movie, than in previous movies that I've done, Fox explained. "[But] I like working on action films, and I like working on movies that are comic book based, because they're things I watched or loved as a kid." That said, she admitted there were a few things she found it tough to film. "There was one gunfight scene that stunts had been choreographing for a couple of weeks, and I had minutes to get it down and rehearse it," she remembered. "It was really difficult for me to shoot the old-style gunslinger guns, because I have tiny little baby hands, and they're really large and really heavy."
Meanwhile, wearing her character's confining wardrobe was comparatively easy. "I loved the corset," Fox said. "When I showed up for camera tests, everyone thought I was in pain, or hurting, because my waist was so small. But I enjoyed it."
Surprisingly, Fox revealed what may be the real reason she knows how to keep fan boys' fantasies fulfilled: she's apparently one of them. When asked about the challenges of satisfying fans of the source material, she observed, "I feel like it's impossible to really please the hardcore comic book fans because they'll never be happy no matter what you do. I go on to Lord of the Rings forums because I'm a fan, and they'll complain that Frodo was eating the Lembas bread outside of Mordor instead of the mines of Moria. Peter Jackson and company won like thirty-something Oscars for that movie!"
"So you can't focus completely on pleasing them," she continued as a roomful of journalists sat gobsmacked at her casually knowledgeable reference to Lord of the Rings lore. "Because you'll never win, and then you're excluding a whole other world of people who weren't aware of the comic in the first place. So I think you have to take some kind of liberties to make it into a live action film, or it wouldn't work."
3. Brolin played a part in casting the film, and found game collaborators not only in Fox but in his on screen adversary, John Malkovich. Brolin indicated that Fox was ironically cast because of her off-screen antics. "When I read some of these articles that she had done, it showed how acerbic and rebellious she could be, and I wanted to see how real that was," he said. "Nobody can handle that kind of fame that fast, at 22 years old, and I thought she was handling it really well. So when we met, I just wanted to make sure she was the real deal, and a scrapper, and that she could go head to head with John, and that she could really hold her own. There's definitely a truck driver mentality there."
Brolin also said that Malkovich, who's done virtually any and every kind of film you could imagine, was as unassuming when cameras stopped as he was intense when they were rolling. "The great thing about John is he's so in character, but he doesn't stay in character. So we'll finish a take, and will be looking at each other, and we'll be yelling 'GRRRR!' They yell cut, and he goes, 'so when are you doing the Woody [Allen] film?'" Recalling his favorite moment with Malkovich on set, he said, "there was one take that we did, and John says, 'Josh, can you come here for a second?' And I said, 'yeah, John, what's up?' and he says, 'um, can you pull my finger?' And I said, 'seriously?' And he says, 'yeah, just grab my finger and just pull it.' And I pulled his finger, and I heard a crack, and I go, 'oh f*ck, man. Are you alright?' And he goes, 'yeah, I think you broke it. But I'm fine.'"
4. Director Jimmy Hayward cut his teeth working at places like Pixar. He agreed with the suggestion that the transition to live-action filmmaking can be tricky. "It's a massive learning experience and a big jump, a big change," he admitted. "These are big, expensive movies, managing huge groups of people, and I guess it seems like a natural jump. But it's a tricky, difficult one."
Hayward suggested that he had an advantage in that he and his collaborators could create this character out of whole cloth, since Jonah Hex wasn't a comic book property with too many mainstream expectations. "One of the things about Jonah Hex is the fanbase is unfortunately – well, it's not Superman, you know what I mean? So people don't have a lot of pre-awareness about Jonah Hex. So there is an opportunity to play a little bit more with the story because there's different origin stories for Jonah Hex, so there's not as many hardened rules, as opposed to Batman, or Superman or something like that. I think we had a lot more leeway."
5. Whether you're a longtime fan of the gritty gunslinger or just looking for something completely new, Brolin insists the movie offers good, empowering entertainment. "The last character that I saw that I wanted to be, because he did almost superhuman things, and I just wanted that escape for an hour and a half, was Jackie Chan in Rumble In The Bronx," Brolin reflected. "But there's that whole thing of whatever anger you feel in your life, when you're riding your bike down the street when you're 13, and somebody yells something at you, or throws something at you, for some reason or another, and you don't feel the ability to fight back. You want that one moment where you have the perfect thing to say, or the perfect punch where you don't have to get in a fight, you can just knock the guy out in one punch and walk away. This is my version of that. This is my wanting to live that."
"It's my attempt at other people coming to the movie saying, Jonah Hex is really cool," Brolin continued. "He does these things, he's with people like Lilah, they're broke. and it comes from a dark place, but we find levity. I want to be that guy for an hour and a half. The intention is to leave the movie theater and feel a bit puffed up, but not so much that you go put a cap in somebody's ass."