Jonah Hex is a western cowboy bounty hunter comic produced by DC. And soon, Jonah Hex will be a movie star. There have been all sorts of rumors about the project, and I plan to address them all and give you the straight info on what is going on with the project. But first things first, I know there are probably a great deal of you out there who know absolutely nothing about Mr Hex. So let me give you a little background info on the character straight from the DC Comics Encyclopedia entry about the character.
As if cursed by his own last name, Jonah Hex was born to a life of bad luck. He was born in 1839, the son of a brutal drunk and a meek mother. He has faced all sorts of personal tragedy: his mother abandoned him as a young child, his father sold him to an Apache tribe for a pile of animal pelts. He lost his love, White Fawn. He was blamed for the Fort Charlotte massacre, a prison break that went tragically awry. And to top it all off, after killing White Fawns husband Noh-Tante, the Apache tribe scarred his face with the “Mark of the Demon.” But he quickly went on to become the greatest bounty hunter of his time.
Based solely upon that information, all the makings of an interesting and original western are there. So its no wonder Warner Brothers purchased the rights for the DC comics property with the intention of bringing the character to the big screen. Since the news was broken, there have been many names attached to the product. Let’s start from the top and work our way down. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who are most well known for their work as directors of Crank, were originally attached to direct the film. The two were also set to write the script. They were even quoted as saying that Jonah Hex would be their next project after Crank. And specifically, Mark Nevaldine had this to say about the film:
“It’s a comic that’s been running a long time at DC comics. A guy who lives one foot in this world, one foot in the next. Western. Crazy. Sin City style.”
And things were shaping up for the film. Oscar winner Akiva Goldman (Batman and Robin, The Da Vinci Code) was set to produce along with Andrew Lazar’s Mad Chance Prods for Warner Bro’s. Thomas Jane, who has previously played a comic book anti hero type in The Punisher, was rumored to be lobbying for the role of Jonah Hex. There was even a pic of Jane as he would look playing Hex, done by Thomas Jane himself! Here it is, straight from the Punisher himself, as said to Film School Rejects:
“Yeah, the pic is real all right – my pal Akiva Goldsman told me about the project and I fell in love with the idea right away. Being a huge fan of all things Hex – I just couldn’t help myself. I called up my buddy Chris Nelson and we spent a Saturday afternoon working up some make-up for this impromptu shoot and I fired a few pics off to Warners. How do people get a hold of this shit? It’s a little embarrassing seeing my fanboy enthusiasm spilled all over the web, but great scripts don’t come around too often, especially for characters I love.”
So things seemed to be “all good” in the world of Jonah Hex. How could you pass up on an actor of Jane’s caliber, who actually really wants to play the role, and who has already proven he can play the bad ass vigilante? I have no idea, but they did end up passing on Thomas Jane. Rumors flooded the web about Jane being passed in favor of Josh Brolin (W., No Country for Old Men) Word was that Brolin had all but locked up the role. When pressed on the subject, Brolin seemed to imply that he had been offered the role, and that he just wasn’t sure if he wanted to do it. And then the bad news just kept coming.
Soon after the news about Josh Brolin, it was reported that Nevaldine and Taylor were stepping down as directors of the project. They had already written a script, which may or may not be used. Their reason for leaving the directors chair? Creative differences, of course! Word was that the studio is moving quickly to set a new director, and they were determined to keep Brolin in the fold. So what does that mean for the film? After watching Crank, one would believe that based on the subject matter and their previous works, Nevaldine and Taylor would have made Jonah Hex the R rated film it deserves to be. But the true question to ask, my friends, is what does Josh Brolin think about what is becoming of Jonah Hex? Will he do the film? Check out what Brolin had to say to MTV News about the script and the project in general:
“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. I love 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.”
And when pressed about any official announcement regarding the project, here was his reply:
“Soon. In the last couple months I’ve been going back and forth about it. I went back to my gut. Is it a sell out? What is it I like about this movie? … 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 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.”
What does this all mean? It is surely open to interpretation. But after the acclaim Brolin received for his role as George W. Bush, he must be considered a Hollywood heavyweight. The type of actor that could carry a film; a guy who could put people in seats. So personally, I think Warner Bro’s should thank their lucky stars that Brolin is interested. Sure, Thomas Jane looked good as Hex, and he probably could’ve done a fantastic job. But he can’t garner the attention Brolin can. So the studio should be working to give Brolin anything he wants. If they want Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex, the movie should quickly become Josh Brolin’s film. He is calling the shots. And despite the way that sounds, it would be a good thing for the movie and the studio.
There is one last piece of news for you. It was recently reported that Jimmy Hayward, who recently directed Horton Hears a Who!, has signed on to direct the Jonah Hex film. And they are reportedly still using Nevaldine and Taylor’s script, which contains all the western bounty hunting from the comics, in addition to the supernatural elements that were featured in some issues of Hex’s comic appearances. You have to believe that since Josh Brolin is still attached to this film, this decision was run by him before it was finalized. Hayward has to be Brolin’s choice of director. Of course, you never know what will happen to the Jonah Hex project. Hayward could drop out or be fired. Brolin could even leave the project (Is it too late to bring in Thomas Jane?) Movie making can be an unpredictable business. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. As always, if anything new develops, I will keep you posted.
Currently, the film is slated for release some time in 2010. If they want to meet that deadline, they’d better hurry up and get started!