Jonah Hex on the Big Screen
The smoke signals came all at once back in mid 2007 regarding a Jonah Hex Film, started of by an item at Hollywoodreporter.com which stated ... film makers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor on board to adapt. Andrew Lazar is producing via his Mad Chance Prods., as is Akiva Goldsman.
In an interview with the film makers during Comic-Con ..Neveldine confirmed that they have completed a first draft and "we're really excited about (the project)." He revealed that their take on the Western bounty hunter will be influenced by "the [Joe R.] Lansdale series, definitely. The movie that we're -- we've pretty much wrote it -- but we're writing is going to be the introduction to Jonah Hex. So we're incorporating a lot of stuff but we're bringing in, of course, Quentin Turnbull. It's almost like a double revenge story. They're both justified in their own revenge. That's what's so great about Jonah Hex in this movie. And again we get to play with an anti-hero." Rep orts in April 2008 indicated the script had been finished. IMDB listed a release date in 2010.
The movie might have been connected to the 104-page first draft of a script by William Farmer (dated January 13th, 1997) that was reviewed a few years before by The Stax Report, as Andrew Lezar was rumoured to be connected to it at the time. There was also talk of a TV series that went to development hell.
Variety reported in late November 08 that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor had dropped out as directors of the film due to "creative differences". Storyboards from their time on the project, illustrated by Martin Mercer, used to be on their website.
The producers were then looking for a replacement, with the director of the Punisher: War Zone - Lexi Alexander - mentioning that she was one of several prospective directors reading the script at the beginning of December 2008.
In early January 2009 the hollywoodreporter.com announced that Jimmy Hayward, who directed the animated Horton Hears a Who!, would make his live-action debut on Jonah Hex.
According to an an interview with Brolin at collider.com Brolin was contacted by Hayward via e-mail with a pitch, which lead to a face to face meeting and eventually to Brolin suggesting Hayward as director to the studio.
In February 2009 John Malkovich had taken on the role of villain Quentin Turnbull, the wealthy Southern plantation owner as in comics who falsely blames Hex for the death of his son.
In early March Empire Magazine reported that Megan Fox ...will take a supporting role in the Jimmy Hayward-directed movie as Leila, a gunslinger who provides the love interest for Josh Brolin's scarred bounty hunter. John Malkovich will play a voodoo priest who wants to raise an army of the undead with a view to liberating the South. more...
Photographs of Megan Fox dressed as a salon girl drew some attention in April 2009. In an interview in May she described the film as ...a post Civil War apocalyptic type of situation about this cowboy who has the ability to talk to dead people. more...
Comicbookmovie.com reported that production workers spent about three weeks building a unique boat in the waters off Bayou Gauche, and filming took place from May 11 to May 15. Some production designs can be seen at bgrstudio.com.
Filming took place at Fort Pike for two months in May and June, with the production team helping the museum with its long post Katrina repairs by donating some of the set props and painting the interior, the sally port and the citadel for them.
By the time of the Comic Con press conference the Director was at pains to combat the idea that the film would have a supernatural focus...
I don't know where the voodoo practitioner raising the army of the undead came from, 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 someone who's trying to fight and re-win the Civil War.
I think Jonah Hex, he's been shot so many times, the legend is he's got one foot in the grave and one foot here on Earth, and so we approach it by everybody else's version of who Jonah Hex is.
Some Comic-con Interviews
Megan Fox originally did just 5 days work on the film, but from comments made at Comic-Con it appears she was called back for re-shoots.
Three time world championship gunslinger Joey Dillon, who did the gun and tomahawk training and gun consultation to Josh Brolin as well Gun handler for Megan Fox for reshoot dates, was interviewed by True West magazine.
Mark Neveldine commented on how the script developed after he and Brian Taylor left the project We wrote Jonah Hex and we had a blast with it. And I read the final shooting script and felt like there was about 85% of our script, and that was pretty cool. Some of the things that we lost, unfortunately, worked: some of the dialogue, and some bits. They went PG-13 instead of Rated-R; probably the best thing to do, I guess, for a movie that doesn't have a big audience.
Late December 2009 saw the announcement that another few weeks of reshoots were planned in early 2010, with Francis Lawrence - the director of I Am Legend and Constantine - consulting. Soon afterwards a casting call was released indicating an intention to fleshout Jonah's backstory:
- Cassie - wife of 'Jonah Hex' (Josh Brolin). Native American. Pretty, young, sexy.
