With our anticipation building up, we learned we were heading to the bayous of Louisiana, to some of the most dangerous areas in which only the bravest filmmakers would dare shoot. We received incredibly-detailed instructions about the location where the film was shooting, essentially stating, "It is very humid and warm here with plenty of mosquitoes and other biting bugs, poison ivy, poison oak, and even crocodiles, so it is better to be covered in layers than to wear shorts and flip-flops." And "Tell them to pretend they are going camping for the day!" As we were being driven away from the center of New Orleans, we were even told by our driver that he would be taking us to a place called "Violent, Louisiana," which certainly sounded promising for a movie about Jonah Hex.
For those unfamiliar with the character in comics form, Jonah Hex was created by John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga for a 1971 issue of "All-Star Western." At first, not much was known about the scarred Western character, but the story goes that Hex was sold into slavery to the Apache by his father as a boy, where he was adopted by the tribe’s chief until a conflict with the chief’s actual son led to Jonah’s face being disfigured with "The Mark of the Beast" in disgrace after he was accused of cheating in battle. The dark and gritty Western character proved popular enough to dominate the book once it was retitled "Weird Western Tales," and Hex thrived under the pen of Michael Fleischer until the mid-’80s when the character was thrust into the future as part of DC Comics’ intercompany crossover "Crisis on Infinite Earths." The less said about that the better, but in the ’90s, horror novelist Joe R. Lansdale and artist Tim Truman revived Hex with a darker, supernatural-based Western take on the character for Vertigo Comics. Five years ago, the character was revived in a more traditional Western format by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray for what’s turning into the character’s most popular run in the comic books since the ’70s.
In the movie, Jonah Hex is played by Josh Brolin, the second-generation actor who was heavily involved with getting the film made based on the strength of his appearances in the Coens Brothers’ Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men and his Oscar nomination for Gus Van Sant’s Milk a year later. Joining him is director Jimmy Heyward, who previously co-directed the animated Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, and this strange combo brought together a cast that included John Malkovich as Hex’s long-time foe Quentin Turnbull, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon and Michael Fassbender. Oh, and did we mention Megan Fox? If you’ve watched the trailer than you already will know that Hex’s origin is tied closer to Turnbull than in the comics.
Imagine our surprise when we finally arrived to our destination and it was a fairly placid field with makeshift tents, which we were told was the Union army encampment where Brolin’s Hex was in conversation with Will Arnett’s Lieutenant Grass, coordinating how to capture the outlaw Turnbull. No fistfights broke out and no guns were drawn, but at least we were going to be able to talk with all involved. The production was roughly midway through shooting the film, on Day 22 of 47 planned days, and unfortunately, we hadn’t picked the best day to visit. Just one week earlier, we hear they were shooting an enormous river battle between Ironside battleships, too. Oh, well.
Click Next for our interview with director Jimmy Hayward.