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SUNDAY, JULY 26, 2009

COMIC-CON: JONAH HEX PRESS CONFERENCE

By Ernie Estrella

SAN DIEGO -- Warner Bros. provided a first look at Jonah Hex -- the live-action film based on the DC Comics property -- at Comic Con International last weekend.

Following the panel was a press conference with actors Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex), Megan Fox (Leila), and Michael Fassbender (Burke), director Jimmy Hayward and producer Andrew Lazar.

Following are highlights:

To Brolin, describe Jonah Hex from his point-of-view:

Brolin: In the comic book, Jonah is this alcoholic curmudgeon, you know he's a bounty hunter who goes from place to place trying to get through the day. It's not in the comic book -- but from my perspective -- he's loosely based on this guy named Al Sievert who fought in the Civil War and was stabbed and shot 40-some times. Jonah Hex is a hybrid of different people. I loved the way this guy is such a survivor. My character is a hybrid of a lot of different people. This is one of those movies that I've started, before the day was shot, and I still didn't really know what I was gonna do -- the voice, what's going to work. So it developed as we started shooting. 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.

Fox on Leila's character?

Fox: I'm Jonah's love interest, which I guess you could call it, but it's not very conventional. She's a prostitute that he's been coming to and visiting for years. He's been having a special relationship, doesn't want to allow her too close because everyone he loves dies. She doesn't really understand that concept.

Brolin: There's love in the air, but a weird love. [laughs] The prostitute type.

Fox then elaborated on a statement she had made at an earlier press junket about how Leila had been the most serious role she had every played:

Fox: I was just trying to to keep my head above water in a scene above Brolin, is really really difficult. It was only five days that I filmed and I've never been so exhausted at the end of filming something. I shot 108 days on 'Transformers' and the five days I spent on this was 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.

What about doing a period piece with costumes and hair from a particular era?

Fox:That was a lot of fun. The corset obviously changes the way you walk and your breathing patterns, things like that. I enjoyed that. I wanted that cinched as tightly as possible.

Fassbender on Burke, who is one of the Turnbull's henchmen:

Fassbender: I play John Malkovich's right-hand man, I guess he's sort of just a child in a candy store because he has this environment where he can basically do whatever he wants, which means killing and creating mayhem. He's a mercenary. He doesn't have a cause that he's fighting for, and he's pretty twisted.

Brolin: What Michael has done, I love that nobody really knows -- you know, "Ladies and gentleman, please come for a signing with Megan Fox and Josh Brolin, (whispers) Michael Fassbender." (Laughs) Nobody knows Michael yet, and you will. It's hilarious because we know and we know what you don't know yet, and I don't know if anybody saw Hunger, 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-say, but it's about what he did with the role, the role was not fleshed out in the writing and what he brought to the role, this idea that he talks about, you see it in the teaser and to me it's the greatest moment of the teaser. 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 everybody reacted to that great character moment, I think it will be a resounding character for everyone.

How big a part will the supernatural element will play in the film? Online rumors speculated that early on, during production that Malkovich's character would be a master of the voodoo arts.

Hayward: There's been a lot of talk on the internet about how deep it is, I don't know how voodoo practitioner or army of the dead came to arrive, 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 a magician. Jonah Hex's been shot so many times -- the legend is he's got one foot in the grave and one foot here on earth. We approach Jonah Hex'by everyone 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." He's a star bounty hunter and a far less murderous guy. When you tear the layers off, you see that there's this normal guy in there. He's in purgartory until he settles a score. He might be mentally ill but he definitely talks to the dead at some points.

How did the film come together?

Hayward: I'm a huge western fan. That's one of the things Josh and I connected on, I grew up on Leone and Corbucci films and that genre. I was a huge fan of the comic book. Getting the opportunity to blend that stuff together. I never thought that I'd see Jonah Hex get made. Andrew Lazar had onto this property for 15 years. So getting an opportunity was huge for me. It was great to use the spaghetti westerns as a jumping off point and then make an action movie on top of it.

How did Lazar know Hayward was the right director?

Lazar: It was just a great meeting and we had 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 in the meeting. He had a very specific vision for how he was going to deal with the character and its origin tale, you could tell that he had a genuine love for the comics. I developed several different iterations of Jonah Hex and couldn't really get the movie off the ground. Neveldine and Taylor came with a take on Jonah and wrote a great script.

Was Brolin familiar with the Jonah Hex comic book and did he read them as a kid?

Brolin: No. I didn't read a lot of comic books as a kid. I read a lot of Ray Bradbury, that was my thing. There's a similarity there. I appreciated it very much. I loved the fact that he was an antihero. I loved that it wasn't an extremely successful comic book. There were three manifestations of this comic book but I love the fact like the character himself that he refuses to go away. It's a great survivalist comic. There's not another comic book character like him. There's no model to base a film on the comics so we were really starting from scratch what we wanted to create for a classic persona.

Could Brolin explan piecing together Jonah Hex's look?

Brolin: It was a horror story in itself. Three hours in makeup per day. We figured out the end, with 46 shooting days, I spent 5-and-a-half days in makeup chair. It's great for the first five days, then after that it gets a little old. We were very lucky because I did a couple prosthetics in Louisiana for W. we had some problems with it. Basically how it worked was a piece of tape on my cheek and also a piece of tape behind this ear. We fastened that to the back of my neck and I had a prosthetic over that. Then I had one mouthpiece that held my mouth all the way back, another prosthetic and painted it all. The eye thing, I wasn't going to bring that up, but Jonah Hex is a comic book. It's drawn. In reality, if Jonah Hex had had an eye like that it'd be a little raisin in the back of his brain. We thought about it, we didn't want to do CGI, didn't have the money. It's all right here, it's about that expression. If you go back to the creation of spaghetti westerns, any western, or Japanese or American. I tried it, I pulled this eye down. Within an hour, my eye started to get infected. I realized I'm not that committed of an actor. I fought for it, I fought for it for a little while but that's just because I'm an actor.

Reaction to the Comic-Con crowd after the teaser footage was show?

Brolin: It's amazing, to have 6,800 people react to that teaser, I reacted. I saw it on my computer at home with a friend next to me who had been on the set and saw what we went through, all the decisions that had to be made and see that manifest into a six-minute teaser. He said, "That's movie magic, that's amazing, That's the most amazing thing I've ever seen." It was nice (at the panel), you felt a buzz in the audience and that's what matters and this came out of nothing, this was a black piece of paper at one point. It was very nice to get a reaction that we got.



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