John Gallagher Interview

John G: My name is John Gallagher, Jr., and I play Second Lieutenant Evan in 'Jonah Hex' – it's a picture. I'm the second-in-command to Will Arnett's character Lieutenant Grass, so most of my involvement is with him. But I do have some precious little moments with Mr. Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex. My character hero worships him a little bit and thinks that he –for all of his lack of morality – is still a righteous person. And he's a little enamored of...obsessed with him, despite the fact that my character's part of kind of the machine of the film – the union army being the kind of buttoned-up opposite of all of this cast of characters of kind of lawless criminal circus folk running around following their base instincts and doing whatever they please. And I'm 5'9.'' [laughter] This is my real mustache. It took me two years to grow this.

Q: So Will's playing a good guy or a bad guy? We know so little about the project walking in.

John G: Yeah. It's one of those films that is kind of fascinating because it is in a way this comic book picture and has these superhero tendencies and is a very kind of action/adventure what you'd want from it – it's really void of any heroes and villains. You have Jonah Hex, and you have Quentin Turnbull, who John Malkovich plays. That's the hero/villain story, but everybody is flawed in their own way, which makes it really exciting because even though you have kind of 'good guys' and 'bad guys,' the lines are quite blurred as to who is really who. So Will's character, Lieutenant Grass, I'm sure he'll be able to tell you much more than I can, but it's really interesting because you're not quite sure where he falls. He really adheres to the law. He likes rules and regulations, and he really believes that this era of bounty hunters and crazy madmen is coming to an end, and the new order is going to be the information era. There's some really funny dialogue about that which makes slight reference to where we are now in terms of information becoming...well, here we are riding on this bus, hurtling through New Orleans doing multiple interviews. [laughter] So Will's character is a good guy, but when you stand him next to Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex – Jonah Hex, as I'm sure you all know, is this ruffian [with a] scarred face, never sleeps and drinks whiskey for breakfast. They look quite different even though they're both supposed to be essentially on the same side. It's kind of a situation where I think Will's character is a good guy, but you know in a film when there's a character who's clearly in the right but you kind of wish he would just get out of the way so the cool, bad person will come back and shoot some people.

Q: Hex isn't one of the best known comic book characters in the world. Before you got cast in this part, were you even aware of the character?

John G: I was. My awareness had actually come from – you know the animated series of Batman? They worked him into that episode, and I remember watching that and finding it a really fascinating episode and wanting to know more about who is this character. When I found out he was a DC Comics character as well and had been around for a while as kind of this unsung hero in the comic book world, I was really excited when I saw that they were turning this into a film. When I saw that Josh Brolin had been cast, I really felt like these people know what they're doing for sure and are going to make a really interesting version of this movie.

Q: In terms of stylization, would you say this is going to look like a traditional Western, or is this a different take?

John G: I've only spent about a day on the set, but they've got some really fantastic, amazing tricks up their sleeve. It's a little bit of everything. You see a little bit of the 'Dollars' trilogy and Spaghetti Westerns like Clint Eastwood in 'The Man With No Name.' You see that there, but we have Michael Fassbender, who's an amazing actor, playing this tough guy walking around these old villages in this wild Western format, but he's got all these tattoos on him. They're kind of pulling a lot of different references to make it feel like that traditional Western, but we've definitely grown accustomed as audiences to seeing everything each year grow a little bit bigger and a little bit more exciting. I think they're pulling out a lot of the stops on this movie.

Q: As far as comedy, when somebody casts an actor like Will Arnett, it makes you ask, 'What's the tone of the film?'

John G: What's incredible is a lot of people are going to be really surprised, and I was too to get here and start work in my scenes with Will. It's not an inherently comic role that he's cast in. And he's fantastic. I think it's an opportunity I'm happy he's being given. Because in the past few years, he's obviously done amazingly well in the comic roles, and there's no question about it that the man's hilarious. Whether he can help it or not, he just is. He's tremendous in this role, and there's a lack irony and a lack of sarcasm to his performance. It's very, very straight with him playing this Union army soldier who's meticulous and buffed up and dead set on his ways. I think people are going to be really taken aback when they see Will in this movie, in a good way.

