Usually press conferences suck. They’re almost always a waste of time. After all, when you’ve got a group of actors and filmmakers sharing a stage, you can never get a good rhythm going with any one person because as soon as they answer a question, it’s the next persons turn. This is why I’m happy to report the press conference for Jonah Hex was awesome. Unlike some that can be boring and filled with safe answers, Josh Brolin and Megan Fox were really open and honest about everything. Also, I never knew Brolin could be so funny, as he had the room laughing many times. And on top of that, Megan Fox quoted The Lord of the Rings message boards when answering if she felt the freedom to take liberties with her character as opposed to staying true to the comic books. My jaw hit the ground as she said:
“I go on to Lord of the Rings forums, because I’m a fan, and they’ll complain that Frodo was eating the Lambis bread outside of Mordor instead of the mines of Moria, and they get really mad. I think you have to take some kind of liberties to make it into a live action film, or it wouldn’t work.”
Um…wow. So if you’d like to read or listen to an awesome press conference with Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, Director Jimmy Hayward and Producer Andrew Lazar about making Jonah Hex, hit the jump!
Like I always do, I’ve provided the entire transcript below. But this is one I REALLY recommend listening to. Trust me, you’ll laugh a lot.
Jonah Hex opens this weekend. You can watch some clips here.
Question: Josh, obviously you were working off a script and a graphic novel, but what was it like to create a superhero from scratch, whose reputation didn’t precede him? And Megan, what was it like to get away from those robots?
Josh Brolin: What robots? Oh, that’s a different movie. [This was] stemming from a comic book that has had three lives and that wasn’t necessarily very successful, but I loved the idea that it refused to die, so 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 artists. The core of the characters is there, but we go off on all these different tangents – we’re allowed to.
Megan Fox: I like working on action films, and I like working on movies that are comic book based, or that have this theme, because they’re things I watched or loved as a kid. So it wasn’t really about getting away from the robots, if that’s what you were saying. I enjoyed making both films.
Obviously there’s a lot of contemporary resonances in this script; it’s an anti-terrorist movie. Can you talk about bringing modern references in it?
Jimmy Hayward: As the Quentin Turnbull thing developed, he turned into a secessionist kind of guy. Then we sort of added the dynamite vests, and as we continued to develop it, we weren’t drawing direct parallels to now, but it’s impossible not to, in that he’d be like the first American terrorist. I don’t think we really set out to draw tons of lines to exactly what’s happening now, but it’s kind of difficult, because we live in an era of terrorism.
Andrew Lazar: That evolved; it was kind of like the idea of this ultimate revenge, and how can we relate to Turnbull, in contemporary terms? I think we did make a decision once we saw the dynamite vest that this is a guy who’s willing to exact terror. The Civil war, bloody as it was, soldiers lined up on either side, and this was a guy who was willing to destroy institutions and innocent people in order to get exactly what he wanted. I think it’s topical, and makes it a little different than just a regular Civil War/western film.
Could you comment on the challenges of the makeup and prosthetics, and what it was like dealing with that on a daily basis?
Brolin: A pain in the ass, because – well, it’s not that we didn’t have the money that we chose to go practical – which, Lon Chaney being one of my heroes and loving the idea of morphing, and having the opportunity to do that I embrace. [But] it’s kind of the story that Alec Baldwin told before he did The Edge, which was out in Alaska, with a bear, and Anthony Hopkins, when 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.
Brolin: Yeah, we actually had the eye, which is in the comic book, and I started to get an infection like within the hour, and I’m not that dedicated (laughs). But to be honest with you, I think – it sounds like bullshit, but it’s not – it lent to the curmudgeon-y feel of the character itself. I couldn’t eat, so we would really – a lot of movies, you’d say, “I work fourteen hours a day,” but really you only work six, and you’re in your trailer, playing Nintendo the rest of the time, and 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.”
There’s a number of animated directors that have done computer animated films that are moving into live action films, can you talk about being at the forefront of that?
Hayward: It’s a massive learning experience and a big jump, a big change. I think it’s natural because they go through waves – they bring guys from commercials, and music videos, and maybe that’s just what’s happening. Those 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.
It takes a lot to turn a two-dimensional cartoon character into a full-blooded onscreen persona. Can you talk about the casting of Josh and Megan?
