Josh Brolin On The ‘Absurdist’ Tone Of ‘Jonah Hex’

Jonah Hex” arrives in theaters June 18, featuring Brolin as the scarred bounty hunter out to bring down Quentin Turnbull, an evil plantation owner (played by John Malkovich) who’s out to raise an undead army.

As part of MTV’s Summer Movie Preview Week, we’re bringing you interviews, clips and previews of some of the hottest films hitting theaters this season. And with the first “Jonah Hex” trailer arriving online today, it seems like the timing’s perfect to bring you our exclusive interview with the film’s star, Josh Brolin.

MTV Movies Editor Joshua Horowitz chatted up the “Hex” star to get his take on the film’s evolution, where “Hex” fits in Brolin’s impressive Hollywood career, and why he’s hoping a movie he once said was “horrible” will become “even more absurdist than it already is.”

MTV NEWS: We spoke over a year ago about “Jonah Hex.” You talked about how the script might be “awful,” but you were really excited about it. Did the movie live up to what you were hoping for?

JOSH BROLIN: I wouldn’t say it lived up to it. It was something else entirely than what I thought it was. It’s kind of a crazy, absurd journey through that movie, in that we were changing a lot of things while we were shooting, and it started to surface as a different movie than we had initially thought it was. Because of the actors we had, I thought we captured some really interesting performances, between Michael Shannon and Michael Fassbender and [John] Malkovich. I said to you before: “It’s a horrible movie.” It’s not a horrible movie, and it was never a horrible movie. It was just something that I wasn’t used to. It was a genre I’d never done. I thought it’d be great because we’ll do something unique and original if we find [a director] who can help pull it off. And that’s exactly what it’s done — it’s created an original, bizarre take on a supernatural subject.

MTV: Has the tone changed? Is it more absurdist than it was initially?

BROLIN: I think so. And, if anything, in post [-production], I’d like it to become even more absurdist than it already is. My feeling is, this isn’t a straightforward Western. There are supernatural elements to it, and the more campy humor we go for, the better. We’re still in the process of solidifying that tone. There’s a lot of humor to use in this cut. We’ve been going, “How much humor do we use? Do we stay with the emotional line of the story? How can we release some of the exposition so we can just rely on the action?” All this kind of sh–. We’re in the midst of it, man!

MTV: That sounds a bit like what happened with Oliver Stone’s “W.” He had a different cut at first …

BROLIN: It’s the same thing, but it’s a different genre. It’s a new entity for me. It was much more of an experiment from my end of things than “W.” ever was. I like the cut of “W.” that Oliver put out. Who knows if it was a timing thing. They made their money back and then some, so they were happy. You have a visionary with Oliver, and you know he’s going to create something interesting. This is almost a little easier, because you can rely on visuals and tricks to entertain people, and they don’t necessarily have to have bigger meaning.

MTV: This is probably the last summer movie that we’ve yet to see footage from. I know the trailer is about to drop, but is the delay because you’ve been trying to find the film in the edit? Are you concerned? The fanboys are wondering, “Is this a train wreck, or is it the greatest thing ever?”

BROLIN: Does it matter? I don’t know. To answer your first question, no. I think when we did additional shooting and all that, there was some concern at that point. But I think we covered ourselves. And then — what adjectives did you use? Disaster? — ultimately, that’s not up to us. You make the movie you make, and then we’ll see how it’s perceived. I remember Ethan Coen saying during “No Country for Old Men”: “No one’s ever going to see this.” And then, voilà! With “Jonah,” what is the right formula? Nobody knows what the right formula is, but there are some unique things about it that hopefully will resonate and audiences will hold on to that.

MTV: Has this been your closest brush with a superhero film? Have you come close to any of these other properties out there?

BROLIN: I was sweetly offered some other things that I won’t tell you what they [were]. One turned out to be a huge movie, and one turned out to be OK and made some money. I talked to you about this. You were f—ing one of the reasons why I made the decision [to do “Jonah”]! I told you that a couple times, and it’s still the truth: “Should I do this? Why not do this?” It’s a risk.

MTV: Did you have the comic creators working with you?

BROLIN: Everybody was involved, including the guys who created “Jonah Hex.” They were at the initial shoot in New Orleans, and they were extremely happy with what they were seeing. But this is much more of a movie that finds itself in the editing room than on the set. What we were doing on set always looked great, especially given the budget. For these kinds of visuals and special effects, we didn’t have a major budget at all. We had to cheat a lot, and it has a lot grander scope than it should

MTV: This was a hell of a physical role for you.

BROLIN: Most physical I’ve ever done. It’s the toughest movie I’ve ever done. The stunts and the makeup … a lot of pain. The prosthetics on the face, they were holding my mouth back. And then putting a mouthpiece in that held my mouth back further. And then painting it and filling in the beard. I was walking around New Orleans with half a beard for three months, which was horrible. F—ing horrible! That combined with being in 100-degree heat, 98 percent humidity, three layers of wool on … I don’t know if I’d do it again.

MTV: What can you say about Megan Fox’s role in the movie? She plays a prostitute.

BROLIN: She was great. There was one cut where I really thought Megan was the best thing in the film. When we did additional shooting, we just incorporated her more in the middle and the end, because she had only done eight days of shooting when we were in New Orleans. I think she did a fantastic job.

MTV: Tell me about this horse with Gatling guns that we’ve seen in that first bit of footage.

BROLIN: That was [director] Jimmy [Hayward]’s idea. I think they were supposed to be attached to the horse’s abdomen. I was like, “If they are, I’ll shoot his legs off. That’s not really gonna work. But maybe we should try that! Maybe that’d be funny!”

MTV: Do you think there’s franchise potential here?

BROLIN: Of course. I just said I wouldn’t do it again. I wouldn’t do that version again. I think we learned a lot about what we can do with the prosthetics and how we can hybrid it with CGI. I talked to Robert Rodriguez a lot about it at Comic-Con and afterwards. I think it could be really interesting. The only thing that’s going to facilitate a sequel is if people see it. Whether Jimmy would do a second one or if we’d go out and find someone else, almost like the “Bond” movies, I don’t know.

There were a few foreign directors who we had in mind and almost did it but didn’t feel they had enough prep time. Park Chan-wook, who did “Old Boy,” was somebody I spoke to for hours three different times. I almost had him. He felt he didn’t have enough prep time. At the last minute, I said, “Look, if you really feel you can’t do it the way you want to, don’t do it. We’ll do something else together.” And he was like, “Thank you!” I gave it to Oliver at one point. I gave it to everybody. You just have different versions. I think this version is as good as it possibly can be and hopefully will get better before we actually release it.

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