Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Yet again in the make up chair - how does Hellboy
make up experience compare with previous ones?
A. It’s typical! It’s typical in a world
of the fantastical. The very first movie I ever did was Quest
for Fire, that was a four-hour make-up job. The second movie was
a four-hour make-up job and then I did a TV series for three years
[Beauty and the Beast] which was a four-hour make-up job every
day. So come to this one, and there are no surprises.
The difference is that working with Rick Baker is very annoying,
because we had a full year between the moment the project was
greenlit and I was finally approved, and when we started filming.
And he used every single day of that year process to either measure
a spot from my forehead – from here to here – or have
my entire arm in a vat of Plaster of Paris, which ‘didn’t
go well enough’, so I was back the following day in there
Or in a chair completely covered in white goop making impressions
of me and I really wanted to kill the guy and everyone that was
a part of the process until I finally saw the first make up test
The camera came on and we were watching this the following day
after we did it, and some girl was standing with me, who didn’t
know that the camera was rolling, and she was asking me if I knew
where my car keys were because my car was blocking Rick Baker’s
car and he wanted to leave. And I was looking at this girl and
you could see the 11 ways I was thinking of killing her.
And I wasn’t speaking, I wasn’t mugging, I was just
wanting to kill her. And I looked at this and I went ‘Jesus
Christ, this is the most expressive make up I’ve ever worn!’.
And it was an epiphany, because it allowed me to play Hellboy
as if I was wearing nothing at all, I mean I just basically played
the idea of the guy and the feelings of the guy and I was confident
that it would read through.
And if you go back and watch the movie again, you’ll see
that you always know what Hellboy is thinking without me doing
anything extra. So that annoying year has been long forgotten
– even though I remembered it to tell you – but the
movie lives on!
Q. Have you developed a useful shorthand on set after
working with Guillermo del Toro three times?
A. Oh yeah. I mean Guillermo knows that I have a rather
over-the-top bag of tricks, and loves me in spite of it. He says,
‘you’re a whore with a past, and I love you!’.
I mean that’s an endorsement right there.
Q. Did he champion you for the part?
A. Unbelievably so. I mean it took him seven years from
the moment he acquired the rights to this, to the moment when
someone actually submitted to his single-minded, uncompromising
vision of this film. Seven years!
And it went through one studio for five years, where he could
have made the movie ten times over if he had just changed that
one little idea of his as to who was going to play Hellboy. The
fact that he prevailed in this quest, which I always believed
was absolutely undo-able, is an act I’ve never witnessed
before in my 30 years as a professional actor, and probably never
I’ve never, ever seen somebody willing to sacrifice something
that was as important to them as Hellboy was to him for the sake
of an idea. He made it very clear: ‘I would rather not do
the movie than do it in a way that’s not the way I see it’.
Q. I saw Hellboy as a loved-up, hormonal, misunderstood
teenager, how did you see Hellboy?
A. Same way!
Q. Would you like to expand on that?
A. No, not now that you’ve given me a choice! [Laughs]
That’s what makes him so easy to play, and what makes him
so recognisable to me, is the fact that we’re dealing with
a guy who’s completely undisciplined, totally self-indulgent,
will do anything to entertain himself at anyone’s expense.
He takes the piss out of all of his mates, as you guys like to
say over here, across the pond, and he’s like a 14-year-old
whose parents have left town and he’s left to the refrigerator.
And there’s no limits to his appetites.
Where his 14-year-old mindset is most well articulated is this
relationship with Liz Sherman, where he loses all of his swagger
and it’s replaced by him being a quivering mass of jellified
flesh. He becomes completely inarticulate and unable to close
the deal, as it were, because he loves her too much!
Q. What’s the attraction with these genre movies,
these fantastical characters, because I get the impression that
playing a guy in a suit doesn’t interest you that much?
A. If he had horns....he’d be my agent! It seems
as though I have a rather extreme body of work. I’m either
the very good guy, or the very bad guy, and nothing in between.