- Travis - age 9 (to play younger)... Must be a match to Josh Brolin and Native American 'Cassie'.
- Jeb Turnbull - son of 'Quentin Turnbull' (John Malkovich). 30 - 35. Skinny, southern accent. Needs one or two days for prosthetics.
- President Andrew Johnson - 50-60. Look alike, if possible.
- Advisor - to President Johnson. Younger, 1870's version of a "West Wing" character.
- Dead Guy - late 20s/30s. Scary looking.. May need a day for prosthetics/possible make-up.
Heat Vision reported in early 2010 that Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox and Michael Fassbender were to be called back for roughly 10-days shooting in the Los Angeles area during late January, and that although no test screenings had taken place, the studio decided to work on story and action during the shoots, with additional script (reports range from 12 to in excess of 50 pages worth of new material) mixed in with some reshoots. Spoiler TV took some from-the-edge-of-the-set pictures.
Jimmy Palmiotti, writer of the "Jonah Hex" comic told the Philadelphia Daily News: "I know for a fact that the shoots on 'Hex' are additional story being added . . . not reshoots. This is a great sign because the studio saw the rough cut and loved it, so much so they pushed up the date and decided to put more money into the film. Palmiotti talked indepth regarding his involvement in the film with jonahhexmovie.com and Cowboys & Indians
Actor Michael Papajohn reported that the wrap party was held Feb 6th 2010
In late March Film Music Reporter... reported that Marco Beltrami had taken over scoring duties, replacing John Powell, who had been working on the score with the heavy metal band Mastodon. Brent Hinds, the guitarist and singer from the band, mentioned in mid-April that Beltrami wanted a more restrained, subtle approach than the music recorded for Hex in L.A. last fall, and so the band had been fitting in work on new material around their tour.
Many fans and commentators had hoped the film would be showcased at WonderCon (April 2-4) with perhaps a trailer, as it seemed like a prime opportunity to commence promoting the film in advance of the June release, but there was no sign of it. Then in mid April the website nymag.com reported comments from an unnamed studio spokesman who insisted that a trailer would finally make its debut in front of New Line's A Nightmare on Elm Street, which opened April 30, and that the movie would open as scheduled on June 18. And director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!) texted Vulture to say, "Trailer and film are looking great!". Collider.com reported that the trailer would debut on the SyFy channel the night of April 29th, and then be available online later that night or sometime soon after. They also predicted that a new poster would debut around the same time.
Some lucky folks were invited to a test screening on Sunday, April 25 in Los Angeles at the The Bridge: Cinema de Lux. Early tweets from those in attendance weren't enthusiastic, with a typical comment being "meh its ok but needs work". Then the longer reviews started appearing, with generally negative comments. For a sample check out aintitcool.com.
A trailer for the trailer screened on SyFy which caused some excitement. Soon after the final poster was released, and then the trailer itself appeared online:
May came and the films marketing team hit top gear, with folk like Dwayne "the canoe guy" given the go-ahead to post articles about the set visits, two TV spots, individual character posters (see below), and several updates to the offical website, including a song called Born to Kill which I assume was by Mastodon. Then a second trailer:
Some media were reporting that Warner Bros. had decreed there would be no advance screenings, but Twitter was full of announcements regarding advance screenings the week before the realise in the US, so I think they were referring to free screenings for press/media reviewers.
The film made the cover of a few magazines in the last few weeks before the premier:
There were also lots of "exclusive" clips on-line
Come the 17 of June and the film received had it's premier at ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood. Some of the cast and crew were on hand to smile for the cameras, with Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, and Jimmy Hayward chatting with folk. It was nice to see comic artist Tony DeZuniga got an invite as well: It was a great experience, Tony told Inquirer.net. My wife Tina and I really enjoyed it. The people were cheering inside the movie house and I was surprised that they put my name in the credits. My name was very visible. People will not miss it - it was separate from everybody else's, except for the names of the writers. Warner Bros. Pictures did an interview with me as side comments about the character and the movie for the DVD release. This was an experience of a lifetime.
