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Why Haven’t We Seen a Jonah Hex Trailer? An Insider’s View of the Summer Blockbuster’s Troubles

With just barely 60 days left before Warner Bros.’ mega-budget, supernatural Western Jonah Hex is scheduled to arrive in theaters, both fans and Hollywood insiders alike are baffled as to why the troubled Josh Brolin and Megan Fox film still lacks a movie trailer. Considering that Warners started hyping its 2007 epic 300 (like Hex, also based on a graphic novel) fifteen months before it opened, the absence of a Hex trailer at this point is the movie equivalent to spending $150,000 on your wedding, but then waiting to mail out invitations until the weekend before.

A studio spokesman insists a trailer will finally make its debut in front of New Line's A Nightmare on Elm Street, which opens April 30, and that the movie will open as scheduled on June 18. And director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!) texted Vulture to say, "Trailer and film are looking great!" And yet, with this movie's erratic history of creative differences and reshoots, it's hard not to wonder … especially after we talked to Brent Hinds, the guitarist and singer of the heavy-metal band Mastodon, which has been recording and rerecording the film's soundtrack since last fall. "What I’ve seen so far doesn’t seem to be finished to me," says Hinds, adding, "I’d heard a little rumor: 'This shit ain’t gonna be ready.' But then again, Warner Bros. is such a fucking bastard. They’re like, 'The shit comes out on the day it’s supposed to.' But what do I know? I’m just the dude to whom they’re like, ‘Hey, play some crazy fuckin’ music!'"

But before Hinds elaborates, let's run through a brief history of the film. The original directors, Crank's Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, left the film in November 2008, citing "creative differences." Around that time, MTV News asked Brolin about the film, and he said, "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." Hayward was hired on to make his live-action debut, but Warner Bros. ended up less than happy with the first cut; the studio ordered reshoots that began in late January and continued into mid-February, with Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) brought in to serve as Hayward's directing "consultant."

Now, back to the age of Mastodon: The band had been brought in by Hayward to collaborate on the score with Horton's composer John Powell back in September 2009. However, the reshoots and subsequent reediting meant Powell, who was already booked for Tom Cruise's Knight and Day and Doug Liman's Valerie Plame pic Fair Game, had to leave. "There was no animosity," says Hinds. "He was just like, 'If you haven’t figured out what you’re doing cinematically, I gotta go.'"

In his place, composer Marco Beltrami (Repo Men) was hired to work with Mastodon. (A spokesman for Warner Records said the label would not comment on the soundtrack nor Mastodon’s role in it.) “All of a sudden, there’s this new guy, who went in a different direction," continues Hinds, who by that point was on a world tour with the band. "And there was no way he could connect with me: They brought all the new scenes to us, but I was on tour this entire time, so I had no time to preconceive what I wanted the movie to sound like. Being so busy ... it's hard to be creative when you're going through the same motions every day [onstage]."

Hinds says that Beltrami wanted a more restrained, subtle approach than the vigorous shredding Mastodon recorded for Hex in L.A. last fall. "I totally had to go back and start over again," says Hinds, reached in Atlanta as he prepped for the band’s 37-date spring tour of North America, which begins in Charleston, South Carolina, tonight. "We’re still working on it. We wrapped a little of it today; we’re doing a little more tomorrow. Tomorrow is enough for me. I was finished months ago. We had such short notice to work on the thing."

Though constant last-minute change isn't a new phenomenon in Hollywood, Hinds, a first-time movie composer, has found the process frustrating. "I blew my wad over there," he says of the time Mastodon spent recording and composing in L.A. last fall. "It was some of the best shit I’ve ever written in my life. Now I’m just trying to finish with as much patience as possible."

The trailer will be a big sign as to whether this movie will be ready for June. Some 20 to 30 percent of a film’s total awareness in the marketplace comes from its trailer. As such, says one marketing chief at a rival studio, if Warners doesn’t have one ready to roll in front of Elm Street come April 30, it means they'll surely have to postpone, since there’s no other Warner Bros. film in the marketplace before June 18 that could be used to expose Hex to the same young demographic. And even if they do get the trailer out on time, says another marketing executive, "They'll have to spend a fortune on TV to make up for the [advertising] delays." Quick, Mastodon, get shredding!

Photo: Warner Bros.