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Interview: Ron Perlman for "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

By Paul Fischer Monday July 7th 2008 12:06AM
Ron Perlman for "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

"Hellboy II" could well be another Beauty and the Beast, that TV series that established Ron Perlman as a major screen presence. His Hellboy re-established the actor as a movie star, and in Hellboy II, while battling golden armies, he also discovers love with the fiery Liz, as well as his caustically comic side. Perlman talked to Paul Fischer.

Question: How was it moving around in the Hellboy costume?

Perlman: It's not that bad. The tail is probably my biggest obstacle because it sometimes zigs when I zag. And you don't want to trip over the tail, because then you squish the rubber.

Question: How much did you improvise? There seemed to be more throwaway, deadpan lines in this film than the first one.

Perlman: That's simply the way Guillermo writes. I mean, it sounded like I was making the whole movie up in Hellboy 1, and yet I think there was maybe one improv moment in the whole movie. You know, he's got this idiom down, this kind of like longshoreman guy who's raised in New Jersey, eastern kind of barroom American slang for a guy who's...you know, English is his second language. It's kind of remarkable.

Question: How much fun was it to embrace Hellboy's humorous side?

Perlman: Great. My favorite aspect of Hellboy is the trash talk, and the cynicism and the humor is real east coast. I'm a New Yorker by birth, and spent almost my whole life there. And I know that humor. I know that kind of gamesmanship that jocks have. And Guillermo somehow captured it in a way that was hard to believe and too good to be true all at the same time.

Question: There was a four-year break between the two films. Was it easy getting back into character?

Perlman: It's probably the least adjustment I make from like the conversation I'm having with you to action that I've ever had to make as an actor. I mean, I didn't make any alterations behaviorally or voice-wise, or this or that or the other thing. Guillermo kept reminding me, "When you start acting, you're going to screw up, because I've done everything in my power to make Hellboy you, and you Hellboy. Don't make any adjustments. Just do it." And that was very freeing, actually. The most freeing direction I've ever been given. But yeah, there's no real adjustment, either for Hellboy 1 or for Hellboy 2. The only thing that changes are the circumstances of which scene we're shooting on any given day.

Question: How much input did you have with Guillermo before shooting?

Perlman: Zero. I didn't want any input. [Laughs] Why would you ever think that you're going to come up with a better idea than this guy who's truly got a handle on this thing in a way that's complete and holistic, profound? You just bask in his glow and thank him and be grateful for the amazing dramatic opportunity he's given you.

Question: Does that make the make-up work more tolerable?

Perlman: Well, for some strange reason, the make-up has never been a burden. When it comes on the heels of absolute no sleep, then everything is a burden. But I regard the transition into the make-up every day as kind of like a ritual of preparing to become Hellboy. Almost like a samurai goes through that highly ritualistic transformation from mortal to warrior. And I come out the other side looking a whole lot cooler than I do in real life, so why would anybody complain about that?

Question: Has the make-up process changed since the first one?

Perlman: Not a whole lot. It moved from being a Rick Baker make-up in Hellboy 1 to a Mike Elizalde Spectral Motion make-up in Hellboy 2. But everything remained the same except for some slight alterations. I think he looks a little younger, a little bit more energetic. A little sexier.

Question: Why do you think Guillermo is the right person to do The Hobbit?

Perlman: I think Guillermo's the right person to do any movie that you can think of. I think that he was born to be a filmmaker, that he occupies a class unto himself as a filmmaker. He's already made one movie in his short career, which goes on the 100 Best Movies Ever Made, which is Pan's Labyrinth. And I think that The Hobbit, which is an exercise in fantasy, is very, very, very, very lucky to have Guillermo del Toro at the helm.

Question: Who are you going to be playing in The Hobbit? It's a given that you're going to be in it.

Perlman: Well, I hope you're right. We haven't discussed it. I did say, when I found out he was going to be out of the country for four years, "I'm going to miss you, pal," and he said, "No you won't!" That's all he said.

Question: Are there any characters you might want to play?

Perlman: Well, I haven't read The Hobbit since I was in sixth grade, and so that's about four and a half decades ago. So if you wanted to give me a test on comparing and contrasting The Hobbit to the works of Carl Jung, I'd probably fail. [Laughs]

Question: Can you talk about how Hellboy goes from hell spawn to cynical New York trash talker?

Perlman: Well, the cynical New Yorkish guy is strictly a product of his environment. He grew up in New Jersey. And he didn't get to go out very much, but I'm sure that there were an awful lot of local people that intersected with him in his youth that gave him the accent, gave him the swagger, gave him that sort of worldly, world-weary New York/New Jersey kind of vibe. At least, that's what I decided, you know? With regard to the heart of the guy, that was completely a gift from Professor Broom to Hellboy, and I think it's so strongly embedded in him that even though he has these primal impulses, things that come with his DNA, somehow the heart triumphs over the nature--the nurtured aspect triumphs over the nature aspect in Hellboy. At least, so far. And he's been tested, but not nearly as much as he will be in the third one, if there is a third one.

