10:00 AM doesn’t sound intolerably early, but I’m a night owl by nature, and this was a Sunday morning following four or five 8:30 AM mornings in a row, with a 6:30 AM morning in there for good measure.
I just barely made it to the Four Seasons in time, grabbed a quick glass of juice and bacon, because YOU DO NOT TURN DOWN FREE BACON,and took a seat in the back of the conference room. They brought in Jimmy Hayward, the director of the film, as well as Megan Fox, Josh Brolin, and producer Andrew Lazar. They got seated quickly and we jumped right into Q&A that lasted for 40 fairly spirited minutes.
The first question set the tenor for much of what followed, particularly where Megan Fox was concerned. She’s on the spot right now because she’s not going to be in “Transformers 3,” and there’s controversy about whether she left or she was fired. Josh was asked what it was like to play a comic book character who is not as well known to the public, so there’s room for him to offer up his own interpretation without the crushing weight of expectation, and Megan was asked, “How is it to get away from the robots?” Yeah, nothing leading about that.
“What robots?” asked Brolin to the first of many waves of laughter during the press conference. “Coming from a comic book that refused to die… allowed us to do what we wanted to do.” He went on to talk about how the core of the character is what they worked to preserve while playing loose with the details. Then all attention turned to Fox, who has a reputation for being outspoken in the past and less than political at times.
“I like working on action movies, and I like working on movies that are comic-book based,” she said, “and these are the types of things I loved watching as a kid. So it wasn’t about getting away from the robots, if that’s what you’re saying. I enjoyed making both films.” She smiled, refusing to offer up even a hint of negativity towards the franchise that launched her career.
Asked about the parallels between John Malkovich’s bad guy character in the film, Quintin Turnbull, and modern-day domestic terrorism, both Hayward and Lazar talked about the idea as one that evolved as they worked on the film, and not the original notion for the villain. They said it wasn’t meant to stand in for any one thing, but just show someone who wanted to tear down institutions, someone who could be a real threat.
Brolin was asked about working in the elaborate make-up and talked about taking the opportunity to do a Lon Chaney role, and how it was much harder than he expected. “We did three hours of make-up a day. It was very tough,” and he had to maintain a half-beard and half-moustache for the duration of the shoot. He talked about how wearing the make-up and going through that process helped him play up the curmudgeonly side of the character. “Would I do it again? Sure. It’s like having a baby. I look at the end result now and think, ‘That’s pretty cool.'”
As the laughter settled, Hayward was asked about making the jump from CGI animation (he directed “Horton Hears A Who” before this) to live-action. “Those are big expensive films where you have to manage a large number of people, so I think it shows you can do that.” Discussing the casting of the film, Hayward credited Brolin with being the anchor on the film. “A lot of these people are friends of his.”
Lazar talked about how they had to go back to Brolin repeatedly before they talked him into playing the role. And regarding the casting of Megan Fox, Brolin just gestured to her, head to toe. “Why? Hello.” Lazar talked about how she was an early name that came up in casting, and then Brolin brought her up as well. He liked her presence in interviews, the way she had a bit of a rebellious image, and he talked about being curious to see what she was capable of. He talked about how much she did to convince them on-set, playing each scene different ways, giving them options for how to cut the role. “I just wanted to make sure she was the real deal, a scrapper. And she’s definitely got a truck driver mentality.”
She blushed at the description. “I think it’s wonderful what they’re saying, and I’m humbled by it.” The next question was for her regarding the action in the film, which she says is far more elaborate than anything she had to do on “Transformers.” “The gunfights were hard for me because I have tiny little baby hands, and those guns are so heavy.” She also talked about the corset she wears in the film, which is extreme, to say the least, and how much she enjoyed wearing it.
“The real question,” Brolin growled, looking the reporter who answered, “is how did YOU feel about the corset. Don’t project that on her, man.”
Fox and Brolin talked about building out a “Beauty and the Beast” vibe in the relationship, playing the older/younger dynamic, and how they both built these characters as very broken people, and there was some discussion about the last minute fine-tuning that was required to get the film from R to PG-13. “You know how the MPAA is. ‘Can you have him punch the guy three times instead of five?'” Brolin talked about how the film never feels gratuitous in the PG-13 cut, which he prefers, actually.
Someone asked Josh and Megan if they have ever sought retribution in their personal lives, since it’s a major theme in the film. “You mean against you?” Brolin asked the guy in return. “Look, here’s how I’ll bullshit my way through this answer.” He brought up all of the great Leone westerns, and how much he loved Jackie Chan in “Rumble In The Bronx,” and the classic Bronson and Eastwood films. He talked about how movies allow you to feel empowered in a way that life rarely does, and how “Jonah Hex” is his attempt to live that sort of character for once.
“Retribution? I’m all full of candy canes and lollipops,” Fox said. “I don’t even know what that means.”
A reporter asked Brolin if “Jonah Hex” is a sort of middle ground between the real-life characters he’s played and the totally fictional characters in other films, since Jonah’s not real but there’s still some reference people have that they will carry in with them. Brolin brought up the fact that Hex is, at best, a cult character and how most people have no idea what to expect from it, so he’s doing his own sort of classic laconic cowboy character.
Asked how she’s handled the last few years in terms of the demands of fame, Fox said she’s going out of her way to stay very domestic and keep the people around her who were there before the fame. “I distance myself from the Hollywood crowd. I don’t really go out and socialize that way.” And then Brolin was asked to tell his favorite Malkovich story from the film. “The great thing about John is that he’s so in character, but doesn’t have to stay in character. So you can be doing a take and be totally in the moment, and then they call cut and he’s like, ‘So, um, what are you doing later?'” His Malkovich was dead-on perfect, too. He got the cadence right, the sound of Malkovich’s voice. Brolin’s a very funny mimic. So evidently during one of the fight sequences, they called cut and Malkovich called him over and said, “So, um, can you pull my finger?” Brolin was reluctant for obvious reasons, but finally did, and there was a loud, awful CRRACK when he did. “Yeah, I think you broke it .”
More questions about Fox’s fame, confirmations of facts that had already been confirmed (yes, Brolin reeeeeally is in “Men In Black 3” as a young Tommy Lee Jones), and a preposterously dirty riff on the word “Woody” by Brolin padded out the rest of the press conference, and Hayward seemed uncomfortable discussing the way Francis Lawrence was brought on to help supervise the additional photography that went into the film late in the production process. Fox talked briefly about “Passion Play,” another film she has coming out this year where she plays a carnival freak with angel wings who ends up in love with Mickey Rourke, and Brolin said he’s got several things that are coming together that excite him, but he’s not able to give those titles yet. Fox also had a moment where she talked about the difficulty in pleasing comic book fans, and how she’s a “Lord of the Rings” nerd and reads message board conversations “where someone gets mad because Frodo was eating the Lambas bread outside Mordor instead of the Mines Of Moria,” and as she said it, you could see every nerd in the room lean forward, suddenly convinced they might have a chance.
Overall, it was a chance for Brolin to nail some one-liners and for Fox to prove that she can give an interview where she doesn’t burn down every bridge in the entertainment industry, and we were out before 11:00. I’ll have my sit-down on-camera interview with Josh Brolin later this week, and I’ve got a pretty great story about Brolin and his encounter with my son, who joined me at the junket. I’ll also have a review for you before the film opens this weekend.
“Jonah Hex” opens June 18 in theaters everywhere.
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