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Jonah Hex: Comic Book Gunslinger Comes to the Screen

  • Alan Silverman

From "Superman" and "Spider Man" to "Josie and the Pussycats," Hollywood has a long history of drawing film ideas from the pages of comic books. The latest is a scar-faced gunslinger from the wild West starring Oscar-nominee Josh Brolin and action movie siren Megan Fox.

"Jonah Hex" is a tortured soul. A veteran of the Civil War between the states, he's seen more than his share of killing; but it is also something he does really well and that skill is in demand on the lawless frontier of the late 1800's.

Josh Brolin in Warner Bros. Pictures' Jonah Hex

Josh Brolin in Warner Bros. Pictures' Jonah Hex

One side of his face is hideously scarred - the result of a run-in with a Civil War veteran from the other side, the truly bad Quentin Turnbull. When Hex gets offered the chance to clear his own name by stopping Turnbull from using terror to launch a new civil war, it is an offer the bounty hunter can not turn down.

Josh Brolin, a co-star of the 2007 Academy Award winner "No Country For Old Men" and Oscar-nominated for his role in the 2008 drama "Milk," plays the title character in "Jonah Hex." Brolin says it took three hours in the make-up chair every day to give the character his disfigured look. "To be honest with you, I think that it lent to the kind of curmudgeon-like feel of the character itself," he says.

Like the comic book on which it is based, "Jonah Hex" explodes with violent outbursts; but Brolin says it is appropriate to the story and the genre. "This movie, when you watch it …at least when I do …you expect it to be gratuitous and it is not. I think that is much more interesting," he says.

Also confounding expectations is the character of Lilah, a frontier prostitute who is the only person Hex feels he can really trust.

Megan Fox in Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Jonah Hex

Megan Fox in Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Jonah Hex

Megan Fox, who plays Lilah, says, "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 treated her the way that he did and was not able to love. We came up with a back story between the two of us about what things had gone on in the past and why she was so dedicated to him, so loyal and hurt for him so badly."

She admits to having trouble with some of the big guns her character has to wield. It was really difficult for me to shoot the old-style 'gunslinger' guns because I have tiny little baby hands and (the guns) are really large and heavy, so just the physicality of actually having to pull that off was really difficult. This was more action-heavy for me …the action in this movie was more intricate than in previous movies that I've done," she says.

Fox, now 24, became a pop culture phenomenon after co-starring in the first two "Transformer" action films and says she is at home in genre. "I like working on action films and I like working on movies that are comic book based or have sort of this theme because there are things that I watched or loved when I was a kid," she says.

"Jonah Hex" made its comic book debut in the 1970's and has gone through several incarnations: a history that Brolin says allowed the film to be a bit more innovative and risky. "(It comes) from a comic book that has had three lives and wasn't necessarily successful, but I love 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 comic book character is there, but we kind of go off on all these different tangents," he says.

Fox says she wants the comic book 'fanboys' to like the film, but adds that, to be successful, it has to reach beyond that small but loyal fan base. "I feel like it's impossible to please the hardcore comic book fans because they'll never be happy no matter what you do. 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 liberties to make it into a live-action film or it wouldn't work," she says.

"Jonah Hex" co-stars John Malkovich as the villain, Turnbull. The cast also features Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender and Will Arnett. After achieving success as an animator, Canadian-born Jimmy Hayward makes his live-action directing debut with "Jonah Hex."