While the stars enjoyed the night out, folks were tweeting and reviews were appearing from public preview screenings around the States which told a tale of woe. Comments such as Why Did They Make This Movie?... If you like your Western films to have lots of ridiculous action, bad dialogue, cool weapons, rock music and poor acting, then Jonah Hex is for you... Jonah Hex is to film what the chicken nugget is to cuisine... at least it is short... too slight to be memorably terrible. Metacritic's survey of reviews quickly showed Hex scoring 33 out of a possible 100. Most reviewers agreed that the film was a confused mess, but credited the cast with doing their best with limited material. A small minority of reviewers appreciate the film as a blast of the cinema du bonkers, with critic Armond White arguing True art is watching hot-chick Megan Fox (as Lilah the hooker) fearlessly staring at the most grotesque side of Jonah's face as if coming to grips with her own exploitation. Beautiful and brilliant.
In the end the public voted with their wallets, preferring Toy Story 3, and left Jonah Hex to bomb at the Box Office, taking in only $5.1 million from 2,825 locations in its first weekend. The film was taken up as an excuse for various troubled production = bad movie and what the studios need to learn features.
By the next weekend and things weren't any better, with ticket sales down 70%.
Total domestic box office was reported to have been $10,547,117, against an estimated production budget of $47,000,000. After a few weeks media attention died down and a deathly silence settled over the film and folks waited to see if the home video release could provide an opportunity for redemption...
On DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital Downloads
Warner home video announced details on August 12, 2010.
The Jonah Hex Blu-ray Combo Pack contains:
- Deleted Scenes
- The Inside Story of Jonah Hex
- The Weird Western Tales of Jonah Hex
- SD Feature Film
- Digital Copy on Disc
The Jonah Hex DVD contains the following special features:
- Deleted Scenes
Amazon quoted a run-time of 81 minutes, so this wasn't a directors cut, but the inclusion of some deleted scenes provided a hint of what a longer version could have been like.
Prepare for an epic action adventure when Jonah Hex arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD in the US on October 12th from Warner Home Video. Based on the legendary character from the comic book series from DC Comics, Jonah Hex follows one man's personal quest for redemption against the canvas of the battle between good and evil.
A bounty hunter of last resort, Jonah Hex is a stoic, battle-hardened gun-slinger who can track down anything. Having survived death, Jonah is a man fated to wander alone. But when the U.S. military approaches Jonah with an offer he can't pass up, one that will grant him freedom from the warrants on his head, he soon begins to track down and stop the sinister terrorist Quentin Turnbull. Jonah quickly learns that Turnbull, the man who killed his family, will stop at nothing until Jonah is dead.
From director, Jimmy Hayward ("Horton Hears a Who!") Jonah Hex stars Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin ("Milk," "No Country For Old Men"), two-time Academy Award nominee John Malkovich ("In the Line of Fire," "Places in the Heart"), Megan Fox ("Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"), Michael Fassbender ("Inglorious Basterds"), Will Arnett ("Blades of Glory") and Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon ("Revolutionary Road.").
Jonah Hex was available on Blu-ray Combo Pack for US$35.99 and on single disc DVD for US$28.98. These days they are bargain bin fodder.
On October 12th, Jonah Hex was released ON DEMAND through Digital Cable, Satellite TV, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles and it could be downloaded for rental or purchase on iTunes and Amazon Video On Demand.
Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) is a scarred drifter and bounty hunter of last resort, a stoic, battle-hardened gun-slinger who can track down anyone... and anything. Having survived death, Jonah's violent history is steeped in myth and legend, and has left him with one foot in the natural world and one on the "other side." A man fated to wander alone, his sole human connection is with Lilah (Megan Fox), whose life in a brothel has left her with scars of her own.
Jonah's past is about to catch up with him when the U.S. military makes him an offer he can't refuse: in exchange for freedom from the warrants on his head, he must track down and stop the sinister terrorist Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), the man who killed Hex's family and mutilated his face with a branding iron. Turnbull, who is gathering an army and preparing to unleash Hell, is also Jonah's oldest enemy and will stop at nothing until Jonah is dead.
Jonah Hex - Research for reporters
Dwayne "the canoe guy" at Matching Dragoons put together a Quick Guide come Cheatsheet about Jonah Hex for the press regarding the character and the film. I think it's a useful summary of some important facts so I got his permission to post it here:
- Jonah Hex was created by John Albano & Tony DeZuniga in 1972.
- John Albano wrote ten (10) stories with Jonah Hex in them.
- David Michilene wrote three (3) Jonah Hex stories.
- Arnold Drake wrote one (1) Jonah Hex story.
- Jos Landsdale wrote thirteen (13) Jonah Hex stories.
- Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti had written fifty (50) stories at the release of the film with Jonah Hex.
- Michael Fleisher wrote one hundred and twenty five (125) Jonah Hex stories.
- Of the 202 books with Jonah Hex as the star Michael Fleisher wrote 62% of them.
- Michael Fleisher created Quentin Turnbull.
- Michael Fleisher created the history of Jonah Hex's scar.
- Zombies appeared in only five (5) issues (or 2%) of Jonah Hex (Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo)
- Science Fiction (Sci-Fi) only plays a part in eighteen (18) issues (or 9%) with Jonah Hex (HEX)
- Zombies are not "iconic" in the history of Jonah Hex.
- Zombies never appeared in the futuristic version of Jonah Hex.
- Jimmy Hayward (the director) has said that there are NO ZOMBIES IN THIS MOVIE!
Brolin on the role
MTV: You're talking about "Jonah Hex"?
Brolin: I love it.
MTV: What's intriguing about that project?
Brolin: The absurdity of it. It almost allows you to create a new genre. I love going back into the spaghetti-Western idea and completely turning it around.
MTV: When are you going to decide whether you'll do it?
Brolin: Soon. In the last couple months, I've been going back and forth about it. I went back to my gut: "Is it a sellout? What is it I like about this movie?" When I first read it, I thought, "Oh my God, it's awful!" And then I had a moment a week later, and I thought, "Why is it awful?" Maybe the thing to do is to do the most awful movie I can find.
MTV: What's so awful about it?
Brolin: It's so tongue-in-cheek. It's so ridiculous. But once I started putting people in my mind and saying, "What if I put [John] Malkovich in this role? Then what does this movie become? Now let's put this producer and director on it and think about how it plays out." Then it becomes fun. Now I love that movie. If you have a great film maker come in, then suddenly, these gags and characters become interesting.
MTV: Are the film-makers behind "Crank" still directing it?
Brolin: I don't know. It's all up in the air.
A few months after release Brolin had a no nonsense view of the project:
We had an original intention and that got away from us a little bit, Everybody did do their best to try and create the best movie with what we had, but I think it got so derailed at a certain point that the assemblage of what we could use was so disconnected to what our original intention was that it just got mixed up... I do think that if you go in there kind of like with 'Piranha 3-D' - when you go to see that movie you go, 'This is ridiculous and this is fun' - so if you went into 'Jonah Hex' with that, I think you had a good time.
In early 2014 he elaborated:
I think it deserved that bashing for reasons that those critics will never know... We were almost ready to drop [the film] when this kid [Hayward] came up. He was an interesting young guy full of energy and he was obsessed with Jonah Hex. I thought, 'This is either a really bad decision or a brilliant decision.' Really bad... If I'm ever really rich, I'll do that movie again. Seriously.
The movie was still on his mind when he was interviewed on the Nerdist Podcast in early 2016... Oh, ‘Jonah Hex,’ hated it. Hated it. The experience of making it — that would have been a better movie based on what we did. As opposed to what ended up happening to it, which is going back and re-shooting 66 pages in 12 days and that being… Listen, I understand it’s financiers, you’re trying to save their money and it becomes a financial thing, but if — there’s this thing called revenge trading. And I’m disciplined enough to know you never do it. But with 'Jonah Hex,' if I had $5 million — which is always how I saw that movie.
I remember when I was talking to Warner Bros. about doing that movie, ‘High Plains Drifter’ is what I put on the TV, I said, ‘That’s what I wanna do.’ I would do that movie still. If I ever had the balls to spend $5 million, which I don’t, I would do that movie, ’cause that’s the version of that movie that would have been successful, for sure. And it didn’t need to cost anything more than $8-$10 million.
Michael Fassbender talks about his role
I kind of developed this character and really pushed it - I'll
see how far I pushed it. I was John Malkovich's right hand man - I
had this idea about the character, he's kind of psychotic, he gets
his kicks in perverted ways. I didn't want to make it very obvious
or like something you've seen before. But then I went into wardrobe
and Michael Wilkinson, who I worked with before on 300 for
costumes, had this three piece suit pulled out for me which was
kind of green and I'm playing an Irishmen, and I said "look man,
you've got to take the green down. I'm Irish! I can't go back to
Ireland, they'll kill me." So, it was this faded down green-piece
suit and I picked up this boiler hat and I put it on and I thought,
this is just like Clockwork Orange. I thought I'm going to go along
that vain and do Clockwork Orange meets Frank Gorshin, 1970's
Riddler with a Carrey accent. Then the guys at prosthetics created
this kind of tattoo thing that started at my face and went all the
way down my torso and arms (see picture below). It's like the
people around you that are doing these things, do the work for you.
