When the filmmakers and stars behind next summer’s long awaited adaptation of DC Comics’ popular western character, “Jonah Hex,” presented a trailer to the film on Friday in Hall H at Comic-Con International the presentation was greeted by the six thousand plus crowd with a huge applause and excited cheers.
Afterwards, the cast and crew met with press to discuss the film, their affection for the popular character and the process of bringing Hex’s story to the big screen. On hand were director Jimmy Hayward (“Horton Hears A Who!”), producer Andrew Lazar (“Get Smart”) and the stars of the film, Josh Brolin (“No Country For Old Men”), Megan Fox (“Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen”) and Michael Fassbender (“Inglorious Bastards”).
Brolin kicked things off by talking about his interpretation of Jonah Hex. “I don’t know how to describe my character. I really don’t, because in the comic book he’s this alcoholic, curmudgeon type of guy. He’s a bounty hunter who goes from place to place just trying to get through the day. He’s kind of, not in the comic book but from my perspective, he’s loosely based on this guy named Al Sieber who existed back in Civil War times and was stabbed and shot like 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.”
Fan-boy favorite Megan Fox plays Jonah’s love interest in the film, Leila. The actress had this to say about her character. “She’s a prostitute that Jonah’s been coming and visiting for years, and they sort of have a special relationship. He doesn’t want to get to close to her or allow her to (get too) close because everyone that he loves dies and she doesn’t really understand that concept. It’s a push and pull situation.” “There is love in the air, but a weird love. A prostitute-type love,” added Brolin.
Fassbender explained his role in the film. “Well, I play John Malkovich’s right hand man, Burke. I guess he’s just sort of a child in a candy store, because he has this environment where he can basically do whatever he wants, which is mainly killing and creating mayhem. I think he’s a mercenary. He’s pretty self-centered in terms of doing anything that he thinks will propel himself forward. He doesn’t have any cause that he’s fighting for, and he’s pretty twisted.”
Brolin discussed Fassbender’s work and what he brought to the film. “The role was not flushed out in the writing, and what he brought to the part was this idea of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and that kind of thing. You know, you see it in the teaser, and to me it’s the greatest moment in that. This is more obvious. You see the head come up, me as Jonah, Megan and then everybody goes, ‘Wow.’ Then you have the silence in the middle of the teaser with Michael’s character spinning his hat in total silence, just whistling and pointing that thing and everybody reacted to that great character moment. I think it will be a resounding character for everyone.”
One of the early rumors about the plot of the film revolved around John Malkovich’s character, Quentin Turnbull, being a voodoo practitioner who is trying to raise an army of the dead to take back the South. Hayward confirmed this to be false, as well as discussing what supernatural elements might actually be in the film. “There is a supernatural element (in the film). There’s been a lot of talk on the Internet about how deep it is, and it's not. I don’t know where the voodoo practitioner raising an army of the dead came from, but that has nothing to do with the film. You know, John Malkovich’s character is more of a terrorist upset about the Civil War. He is someone who’s trying to fight and re-win the Civil War. I think Jonah Hex has been shot so many times that the legend is he’s got one foot in the grave and one foot here on earth. So we kind of approach it by everybody else’s version of who Jonah Hex is.”
“At the beginning of the film we bring up 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, this horrible, murderous guy. As you tear the layers off you see that there is a 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,” continued the director.
As fans of Jonah Hex know, there have been several different interpretations of the character throughout the years. Hex started in the ‘70s as a pure western character, but by the mid ‘80s, he had traveled to a post apocalyptic future where he fought zombies with laser guns. After a brief time on the sidelines, the character returned in the ‘90s as a Vertigo book which saw the return of Hex to the old west, but adapted some of the supernatural elements developed in the previous run. Recently, the character has seen a very popular run in Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey’s, “Jonah Hex,” which features the character returning to his original Wild West roots.
Brolin talked about what he liked about the idea of playing Jonah Hex. “I loved the fact that he was an anti-hero, and the fact that it wasn’t an extremely successful comic book. There were three different manifestations of this comic book, but I loved the fact that, like the character itself, it refuses to go away. There is a great survivalist element to this guy and the comic book itself. So I like the fact that he’s an anti-hero and that there is not another comic book character like him. There’s no model to base a film about him on, so we were really starting from scratch and got to create what we want to create with the blessing of those guys.”