I don’t know what to attribute that to.
I do admit that there has been a proclivity of me being separated
by an inch and a half of latex from the camera. And I also have
come to realise, even though I didn’t know this when I set
out to do it, that we all kind of travel the path that’s
open to us.
For me, the first film was Quest of Fire, and I became known as
the guy who, almost like Lon Chaney, transforms himself. So every
time that exercise re-appears, I’m on a shortlist of people
considered for those roles.
Having said all that, I enjoy it, and I enjoy mask work, because
it’s very freeing. When there is this kind of layer between
me and the rest of the world, it somehow opens me up, and allows
me to be more expansive than I might be if I was not hidden.
What I really enjoy is the collaboration with people like Rick
Baker and Christopher Tucker and Stan Winston and the Westmores
and the other great make-up artists that I’ve worked with
– because the exercise at that point is in reserving judgement
on how to play a role, until you find out what that other artist’s
vision of that person is.
So there’s an extra layer of collaboration that takes place.
And since the best thing about being in the movies is the collaborative
nature of the art form, where it’s 250 people playing a
role rather than one person playing a role, the more collaboration
I add to the mix, it seems the more challenged and engaged I am.
Q. Are there any strategies you’ve developed to
deal with the tedious process of four hours in the chair?
A. Let me just set the record straight – I really
love sitting around doing nothing. And I love that more than anything.
So if you put me in a chair, and you say I’m going to be
here for four hours doing nothing, I’m a happy guy.
Please don’t pity me. I have great cappuccino, we get cigarette
breaks every 15 or 20 minutes, if I want ‘em – and
since I’m Hellboy, I’m the guy who decides when I’m
gonna get up and stretch.
There’s amazingly good music being played in the Hellboy
trailer, and I’m with a bunch of guys who are the trashiest
human beings on earth. The testosterone flies.
Q. There's no trepidation about the sequel then?
A. Not at all. I’m eager to get back and play this
Q. You’re a busy man
– how do you enjoy the pressure of being a headline star?
A. If it weren’t for the fact that the character
was so incredibly delicious to me, for the reasons I’ve
already listed, I probably would have been very intimated. But
that was completely overshadowed by enthusiasm. I couldn’t
wait to get to the set to play this guy, because I thought he
was such a cool dude, and so deliciously devilish, and so funny.
His take on every situation was entertaining me, and I wanted
to share that with the world. So I was never intimidated.
I was cognisant of what Guillermo risked in the seven-year quest
he was on to win me the role, and I was cognisant of the fact
that he was trading in all of his reputation and good will –
that there were a lot of people standing on the sidelines saying,
‘he’s got to fail. He’s gonna screw up. You
don’t make a movie with Ron Perlman as the star, you just
don’t do it!’.
So I maybe put a little extra oomph into what I was doing, to
ensure that we were going to make the nay-sayers have to stand
up and take notice.
Q. Was there any pressure from the fan-base, who differed
from the Spider-Man fans, in
that there's fewer of them, but they're very passionate?
A. Spider-Man has been read by millions and millions
of people, and Batman
likewise, are icons in our pop culture. And Hellboy, which has
a readership of 28, is a very different exercise.
We had to introduce this character to the entire world. Nobody
had seen him before, except from those 28 people; nobody knew
who he was, nobody had seen anybody that looked like this, and
not a whole lot of people knew who I was.
So it wasn’t as though we had anything to hang your hat
on, except for the movie and how good a job we did with it. I
guess the studio grappled with how you market this film. I think
they did a really good job, and the fact that we opened at number
one proves that they succeeded.
Q. Are people now seeking out the comic?
A. The readership tripled to 66.
Q. What was the reaction of those 28 people?
A. I think they really appreciated the effort, and the
fact that they had the biggest Hellboy fan in Guillermo leading
the charge. That he was not looking to improve upon the world
of Mike Mignola, but that he was looking to do an homage to it.
