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INT: Ron Perlman

Based on the popular Dark Horse comic, HELLBOY (opening this Friday) is the story of a demon summoned from hell by Nazis, captured by the Allied forces and employed by the U.S. Government in the fight against evil. But this isn’t your typical Nazi demon crime-fighter flick; directed by acclaimed horror director Guillermo del Toro, it’s one of the most anticipated movies of this Spring, with the potential to become another bankable comic-book film franchise for Columbia (the SPIDER-MAN folks).

Donning the red body suit and filed-down horns in the role of Hellboy is acclaimed character actor Ron Perlman. Like all good character actors, Perlman has a way of disappearing into his roles, giving him a certain degree of anonymity among mainstream audiences and a devoted, cult-like following among sci-fi fanatics. How good is Perlman? The first time I saw him, as a deformed hunchback monk in THE NAME OF THE ROSE, I actually thought that he was semi-retarded, like Corky in "Life Goes On". No joke.

Last week I got a chance to talk to Perlman, who, though a tad eccentric, showed no obvious signs of intellectual or cognitive disability. On the contrary, he was sharp, witty, and pretty damn cool. Check out what he had to say about Hellboy!

RON PERLMAN

Director Guillermo del Toro mentioned that you were his sole choice for the lead in Hellboy. Does that surprise you?

Very much so.

Did you ever contemplate turning the role down?

[Laughs] No! Not at all. Who in their right mind would say no to this character? It was a dream come true. First of all, my association with Guillermo is fourteen years old now. You can’t revere a filmmaker more than I revere his incredible integrity and ability. You can’t; it’s impossible. When Guillermo calls you and tells you, “I’m cooking something up and I want you to take part in it,” that’s when you start living! I’ve worked with him on three special occasions which have been some of the greater chapters of my life on this planet.

Were you familiar with the comic book prior to shooting?

Peripherally. I knew about the comic book. I knew that Guillermo had the rights to transfer this to film. I knew he had a desire to see me in the role. And I knew that he would never pull it off. (Smiles)

Why?

This was going to be a big studio movie...by nature of the scope and the epic quality of the story he was going to tell.  I’m the kind of guy that flies under the radar. I’ve had a nice career as a character actor.  It was just too much of a long-shot. I would love for this movie to vindicate the risks that Guillermo took in making this movie. I would love for Guillermo to say, “It was worth it. This was a battle worth fighting.”

Was the prospect of all the training, make-up and prosthetics daunting for you?

It’s a jumping off point. It’s the parameters. It’s what makes making movies as cool as it is. Every assignment is absolutely unique. There are some that engage you and aspire the juices of your imagination to flow to a greater degree than others; there are some things that are pure commerce. But those aren’t Guillermo del Toro moments.

What distinguishes Guillermo from other directors working today?

The ability to tell a story in a way that’s never been seen before. He does things on the surface that are easily to categorize, and then when you watch the film you realize that they are not at all what you thought they were going to be. Or they are not even what you’re watching. There are always parables and metaphors for a greater set of conflicts. I always said that Guillermo makes three movies. He makes the one you’re watching. He makes the one that as soon as you finish watching you go “Wait a minute. There was an awful lot of symbolism there that had to relate to other things.” And there’s a week later where you go, “Oh, fuck. That’s what that was!” If I may be so bold as to sound immodest, Hellboy is probably the most complex of all of his films. If you see it twice or three times you’re going to see stuff that you didn’t see the first time.

In adapting the comic book – and it’s the best adaptation of another source that I’ve ever participated in – his characterization of Hellboy was so vivid and so obvious. The way that this guy trash talks. The snide wisecracks, blue-collar everyman quality to him, it was a no-brainer. You saw this guy in your mind’s eye. You see the thing when you’re reading it. It was not a hard job to figure out Hellboy’s personality, and it was not a hard job to figure out his heart. It didn’t require a great deal of behavioral adjustment on my part. He ended up writing a character that moves through the shit in life in the same way that I do.

As a young actor, who inspired you?