Hayward discussed his love for the Western genre and the character of Jonah Hex. “I mean I’m a huge western fan. That’s one of the things Josh and I connected on very early was our love for Leone and that whole genre of stuff. I was a huge fan of the comic book, so getting an opportunity to blend that stuff together...you know, I never thought I’d see Jonah Hex get made. Andrew Lazar has had this property for fifteen years, or something, so getting an opportunity to get on it and do it was huge for me, because it was great to use the Spaghetti Westerns as a jumping off point and then make an action movie on top of that based on this character I love.”
Lazar has been working on bringing Jonah Hex to the silver screen for almost fifteen years, and the producer discussed the process. “For me, it was Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor who wrote a really good script. I had developed several different versions of Jonah Hex, and I couldn’t really get the movie off the ground, and Neveldine and Taylor came in with a take on Jonah and wrote a really good script that eventually roped in these talented guys.”
Lazar went on to talk about why he chose Hayward for the project. “It was just a great meeting. The truth is, we met a number of really talented people that wanted to direct the movie, and Jimmy just came in with an incredible understanding of the character and a passion for the project. Again, he had a very specific vision to how he was going to deal with the character and the origin tale and you could tell he had a general love for the comics so it was a pretty easy choice for me.”
Brolin chimed in with his thoughts on first meeting with Hayward to discuss the film. “When I met Jimmy, he had a first edition of Jonah Hex that he brought that I thought was really kind of funny. And he loved me in ‘Thrashin’,’ a skateboarding movie that nobody saw. So it fit within the bizarre nature of this film. It was a perfect match,” the actor said.
One of Hex’s most famous attributes is his facial scar and Brolin talked about the process he under went to become Hex. “It was a horror story in itself. Three hours in make-up per day. We figured at the end with forty-six shooting days that I had spent five and a half full days in the make-up chair twenty-four hours a day. It’s great for the first five days and then after that it starts to get a little old.”
“Basically how it worked is, there was a piece of tape on my cheek and also a piece of tape behind the ear, and then we fasten that to the back of my neck. I had a prosthetic over that, and I had a mouthpiece that held my mouth all the way back, as far as it can go. Then I had another prosthetic over that and we painted it all to make it look even,” the actor continued. “Then the eye thing, you know it’s one of those things where Jonah Hex is a comic book, its drawn. In reality if Jonah Hex had an eye like that it would be a little raisin somewhere in the back of his brain. So we thought about it, but we didn’t have the money to do CGI and we really didn’t want to.”
Fox spoke about the challenges of working on the project. “Just having to try and keep my head above water in a scene with Brolin is a really, really difficult thing to do. It was only five days that I filmed but I’ve never been more exhausted of filming something. I mean I shot a hundred and eight days on ‘Transformers’ and the five days I spent on this were a lot more difficult. It’s just hard. I’m way out of my league. Everything is so far over my head that I’m just trying to stay alive.”
Although this will be the first time Jonah Hex has appeared in a live action production, the character has appeared on TV in several different animated projects, including “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League” and most recently “Batman: The Brave & The Bold.” “Those things are great,” said Hayward about the animated projects. “He kind of looks like Johnny Winters in that one, the Bruce Timm 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 of Hex. I guess there is a new one Warner Brothers are making to go on some direct to video stuff, like a ten-minute thing that’s going to be coming up. Which I’m not too sure but I think it comes from one of the Jimmy Palmiotti books,” he continued.
Finally, Brolin, who had never appeared at a CCI before, talked about his reactions to the convention. “No bullshit, it’s amazing. It’s amazing to have 6800 people react to that teaser. I reacted, you know, 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.’ Because he was on the set he saw what we went through, what we were gong through. The realties of dealing with all the decisions that have to be made, and then he saw that manifest into the 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. It was a blank piece of paper at one point, so it’s very nice to get the reaction that we got.”
“Jonah Hex” steamrolls into theatres in 2010.