And to show the world why this is such a cool comic-book character
to celebrate on film.
Q. Is it true that you broke a rib on the train scene?
A. Yes, but it was just one rib. I have lots more. The
sequence was me chasing Sammael, the monster that I’m chasing
through the whole movie onto a moving train, but the train was
moving towards us in this case. In most movies, it’s moving
away. So I had to jump onto a train that was coming toward me,
in one take.
I usually timed it so I hit the train before the train hit me,
but there was one take where I took an inordinately big leap,
because I was tired of shooting the fucking sequence – and
I thought, ‘okay maybe if I am really a good boy, and I
do it so dramatically that Guillermo will finally move on’.
But the train hit me before I hit it.
I was perfectly willing to keep acting, even though I smarted,
but out of the corner of my eye I could see the DP was operating
one of the four cameras and it was distracting to me.
Finally, I heard ‘Cut! What’s wrong?’. And the
DP said, ‘I don’t think he’s supposed to be
crying in this sequence!’.
Q. When did you encounter Hellboy?
A. Guillermo introduced me to the comic book that very
night, which was eight years ago. He took me to a comic book store
and said ‘Hellboy – Ron, Ron – Hellboy, at some
point you guys are going to be one and the same’. He said,
‘I’m going to buy you a comic book’, and I said
I avoided Hellboy for all that time because I didn’t want
to become emotionally involved with a character that I didn’t
think I would be playing, because I really didn’t think
I was going to playing him. To this day, I still think ‘did
that really happen?’.
But I’m not gilding the lily, I truly thought it was impossible,
and I refused to address myself emotionally.
Q. So for a long time this was just an image –
when did it change?
A. The day he told me that Joe Roth had plonked down
the money to do it. At that point, I drove myself to that same
comic book store and bought every comic, which was a stupid idea,
because the following day a box of ‘em arrived, and I was
out about $125. Tried to exchange them but they said, ‘sir,
we don’t do exchanges on books’.
Q. What do you get recognised for?
A. It’s funny. I’ve sort of made a game out
of it. You see that moment when somebody goes, ‘hey, that’s...’
Most of the time they think I’m Tom Waits, especially in
Europe. I’ve been here for the last two weeks on this tour,
and 50 per cent of the time it’s been, ‘I don’t
mean to bother you, Mr Waits, I love your music’.
I’ve made a game out of saying ‘this one is going
to say Name of the Rose, because he looks incredibly intellectual
and bookish. And this one’s going to say Police Academy,
because he looks like a total degenerate.
Q. Do you still get Beauty and the Beast fans?
A. Yeah, very much so.
Q. You were a sex symbol for that?
A. Well thank-you. Everywhere but at home.
Q. Have you ever aspired to lead a film?
A. No. I was very realistic about it. Grateful that I’d
ever been in movies at all, because it’s such an important
aspect of my background, my love for movies. But I love being
under the radar. I love being the guy that the movie didn’t
hinge on to be successful.
I like being a character actor, I like more extreme explorations
into humanity, which come with usually not the star of the film.
He’s generally more neutral and everything happens around
I like being in that periphery. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s
got to do it.
Q. Who are your own heroes?
A. My favourite actors were Burt Lancaster, Spencer Tracy.
Then, when I was old enough to have a more well-articulated aesthetic,
Marlon Brando, when I really realised how amazingly complex his
talent was. And Gene Hackman. All the icons everyone else reveres.
Q. Did you read comic books?
A. No, I was never a comic-book guy. I read Jack London
books when I was a kid. And Dickens. When I realised that theatre
was my passion in my high-school everything moved to play-writing,
then screenwriting. So I’m not the most well-read reader
Q. Did you ever think about playing Hellboy with a Scottish
accent, given that he was 'born' on a Scottish isle?
A. I did, but it was dubbed.
Q. Did you keep the horns?
A. I put the horns on every once in a while when I’m
near a singles bar.
Q. Does it work?
A. On certain nights.