LOS ANGELES—Josh Brolin doesn’t seem like someone who could relate to being bullied. Raised in Los Angeles as the son of a television star (Marcus Welby, M.D.’s James Brolin), he has spent much of his career playing tough guys. In his latest film, Jonah Hex, he plays the title character, a Civil War veteran seeking vengeance on the man who disfigured him. In an L.A. hotel room, Brolin says that although the film is based on the comic book of the same name, he connected to the character by thinking of him as an everyman most people would root for.
Watch the trailer for Jonah Hex.
“When you are riding your bike down the street when you are 13 and someone throws something at you for some reason or another and you don’t feel like you can fight back, it is like the cartoon in the back of the comic book where someone kicks sand in someone’s face. You want that one moment where you don’t have to get into a fight because you just knock him out with one punch and walk away. This is my version of that. It’s my attempt at having people come to the movie and saying, ”˜Jonah Hex is really cool.’ He comes from a dark space, but we find levity in the movie. I want to be that guy for an hour and a half because I want you to leave the movie theatre and feel a little puffed up—but not so much that you put a cap in someone’s ass.”
The aforementioned disfigurement comes at the hands of Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), who burned Hex’s face the same day he murdered the man’s wife and young son. He did it because his own son died at Hex’s hands when they were under Turnbull’s command during the Civil War. When he hears Turnbull is dead, Hex sets his sights on other criminals, taking on the job of a bounty hunter. Although he has no real friends, he breaks his own rule of avoiding relationships that might lead to the death of a loved one by falling for a prostitute (Megan Fox). The film opens Friday (June 18).
Brolin explains that it wasn’t difficult to get into character. It took hours in the makeup chair to create the disfigured look; plus, the inability to eat while wearing the prosthetic and the long hours on set made him feel a little ornery.
“The prosthetic was a pain in the ass,” he says. “We did three hours of makeup every day. It was very tough, because there were several layers. I had a mouthpiece that held my mouth all the way back. It 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 about that. To be honest, while it sounds like bullshit, the experience leant to the curmudgeonly feel of the character. I couldn’t eat. A lot of movies you say you work 14 hours, but you really work six and you wait in your trailer playing Nintendo the rest of the day. We actually worked 14 to 16 hours a day and I couldn’t eat that whole time. So I would stuff myself in the morning and drink water through the whole day and it was 100 degrees. I would do it again, because it is like when a woman has a baby. You look at the result and say, ”˜That is pretty cool.’ ”
Brolin and his artist son, Trevor, who was born when the actor was just 20, have worked together to create Brolin’s characters. Brolin says that while it wasn’t necessary this time, given that the role is based on a DC Comics character, the collaboration has helped him several times in the past.
“This [having a character based on a comic book] is a nice springboard from a place where it may not be real, but it’s real for me. Once you look at the comic book you can say, ”˜I have a sketch here.’ A lot of the times I will go to my son and say, ”˜This is how I see the character and this is the ambiance of the story’ and he will sketch something out. Sometimes I can use it and sometimes I can’t. It worked for the character in [the Planet Terror segment of] Grindhouse. It’s also good to have people in mind even if I use characters from other actors like Robert Mitchum. I think, ”˜Okay, if I watch a lot of his movies, is there one little gem I can steal from that and extrapolate from it?’ ”