Hayward: 90% of the great casting choices for this movie go to Josh. Josh was leading the film in the beginning, and brought in his friends. That’s the reason why people like Michael Fassbender and Megan and John Malkovich were in the movie, because Josh is friends with them. We picked all kinds of other people around them, but I think his friendships with John and stuff to get them involved with the film helped.
Lazar: I can say we actually did get our first choice. Josh Brolin was our first choice for Jonah Hex. Coming off the pretty amazing run that Josh had, over the last couple of years, and he was also in The Young Riders. So we tried several times to get Josh Brolin to do the movie and he turned us down a few times. We just wouldn’t say no, we just kept going back and we wore him down. As for Megan, the role of Lilah actually has some depth to it as well. It’s not just an action movie, there’s dramatic scenes. We really felt that there’s an edge that Megan has as an actress, that she can play both tough, and that longing – that she wants to get out of her life and she wants to connect to Jonah. We thought that it was a really great match, and I have to say that Josh actually did have a little bit to do with that casting too. The studio and myself were both thinking of Megan, and I think Josh sent me an email saying, “I think I have a really good idea who might play Lilah, what do you think of Megan Fox?” and I said, “Yeah, that’s a really great idea.”
Brolin: You know what’s funny though, and it kind of sucks, is you go, guys, there wasn’t that much thought put into it, and I know what you’re all thinking, but there actually was, because however Megan was perceived, I like the idea of giving somebody, even though this is an absurd, ridiculous, fun escapist film, I like the idea of giving somebody the opportunity like somebody gave me in 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, and there’s somewhat of a dialect there, it’s kind of a generalized, bucolic dialect. But when I read some of these articles that she had done, it showed how acerbic and rebellious she could be, I wanted to see how real that was. When you’re 22 and have that fame, 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 drviver mentality there.
Fox: No, I think it’s wonderful, what they’re saying, and I appreciate it, and I’m humbled by their comments.
Megan, having done other action movies in the past, what was more challenging: doing the action scenes in this movie, or squeezing into that corset everyday?
Fox: Actually, 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, and 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, so just the physicality of having to pull that off was really difficult. This was more action-heavy for me, it was more intricate, the action, in this movie, than in previous movies that I’ve done.
But what about that corset?
Fox: I loved the corset. When I showed up for camera tests, everyone thought I was in pain, or hurting, that something was wrong with me, because my waist was so small, but I enjoyed it, and I wish they’d come back into style.
Historically, is that what women of the day, or even, women of the night, wore?
Fox: I’m not the person to ask about that, but I would assume so.
Hayward: We were entertainingly accurate about that stuff, like the trains, stuff like that, but with the clothes, he’d start in the basis of reality and then move off a little bit, but yeah, that stuff was pretty typical. We did a lot of photographic research.
Brolin: The question is, how did you like the corset? Trying to project it onto her and pawn it off on her, but it’s really about you.
We assume too much by looking at your character and how she got there and everything, but did you build this up in your head, and did you come up with any character back story?
Fox: Well, Josh and I had a conversation about what their past relationship could have been, and why she would be so dedicated and so in love with someone who sort of treated her the way that he did, and was not able to love, and we came up with a back story between the two of us, what things had gone on in the past, and why she was so dedicated and loyal to him.
Brolin: It’s a Beauty and the Beast thing, physically, cosmetically. But then, I think the parallel and the kinetic connection is because they’re equally broken. Then there’s also – I mean, I hate saying this, but I will – an older-younger type of thing. I don’t think that’s really true, but it might be.
Was there ever talk of making this an R-rated feature, and is there going to be a director’s cut?
Hayward: A few weeks ago, we got our rating, so a few weeks ago we had an R-rated movie we had to trim down. There’s a very fine line between what makes it there. We made the decision to go PG-13 quite a long time ago. Well before we started shooting, we decided that was the way to go. We just had to nip and tuck some stuff. You know how the MPAA is, “Can you have him punch him three times instead of five times?” There certainly is a version of the movie that has a lot more violence in it, but we never had a lot of blood, or anything like that. Just more people died, or there were more punchings and beatings, stuff like that.
Will that be on the DVD? Will there be an unrated version?
Hayward: Probably, I would imagine so.
