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Jonah Hex – Josh Brolin on crafting a superhero

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Jonah Hex - Josh Brolin
Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) © Warner Bros

Based on the long running DC comic book character, which traces back to the 1970s, Jonah Hex has finally made his move to the big screen, embodied by actor Josh Brolin. Hex is a scarred drifter and bounty hunter of last resort; a battle-hardened gunslinger who can track down anyone.

When the U.S. Military, under the orders of President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn), asks him to track down the sinister terrorist, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), the man who killed Hex’s family and mutilated his face with a branding iron, the bounty hunter’s quest for revenge seems complete. That is until Turnbull kidnaps the one person Hex cares about, a prostitute named Lilah (Megan Fox).

Josh Brolin spoke with filmreviewonline about his love of the comic book and the character.

You’re obviously working off a script and a graphic novel, but the character isn’t that well known. So what was it like to craft a superhero that you could create from scratch, whose reputation didn’t precede it?

(The character) stems from a comic book that had three lives, and that wasn’t necessarily very successful, but I loved the idea that it refused to die, so it’s a survivalist comic book. But it allowed us to take luxuries and do what we wanted to do as long as we had the blessing of the comic book artists. So the core of the character’s there, but then we kind of go off on these different tangents.

What were the challenges of doing the make-up every day?

Jonah Hex - Michael Fassbender and Josh Brolin
Burke (Michael Fassbender) and Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) © Warner Bros

It was a pain-in-the-ass.  And it’s not even that we didn’t have the money, we chose to go practical, which Lon Chaney did. And being one of my heroes, and loving the idea of morphing and any opportunity to do that I embrace.

It’s kind of like the story that Alex Baldwin told before he did The Edge, which was out in Alaska with the bear, with Anthony Hopkins. He was sitting in his nice really warm apartment in New York reading the script, saying, ‘I think this could be cool,’ and then cut to being out in the middle of nowhere where it’s 40 degrees below zero, and going, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have done this movie.’

We did three hours of make up a day, it was very tough. I had a mouthpiece that held my mouth all the way back that was attached to the back of my neck, and then we did three more layers (of make up) on top of that. 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.

We actually had the eye which was in the comic book and I started to get an infection within the hours, so I’m not that dedicated. And I couldn’t eat, so I would stuff myself in the morning and then just drink water throughout the whole day’ And it was 100 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 I go, ‘That’s pretty cool.’

I hear you were instrumental in casting Megan Fox for the role of Lilah.

Jonah Hex - Megan Fox and Josh Brolin
Lilah (Megan Fox) and Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) © Warner Bros

I know (critics) will go, ‘There wasn’t that much thought put into it.’ But there actually was. Even though this is a kind of absurd, ridiculous, fun, escapist film, (I said), ‘Hey, we could go a little further with the acting here.’ Even though we made it fun, we did a lot of different takes where she’s crying, where she’s not crying.

When I read some of these articles that she had done and is as acerbic and rebellious as she could be, I wanted to see how real that was. 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 that she was the real deal, and a scrapper, and that she could go head-to-head with John (Malkovich) and really hold her own. And there’s definitely a truck driver mentality there.

Did you build up a back-story for your relationship with Lilah?

When people like that get together, it’s a beauty and the beast thing physically, cosmetically, but then I think the parallel and the kinetic connection is because they’re both equally broken. Then, there’s also, I hate saying this but I will, an older/younger type of thing.

Are you happy that the movie is rated PG-13, and will there be an R-rated version on the DVD?

Jonah Hex - Josh Brolin
Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) © Warner Bros

I think (an R-rating) belongs on DVD. I was very against this thing going PG-13 in the beginning. Then I was very, very happy and think they made a much better decision by going PG-13, because (the violence) is not gratuitous. This movie, when you watch it, or when I do, you expect it to be gratuitous and it’s not and I think that’s much more interesting then if it were the Grindhouse kind of thing where it’s all just out there.

Are you doing another comic book adaptation? The Men in Black film? You would play a younger Tommy Lee Jones? Any  truth to that?

Uh-huh (he nods and smiles)

What do you have coming up next?

I’ve got Woody (Allen’s) movie (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) that was in Cannes and I’ve got Oliver (Stone’s) movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps that was in Cannes, which was really something that was very special to have those two movies in Cannes. And we’ve got True Grit coming out Christmas. Men in Black, if it all works out, is going to happen.