It began a really fun sort of character.
Megan Fox on her role as Leila
I'm Jonah's love interest I guess you could call it but it's not very conventional. She's a prostitute that he's been coming and visiting for years. They sort of have a special relationship. He doesn't want to get too close to her or allow her too close because everyone he loves dies. She doesn't really understand that concept. So it's a push and pull sort of situation.
The kind of prostitution that existed back then is very different than the kind that exists now. That was a very common way for a woman to make a living and we didn't really show. If there had been more graphic scenes, I probably would have [researched prostitutes] but the only sex scene that is in there is between Jonah and Leila and they're lovers, so that wasn't really the same sort of situation.
It was only five days that I filmed and I've never been more exhausted filming something. I mean, I shot 108 days on Transformers and the five days I spent on this were by far 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.
Like Brolin she doesn't seem to have fond memories of the film:
John Malkovich on his role as Quentin Turnbull
From Empire Online
I love Josh Brolin - he's a friend of mine, and he said, 'Would
you be interested?' And I like the guy, Jimmy Hayward, who's directing
him, so I said, 'Sure.'...It was fun. It's based on an American comic
book from the 70s. Might do OK! I play a plantation-owner called
Quentin Turnbull, who holds Jonah Hex responsible for the death of his
son in the Civil War - it's set right after the American Civil War.
1872, I think it's set in. It's Josh, Megan and Michael Fassbender,
Mastodon on their work for the Score
Mastodon received a phone call from an enthusiastic fan. It was director Jimmy Hayward, who said he'd been inspired by repeated listenings of Mastodon's 2008 epic, Blood Mountain, and that said inspiration had helped him finish up a little project he was toiling over-the script for Jonah Hex. The album weighed heavily on Hayward, Sanders said, and so he wanted Mastodon to weigh heavily on his movie. "As opposed to labels profiteering the situation, saying they'd give a band $500,000 to use some song, he called us out of the blue as a fan," Sanders recalled. "It was the most beautiful, authentic way to collaborate."
...The resulting music is about an hour long in total, all instrumental, including five full songs and many smaller musical themes adapted throughout. Upon finishing, it was then given to composer John Powell ( Shrek, The Bourne Identity), who will paste the music to the movie. Some of the material, Sanders said, will likely be adapted for the London Orchestra for particularly epic scenes. "We wrote variations on themes for each character, different variables for a bunch of riffs: aster, slower, heavier, lighter," Sanders said. "It's the Darth Vader approach."
Michael Shannon on his role as Doc Cross Williams
In a short interview at mtv.com he describes the role as a cameo...
I play a fellow named Doc Cross Williams, said Shannon. In the comic book, or graphic novel, he's kind of one of those old vaudevillian... He has a travelling show where he has cock fights and dog fights and strange creatures, and he's a snake-oil kind of guy.
He's got this tonic, this elixir that he sells that'll solve all your problems, he explained. And Jonah Hex comes to my little circus and he causes a ruckus.
Did anyone really care about a Jonah Hex Film?
Not according to Cinemablend.com
If you read movie sites like this one regularly, you've no doubt seen a lot of stories about Jonah Hex. Of course no normal person has ever heard of Jonah Hex and so you have to wonder what the obsession is with reporting it. Here's the answer: It's based on a comic book. Comic books are read by nerds. Movie sites are run by nerds. Unfortunately most movie site readers aren't nerds so we should probably all cool it with this one until something more interesting than the casting of C-list actor Thomas Jane happens with it. Sadly that's not going to happen, since the people making it know that no one cares and are thus making tons of boring exclusives available to a wide variety of nerd-run blogs who then in turn, run them and scream to everyone about their exclusive... even though probably nobody cares. It's a vicious circle of back slapping and mutual promotion that will only end in tears.
How To Get Us Interested: Better casting for starters. Thomas Jane is not a star. He's the poor man's Aaron Eckhart. Oh Josh Brolin now has the role? He's great, but he's no Tom Cruise. Jonah Hex could use a real goddamn celebrity. Unless it gets one, expect this one to slip quietly onto the bottom shelf of your local video store, where it probably belongs.