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Josh Brolin Gets Ugly for ‘Jonah Hex’

Jonah Hex, who first appeared in the pages of DC Comics in 1971, may not boast the same marquee value as DC colleagues Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But, after several cancellations and subsequent resurrections, the half-dead bounty hunter has found new life on the big screen, as the titular antihero of director Jimmy Hayward’s latest adventure.

Although Hex’s failure to earn a huge following in print must have tempered expectations for the movie’s box-office potential, it afforded Hayward and star Josh Brolin some creative latitude in their depiction of a hard-drinking former Confederate soldier determined to avenge the murder of his wife and child.

“Hex isn’t Superman,” says Hayward, 39, who credits Brolin with recruiting friends like Michael Fassbender and John Malkovich to co-star in this high-octane Western.

“People don’t have preconceptions about him. There are a lot of different stories about the character, including those that explain his origins. He’s even been to the future – there’s a ‘Road Warrior’ version out there. So this isn’t Batman. We have leeway in what we can do with him.”

Through all his various incarnations, Hex has remained aggressive, foul-tempered and, thanks to a brutal run-in with the nefarious Quentin Turnbull (played in the movie by Malkovich), horribly disfigured. Brolin credits Hex’s unsightly scars, and the grueling process of recreating them, with helping him find the tone for the role.

“We did three hours of makeup a day,” says Brolin, 42, who found that playing a near-invincible warrior reminded him of the envy he felt watching Jackie Chan in 1995’s Rumble in the Bronx. “I had a mouthpiece that held my mouth all the way back, and I walked around with half a mustache and half a beard for three months in New Orleans. It wasn’t attractive, but it contributed to the curmudgeonly feel of the character.

“I couldn’t eat. A lot of times people say they worked 14 hours a day, but they really worked six and spend the rest of the time in their trailer, playing Nintendo. We actually worked 14 hours a day. I’d stuff myself in the morning and drink water the rest of the day in 100-degree heat. But would I do it again? Sure. It’s like having a baby. Now I look at the end result and I think it’s pretty cool.”