When I was a kid watching Brando go from Stanley Kowalski to Terry Malloy, I was just tickled by how he disappeared into character and totally transformed himself role to role. You never saw Marlon, you just saw the guy. I can’t say that my career is in any kind of shape or form is the result of my authorship. It’s absolutely, purely coincidental. But I happened to have been from my first film Quest of Fire, asked to solve a transformational problem instead of being in a behavioral and naturalistic problem.

Do you like to do that?

The trick is to do that while you’re doing the other. At the end of the day, if there’s no truth there is nothing worth watching. The more truthful something it is, the more compelling it is. I love to take a textured way of working where you have this abstraction – there’s this character that doesn’t exist because he’s a demon and you have your humanity. There are these clues in the script and you have to find a way to somehow to find a common ground.  If it’s not real or truthful, it doesn’t come from something you recognize as a real verisimilitude behavioral imperative, then nobody’s going to be interested in it no matter how much make-up is on it or lack thereof.

Did you get a chance to experience the various charms that the city of Prague has to offer?

Oh, yeah. [Laughs] I mean that in the most innocent way possible! [Laughs] We had shot Blade II in Prague so I knew the place like the back of my hand. I had worked on Blade II for four months, so I was eager to get back there. It is a very beautiful city, very cosmopolitan, great place to play, great place to sit and contemplate…

There were a couple of local pubs that I was comfortable with hanging out in and a half dozen restaurants that I liked. The food is kind of heavy but delicious. You don’t want to eat it everyday playing Hellboy, because it slows you down a little.

Are you committed to a sequel?

There is a theoretical commitment, yes.

Are you willing to embrace the physical hardships of taking the role again?

The more physical and the greater the hardships – the more enthusiastic I am to embrace it. With Hellboy, I could play it again and again for the rest of my life without growing tired of it. He’s got every aspect of humanity that actors revel over. He’s got this heart that is as beautiful… well, my favorite part of Hellboy is his heart. His sense of humor is amazing. When in those few minutes in the film when he reveals his heart – during scenes around his father or his girlfriend or he is asked to make the final choice in that dialectic that lives in him that is evil and good that defines his humanity, when those things are pushed to the point where they need to be revealed – that’s the part of playing this character that is most interesting to me.

What are you working on right now?

The elements are coming together rapidly so it looks like I’ll be directing a film in the fall. It’s a small low-budget film called Wooden Lake and I am making offers to actors to this point. I did this short film called Two Soldiers which ended up winning an Academy Award, and I did it as a favor to a director of photography so he could send a message to the world that he could direct. He ended up directing what I think is the most beautiful film of last year. And he’s going to shoot Wooden Lake for me.

Are you going to be in it as well?

No, I never direct myself. I don’t like working with me. [Laughs]  I would punch myself in the mouth if I had to take my direction. I’m going to continue to work on Wooden Lake and hopefully shoot in the fall. Whatever happens between now and then is anybody’s guess.  I’ve just been happy to do what I could, to be alongside Guillermo during this entire journey. I’ve been happy to have not been working, not going off to Europe. The most important thing for me is to be right here with [Guillermo] because he was so there for me.

You’ve been in a number of sci-fi/fantasy films. Was that something you set out to do from the beginning?

It’s just something that happened. You know, you don’t plan on falling in love with the girl that you end up falling in love with. You just meet her and all of a sudden sparks fly. It’s the same thing with me and fantasy. It’s purely coincidental and yet the roles that I’ve gotten to play with, the Beast and now Hellboy, are probably the greatest and most truest statements that I could make as an actor. Because I’m very in touch with the monster and the monstrous parts with me.  And one spends one’s life if one feels that way about himself. Either over-compensating for, learning to live with or overwhelming these feelings of monstrousness. That’s who Vincent was and that’s who Hellboy was. The reality is it’s what you do to make peace with those things.

There are a lot of people that have aspects about themselves that are monstrous. And in the choices they make, they either transcend those feelings or are bogged down by or are slaves to them. And the characters that I’ve played – the mythic nature of their heroism or their ability to sacrifice themselves for the greater good springs from those impulses instead of a… destiny.

Source: JoBlo.com

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