Brolin: I think it belongs on DVD. I was very against them going PG-13 in the beginning. Then I was very happy, and I think they made the much better decision in going PG-13 because it’s not gratuitous. When you watch this movie, you expect it to be gratuitous, and it’s not, and I think that’s much more interesting than if it were a grindhouse type of thing.
Hayward: Yeah, it’s much more interesting to look at Malkovich’s eyes when he executes a guy than to see the exit wound of stuff coming out of his head.
Is there going to potentially be a significantly longer version?
Hayward: No, not super long. Not really. Well, all those scenes will expand and have more violence and stuff like that. There’s definitely deleted scenes we’re gonna put out for sure.
There’s a catchphrase, “Don’t get mad, get even.” We see this as a driving force behind Jonah, that his relationship to retribution. I was wondering if Josh and Megan, could you talk about your own relationship to retribution? How that sits with you, do you understand the motivation of what Jonah is going through?
Fox: No, you start. You don’t have an answer?
Brolin: No, I don’t.
Fox: Do you have highlights in your hair? It looks nice. I like what you have going on.
Brolin: Yes. (pause) No, I don’t. Look, this is how I’ll bullshit my way through this answer. Retribution, if you go back to these Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson movies – the last movie that I saw, 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.” But Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, that whole thing of whatever anger you feel in your life, whatever, 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, those little things that happen in your life, you do. It’s like the cartoon on the back of the comic book where someone kicks sand in your face; 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, he does these things, he’s with people like Lilah, they’re broke and it comes from a dark place, but we find levity in the movie, 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. White version of saying that.
Fox: Well, I can’t top that. Retribution. I’m all full of candy canes and lollipops. I don’t even know what that means.
Back in those days, people had guns and knives as their favorite gear, they would collect them. Do you guys collect anything?
Brolin: Just adult toys (laughs).
Fox: I don’t collect things. Sorry. Well, I love electronics. I have lots of computers, iPhones, iPads, those sort of things.
Josh, you’ve played completely fictionalized, and characters based on real people. Does this fall in a middle ground, because although this is a fictional character, there’s a big history there that people know about. Can you talk about that?
Brolin: Yeah, it’s nice to be able to springboard from a place that, even though it’s not real, it’s real for me. Once you look at the comic book and you say, okay, I have a sketch here. You know, I’ve said before that 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 it to him, I won’t even read the script, or anything, sometimes, but I’ll say, this is how I see this character, and this is the ambiance of the story, all that, and he’ll sit there and sketch stuff out. Sometimes I can use it, and sometimes I can’t. Like Grindhouse, I used it, and he made the character really fat, and I was like, “F*ck.” I was used to springboarding from that kind of place, so this was great for me. And look, as fun as it is, as dark as it stems from, it’s good to have people in mind. Or even if I use characters, like actors, whether it be Robert Mitchum or whoever, and I watch some of his movies, is there one little gem that I can steal, and extrapolate on that.
Megan, Josh said it’s been a crazy few years for you. How have you handled everything and not gone insane? And Josh, what’s your favorite John Malkovich moment in or on the movie?
Fox: I don’t know. I think I’ve maintained the same relationships that I’ve had before this happened to me, and I kept people close to me that I love and respect, and look out for me and take care of me, and I’ve distanced myself from the Hollywood crowd. I don’t go out and socialize that way. You wouldn’t think it, but I’m sort of oddly very domestic, and I think that keeps me sane. My personal relationships keep me grounded.
Brolin: We were doing the clay fight sequence, me and John, this was fairly early on in the movie. We finished a take, and it was fairly violent. 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!, and they yell cut, and he goes, “So when are you doing the Woody film?” So 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.” That’s my best John Malkovich.
Megan, Josh talked about seeing you as rebellious, but in your earlier comment you said you’re more domestic. How do you see yourself, and how does it feel to be 22 and have to deal with all this fame?
Fox: Well, I’m 24 now. Well, you have to be a strong person to survive this kind of fame, because it is very difficult to be under the microscope every moment of every day. Everything that leaves your mouth becomes this sensationalized news story, no matter what your intentions were when you first said it, so it becomes overwhelming. Am I that rebellious? I think there are many sides to me, and my personality, and I think the only thing that is rebellious about me is that I don’t really have a lot of fears as far as this industry is concerned, and I’ll do things that maybe other people are afraid to do, or afraid to say. But in my personal life, I’m actually very responsible with my personal relationships. I’ve always been that way.