Q: When did you get to New Orleans, and where are you in terms of shooting? This is all new to us, so how long has the production been going for now?

John G: I guess I was here for a week like two weeks ago. That was when shooting actually began. I got here, and they brought us all here at the same time, and we got to do a reading with most of the cast, which is really a blessing when you can jump off on the same page together. They started shooting, and most my week was spent with horseback riding lessons. I'm not too familiar with that because I don't spend too much of my day on horseback.

Q: Are you getting comfortable with it now?

John G: Yeah. I'm feeling like I can a little bit fake my way through it like I know what I'm doing. But they have an amazing team of wranglers that are making it look like we know what we're doing up there. But I have only shot one day so far, though they've personally been shooting for a couple of weeks now. They've done some really big sequences, and some of the great action scenes have been shot. But the main chunk of my work here begins tomorrow. I'm so behind the the schedule, I don't even know what it is I'm shooting tomorrow, but I know I'm shooting something.

Q: You're obviously growing your hair and beard out to be more old timey. What has it been like to prep to play a Union soldier in terms of wearing the uniform and carrying the hardware? Have you had much experience with that yet?

John G: Yeah. The costume designer is wonderful, and much like all the other people on this film, they pulled from all sorts of inspirations to make sure that it's historically accurate. But it also is a filmed based on a comic book, so you can be a little lenient and go far out there with a lot of the choices. But it was very fun putting on the Union outfit for the first time. They have a really good eye for transporting people. I came in, and I had grown out my hair and grown more of a full beard, and I sat down and a few seconds later they'd trimmed my hair and gotten rid of all this [beard growth] so it was the kind of thing where I was a little embarrassed to go back to New York City without being made fun of by my friends. Some of them did, and rightly so. But they really did have a great eye for seeing somebody and saying, 'This is what's going to work. You're going to look wonderful in this.' Michael Shannon's in this picture, and I don't want to give anything away about his role, but he plays the ringleader of this kind of devilish circus act out in the desert. They've done some amazing things with makeup and prosthetic teeth to make him look the part.

Q: It's a good cast. A really unusual cast.

John G: It is a unique cast. That's what really started to make me feel like I knew this was going to be special, because I knew the story of Jonah Hex was such an exciting one, and as we started to build the cast with each person, I thought it was such an interesting group of actors. Akiva Goldsmith is one of our producers here working with our director Jimmy, and they love what they do, and you really feel like they got a group of people together that they really like and admire. It feels as if we're kind of part of our own little devilish circus act. [laughs]

Q: How has the film changed a little bit with Jimmy working on the script? I know that Neveldine and Taylor did the first draft. I'm curious as to whether what was originally on the page is what the film is going to be, or was it slight changes?

John G: Mostly just slight changes. There hasn't been anything too grand that they changed. One thing I loved from the first draft that I read to the revisions is that I felt reading it that I wanted to know a little bit more about Megan Fox's character Leila. I wanted to know more about that character, and in the first draft it was a bit more mysterious. So most of the revisions have really been character-based and fleshing out the characters a bit. Areas towards the climax of the as usually in making a movie like this where the question is, 'How's it going to end? What's going to be the climax?' have gone through some changes here and there, but for the most part the script is pretty close to what I first read.

Q: The Hex comics mix various other genres with the material from horror to the supernatural. Can you tell us how the film might do the same?

John G: Absolutely. Especially because so much of it is being shot and takes place in New Orleans, which has a lot of spooky history and voodoo and the occult – it's a wonderful place to be shooting a movie like this. Because there are a lot of moments of sheer grit and realism in the comics and then some small, not the centerpiece of the film, but the backdrop of the Jonah Hex character does wrestle with real demons and actual supernatural elements he's fighting to come to terms with whether he thinks he's hallucinating in one moment, but it kind of goes off in another.

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