Josh Brolin has played his fair share of good guys and bad guys throughout his career and in the DC Comics adaptation of Jonah Hex, he plays a little bit of both. The actor stars as the title character, a vigilante driven by revenge after his family is killed right in front of his eyes. Armed with an arsenal of weapons and a supernatural ability to talk to the dead, Hex is on a mission to avenge their deaths by any means necessary.
When Brolin attended the press day for the film he opened up about the difficulties of playing a comic based character, the torture he went through to put on Hex’s famous face, and the actors who inspired him to take on the role…
It’s no secret that Jonah Hex doesn’t have a massive audience but the comic has been around for years and continues to flourish with its cult fanbase. That type of resilience is one of the reason’s Brolin decided to take on the project. That lack of exposure also allowed him and the writers to take some creative license and change a few things to make it more visually interesting for the movie.
Josh Brolin: I loved the idea that it refused to die. It was 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 artist. The core of the character is there but then we kind of go off on all these different tangents.
Brolin’s no stranger to working off animated characters. His son is a talented artist who regularly helps him prepare for roles with a pencil and a sketch pad.
JB: A lot of times I’ll do a movie and I’ll go to my son and he’ll sketch out the character. I’ll explain to him, I’ll say ‘This is how I see this character. This is kind of the ambiance of the story,’ and all that and he’ll sit there and he’ll sketch stuff out. Sometimes I can use it and sometimes I can’t, like Grind House I used it and I told him the character and he made the character really fat and I was like, ‘Fuck.’ I was used to spring-boarding from that kind of a place so this was great for me. As fun as it is, as dark as it stems from, it’s good to have people in mind.
One of the biggest adjustments he had to make in terms of the look of Hex was his face. The character is known for having a mutilated jaw and a droopy eye, one of which didn’t make it into the film but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
JB: We chose to go practical. We did 3 hours of make up a day. We did many different layers. I had a mouth piece that held my mouth all the way back that was attached to the back of my neck and then we did 3 more layers on top of that. Then I walked around with half a mustache and half a beard in New Orleans for 3 months. It was nothing attractive. We actually had the eye, which is in the comic book and I started to get an infection within the hour. I’m not that dedicated.
Even though he avoided the dangers of Hex’s eye, the jaw makeup was just as bad. They worked long hours during the shoot and once he put in the mouthpiece he couldn’t eat until the day wrapped.
JB: On a lot of movies you say, ‘I worked 14 hours a day,’ when really you only worked 6 and you’re in your trailer playing Nintendo the rest of the time. We actually worked 14, 16 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 100 degrees. It was a pain. Would I do it again? Yeah. It’s like having a baby, you know? Now, I look at the end result and I go that’s pretty cool.
Another cool aspect of the film was its cast. The movie is filled with well known veteran actors but one of the most controversial and surprising stars has only been around for a few years. Megan Fox plays Brolin’s love interest in a role that he hand picked for her.
JB: However Megan was perceived, I liked the idea of giving somebody the opportunity that somebody gave me and saying ‘Hey we can 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, there’s somewhat of a dialect there. A generalized bucolic dialect there. When I read some of these articles that she had done and was kind of 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. 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 [Malkovich] and that she could really hold her own. There’s definitely a truck driver mentality there.
As for the relationship between Fox’s Lilah and Brolin’s Hex, Brolin thinks its a serious case of opposites that a attract.
JB: When people like that get together it’s like a Beauty & the Beast thing physically, cosmetically. But then I think the parallel, the kinetic connection is that they’re equally broken. And then there’s also, an older, younger type of thing you know?
Brolin channeled some of his favorite actors to pull off his portrayal of Hex, one of them being the martial arts legend, Jackie Chan.
JB: The last character that I saw that I actually 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. This is my version of that. this is my wanting to live that. It’s my attempt at other people coming into the movie and saying ‘Jonah Hex is really cool. He does these things.’ I want to be that guy for an hour and a half.’ The intention is for you to leave the movie theater and feel a bit puffed up.
Brolin’s arch enemy in the film is Malkovich’s character Quentin Turnbull, a man responsible for murdering Hex’s family. That being said, Brolin had nothing but good things to say about the actor and discussed how he could easily slip in and out of character once the director called cut.
JB: The great thing about John is that he’s so in character but he doesn’t stay in character. We’ll finish a take and we’ll be looking at each other like this [grimacing] and go ‘Grrrrr!,’ and they go cut and he goes (impersonates Malkovich’s soft spoken voice), ‘So um, when are you doing the Woody [Allen] film.?’ There was one take that we did and John said, ‘Um, Josh can you come here for a second?’ and I said, ‘Yeah John, what’s up?’ He said, ‘Can you pull my finger?” I said, ‘Seriously?’ He said, ‘Yeah, just grab my finger and just pull it.’ And I pulled his finger and I heard a crack and I go ‘Fuck man, are you alright?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I think you broke it but I’m fine.’
There are plenty of deaths and fight scenes in this film but the actor stresses that there’s no gratuitous violence.
JB: I was very against them going PG-13 in the beginning but then I was very, very happy. I think they made the much better decision of going PG-13 because it’s not gratuitous. When you watch it you expect it to be gratuitous and it’s not and I think that’s much more interesting than if it were to be a Grind House kind of thing.
Brolin has plenty of films on the horizon besides Hex, including two that opened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. One of them being the highly anticipated sequel to Wall Street.
JB: I’ve got Woody’s movie that was in Cannes. I’ve got Oliver’s movie Wall Street that was in Cannes and that was something. That was very special to have two movies in Cannes. We got this [Hex] coming out this week, we got True Grit coming out Christmas, Men in Black if it all works out is going to happen. I just sold something to Warner Bros that I’ll direct probably next year and a couple of other projects that are really, really good that I can’t talk about. I’m really, really excited about them.
Jonah Hex opens in theaters nationwide on June 18, 2010. Also check out our interview with co-star Megan Fox.
Are you interested in seeing the film this weekend?