Brolin: And rebellion, just to be clear, can mean holding onto some of your own integrity, of not playing into the idea of sensationalism. We all have our moments, and that’s your guys’ job – to take those moments and make them turgid, gaseous, make them big, and it’s bigger than the person is. When you start believing your own press, that’s when it gets really sad. But that’s part of the rebellion that I responded to, because she was still her. She’s still very grounded, very gravelly, which I like.
A lot of women in Hollywood are beginning to develop their own projects for production companies. Do you see directing soon in your future?
Fox: Definitely not directing. I have absolutely no skill set that would suggest that I would be able to do something like that. But possibly producing I guess at some point, if that. If I were able to, I’d like to get into that, sure.
Josh, I was wondering if you would address some of the buzz in the trades about you perhaps doing another comic book adaptation, the third Men in Black film where you would apparently play the younger Tommy Lee Jones. Is there any accuracy to those reports?
What other projects do you have lined up? Also, Megan, when you get a character described as a hooker with a heart of gold, what do you say to yourself about making this clichéd character something real or convincing?
Fox: Well, hooker with a heart of gold was not in the character breakdown when I got it, but I felt like it was an amazing opportunity for me to be involved in a project with Josh, and John Malkovich, and Fassbender – with all these incredible actors, who were coming in to make this movie, and I just wanted to be a part of it any way that I could. I don’t really feel like she’s that stereotypical. Perhaps you’re responding to the fact that I’m playing the character, that that sort of makes it stereotypical. But it’s something completely different from anything I’ve done, and no one can accuse me of doing the same thing twice, which I’m proud of. As for future projects, I have a movie with Mickey Rourke hopefully coming out this fall called Passion Play, which I was really excited to work on. It’s an independent right now, and I’m really proud of that, and I had an amazing experience making that movie. It’s sort of a modern film noir, and Mickey’s character is a down on his luck trumpet player and is a heroin addict, and he comes across my character, who is part of a traveling freak show. She has bird wings that sprouted out of her back when she went through puberty, and it’s sort of this very bizarre strange relationship that they have, and it’s very tragic.
Josh, can you talk about your upcoming projects? You’ve got the Woody next?
Brolin: Uh, I’ve got a woody next. I’ve got chubby after that. And then I have a half-mast after that (laughs). And then after that, I’m just going to relax and be flaccid. Thank you so much for that, by the way, it made my day. I’ve got Woody’s movie that was in Cannes, I’ve got Oliver’s movie, Wall Street, that was in Cannes, which was very special to me, that I had those two movies in Cannes, we got this coming out next week, we got True Grit coming out Christmas, Men In Black, if it all works out, is going to happen. We just sold something to Warner Bros. that I’ll direct probably next year, and a couple of other projects that are really good that I can’t talk about.
Megan, there’s an inside joke about your character that reveals she is a character from the comics. If this is a big hit, would you be interested in reprising the role?
Fox: Of course. I mean, if that was an opportunity that was presented to me, absolutely. I would love that.
When you’re dealing with an adaptation that already has a fanbase, are you confident about taking liberties, or do you feel obligated to be faithful to the source material?
Hayward: Josh brought that up. One of the things about Jonah Hex is the fanbase is unfortunately – it’s not Superman, you know what I mean? So people don’t have a lot of pre-awareness about Jonah Hex, and like Josh said, we are friends with Jimmy and Justin, and the guys who do the modern versions of Hex. Hex has gone to the future, and there’s a Road Warrior version of 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. I am a fan of the comic, and have been reading it for a long time, and love the fact that Jimmy and Justin continued to do it with different artists.
Josh and Megan, do you feel freedom to take those liberties?
Fox: Well, 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 Lambis bread outside of Mordor instead of the mines of Moria, and they get really mad. But Peter Jackson and company won like, thirty-something Oscars for that movie! So you can’t focus completely on pleasing them, 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.
Hayward: That was brilliant, by the way. A lot of people kept talking about how bloody the movie would have to be, but really there’s only a few versions of the modern – there’s an image run that’s really violent, but if you go back to the [John] Albano stuff, that’s pretty PG-13 stuff. It’s more Jonah in the Old West. Then there’s some supernatural stuff, and it kind of goes all over the place.
