Set Visit: Jonah Hex
I got a chance to visit the set of the upcoming film JONAH HEX based on the comic book series about a Confederate officer with a scarred face. A day or so before we left for New Orleans, we were warned that on set, we were going to be surrounded by mosquitoes, poison ivy, poison oak and alligators. No, I'm not kidding. I was constantly worried about the random dogs that seemed to be roaming around the set. Some of the crew told us that these lovely reptiles would often climb up out of the water to check out what was for lunch. Director Jimmy Hayward told us that the locals named one Speedy and that he would shoot through the water every evening.
The scene we watched being filmed was Turnbull (John Malkovich) on his ship making a rousing speech to men and waving the Confederate flag. We were told that, in this scene, he's about to travel to Washington D.C. To attempt to blow up the White House as part of his diabolical plan. We didn't get to hear it with earphones, but just watching the brilliant and quirky Malkovich deliver anything...well, he could read the back of a Cheerios box to me and I'd end up devoting my life to breakfast cereals. We saw the scene shot from different angles, and later, the attack on the ship by Hex (Josh Brolin). They tested out the shots and flares as we walked around the deck of the ship.
The extras milling about the ship never seemed to talk or smile. We were told that many of them were a bunch of historical re-enactors, which tend to bring their own period weapons. They seemed to be taking this extremely seriously (though I did spot a few on their, I'm sure, historically accurate cell phones) and the mood was so eerie that I kept expecting someone to jump out and say “Boo!”. Later, we were herded under the side of the ship as they sent off flares above our heads and out over the water. We walked down to the coast a bit and got to check out the Union ship and watched it sail down the coast and out into the water to set up for the next shot.
On the way back to Turnbull's ship, we were engulfed by a giant cloud of smoke. Meyer explained that this was from a lawn fogger, which would block the monitors and assorted camera equipment from the shot. He told us that the military uses these because, with the right lighting, this can hide even the largest ship.
Makeup artist Christien Tinsley talked about creating the makeup for Brolin's Hex and balancing the fan's expectations with Brolin's ability to speak. He added that we should try to get Brolin to smoke. He explained that since he can't close his mouth completely, he had to cover the hole with two fingers. Poor guy. He certainly seemed to be in a good mood, no matter what he said about the discomforts.
Right before leaving, we were shown one of the guns by second assistant props master Dave Baumone. We saw an 1873 Springfield 4570 Trapdoor that weighted 11 lbs. Though those spooky re-enactors brought some guns with them, they had to acquire quite a few more. Other weapons that he mentioned were a Lamont French Made Revolver, a 45 Single Action Army, a Remington Conversion converted to a cartridge weapon, an 1866 Yellow Blade and an 1873 Winchester. These were mostly reproductions since, as Baumore explained, old guns are notoriously unreliable. He also mentioned that they had a bigger variety than most period films, both because of the long time span and the fact that this is, after all, a film based on a comic book. He revealed that someone gets to use a flamethrower, something not exactly seen in the Civil War.
Stay tuned for our interviews with the cast of the film from the set!