Jonah Hex, at least in the current run, didn’t really seem to have any supernatural powers. I wanted to know where the speaking to the dead power developed in the process of development?
Hayward: It came up later, but there are more supernatural versions of Jonah, with his history with the Indians, and whether or not he grew up in a tribe, and whether or not his father traded him to the Indians, whether or not there’s medicine men involved. So there was a pocket of some of the more middle areas of the comic that actually had some supernatural stuff in it, and that did develop later on.
I wanted to ask about casting Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Tom Wopat.
Hayward: Wow. Tom Wopat? He was Slocum, the guy Josh throws in the fighting ring. We actually read Tom Wopat in New York, and we didn’t even know it was Tom Wopat. We didn’t know – it’s like, “is that one of the Duke boys?” He just came in and read for us, and Andrew and I both watched [The Dukes of Hazzard] when we were kids.
Lazar: Originally he was described as a peg-legged guy, he wasn’t really formidable, and when Tom came in and read, it was like, wow, Slocum, if he’s this dangerous and formidable guy that really creates a whole other dimension to the scene.
Hayward: We didn’t know it was Tom Wopat until they told us after. We were surprised, because he’s got a successful Broadway thing going on.
Lazar: Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a friend of Warner Brothers, he’s done a bunch of movies there, and we tried to get somebody who had some gravitas to go up against Josh, and it’s actually one of my favorite scenes in the film, so we asked him to do us a favor, and he did it.
Was that for free?
Lazar: Pretty much. When you come in and do a small part like that, even though it’s an interesting role, Jeffrey Dean’s a pretty respected actor, and I could have cast him as Jonah Hex, had Josh passed.
There were reports of fairly extensive reshoots, and that Francis Lawrence came in to help to some degree. Can you clarify about that?
Brolin: There’s a difference between reshoots and additional shoots. There’s always perception, like oh, is there a problem? First of all, who cares, because the end result is all that matters. And the one thing is, is that when we saw the initial cut, the base cut, we go, oh wow, there’s a lot more humor than we thought here, so maybe it’s not as dark and gritty throughout the whole thing. Maybe we can base the movie as dark, and then we can get and find some kind of different colors of levity. So it was more about enhancing what already was. I think that we missed some things during additional shooting that we didn’t realize, because tonally, there’s no model for this. It’s like three different genres in one- not quite spaghetti western, supernatural movie, or action movie, but there’s elements of all those things. It was kind of like plowing out a completely new genre road, and saying, now okay, now we know what we have, how can we extrapolate on that?
Lazar: And also, with the studio, we realized we really did want to come out in the summer, and we made the movie for a fairly modest price, so from September to June, we recognized the opportunity to make a couple of things, create a couple of new set pieces, pretty standard fare. We were allowed to make the movie a little bit bigger and open up the scope a little bit.
Hayward: After they moved our date from September to June gave us the resources to go and put a bigger, crazier end on it. Francis came in as a consultant and helped us out. He’s a friend of the family, of Andrew, Akiva [Goldsman], and us, and it was a big help.
Brolin: And also someone who knows scope. Francis is the pinnacle of scope, what he’s done. That was really important to us, when we realized what we had. The whole color palette, and the whole thing. It was like, wow, this could be seem much bigger than it is, with the budget that we used.
Hayward: We didn’t start off with a bunch of superweapon at first and all sorts of stuff like that. So he was a good help.
Brolin: We did this movie for six thousand dollars (laughs).
In this film your character is friends with crows, horses and dogs.
Brolin: This is what I heard you say: crows, hos and dogs. We should just end the press conference there don’t you think?
Can you talk about your character’s relationship with the animals in the film?
Brolin: I think the loneliness of who he is, and the fact that he spends so much time alone – and I know this personally, having grown up on a ranch - the relationship with animals starts to become much more intense than your relationships with humans, so that’s a very natural thing, especially in westerns. There’s always been that thing of the guy talking to his horse, or a guy who has a dog, western type characters. The crows are more symbolism, an omen, of this purgatory life that he leads, I think the crows always represent something that’s fairly purgatorial. Something a little dark. The fact that they lead him, which I think is really interesting too, may lead him to chaos.