Question: Do you think a third movie is a distinct possibility?

Perlman: I think it's a possibility. I think it's completely a function as to how Hellboy 2 does in the marketplace. And if it does quite well, then I'm pretty sure there'll be a third one.

Question: How would you like to see the character development in the third one?

Perlman: Well, I don't have an agenda. I'm completely in the hands of Guillermo; because where he takes it is going to be fine with me. He has given me a rough idea about the direction the third one will take, and I can tell you that in true trilogy fashion, it's the closing of all of the things that have been foreboded in the first two films. It's the Jesus moment, and it gets very, very heavy and very dark, and very cinematic.

Question: Hellboy has a love for kittens and television. Would you say you're a TV junkie or cat person?

Perlman: I love cats, and I love television. And I love to watch cats on television.

Question: Any favorite TV shows?

Perlman: Well, when I was a kid, Superman was my favorite show, and Soupy Sales. So anything that has 'Soop' in the first syllable. What else did I love? I loved The Dick Van Dyke Show. I loved The Danny Kaye Show. I loved Dean Martin.

Question: Did you love horror/sci-fi before you were an actor, or has the passion come from the roles offered to you?

Perlman: The work that I've gotten, and the work that makes up my resume, is purely coincidental. It has nothing to do with my own personal aesthetic. And when you do one, you're on the shortlist to do a second and then a third, you know? And then the proclivity of the guys who found me acceptable to work with, and that's a very short list, happens to be sci-fi oriented. There's Guillermo, there's Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and there's Joe Dante.

Question: Can you talk for a moment about Ice Pirates?

Perlman: Probably not. I mean, I guess I could. Life is real short, man, you know?

Question: Are you doing any voice work?

Perlman: I do voice work all the time.

Question: Are you doing the new Batman cartoon?

Perlman: I can't do the new Batman cartoon because they were looking for people who are here all the time, and I'm traveling too much. But I do a lot of stuff with Andrea. As much as we can logistically swing. I love doing voice work.

Question: What do you like about it so much?

Perlman: Well, I love acting, and I love acting quick. And the process of voice work is very result-oriented. You really go for the big performance like the first time out. And that's my favorite way to work, is on a purely instinctive level. And voice work is fun to do. You don't have to shave. You don't even have to put on pants. And you know, there's a nice little check in the mail.

Question: What else are you working on?

Perlman: Well, right now, I've had to put everything aside because I just started a new TV series called Sons of Anarchy, which will premiere on the FX channel about September 4.

Question: Who do you play?

Perlman: It's about a motorcycle club not unlike the Hell's Angels, in a town called Charming, California. I'm the president of the club. And the guy who was the head writer on The Shield writes it. We have an order for 13 episodes on the air, so we're going to get a chance to spread our wings a little bit and truly begin to explore this twisted, sick world.

Question: FX pushes the envelope. Is this in the vein of things like The Shield?

Perlman: Yeah, it's The Shield on steroids.

Question: What boundaries does this show push?

Perlman: Not so much sex, but definitely violence. These guys are completely ruthless. Let's put it this way: the character I'm playing in Sons of Anarchy has the least feminine side of any character I've ever played. In fact, he has no feminine side. Hellboy has a huge feminine side compared to Clay Morrow, the character that I play. He is the quintessential alpha male in terms of anything that I've ever attempted to do.

Question: Is there a lot of gang warfare?

Perlman: Yeah.

Question: Does it take place in modern day?

Perlman: Yeah.

Question: What is Mutant Chronicles?

Perlman: Mutant Chronicles is a picture that is finished, but yet not finished. Because I guess there are enough problems with it. We're actually going to take it to Comic-Con and have a fan screening to sort of find out what is right and wrong with it. There's a huge amount of great work in it, particularly on the part of Simon Hunter, the director. And Thomas Jane and John Malkovich and I are incredibly proud of the picture, and we're going to do everything we can to help get it out to the marketplace.

Question: Will you be at Comic-Con?

Perlman: We're going to be at Comic-Con with a screening. It's either a 10 o'clock at night screening or a midnight screening. It's just coming together as we speak.

Question: What day?

Perlman: On the 26th of July, Saturday night. They've got a venue and stuff.

Question: How do Uwe Boll and Guillermo del Toro compare as directors?

Perlman: Well, they're both foreigners. That's where the similarity ends. Uwe Boll is kind of like a P.T. Barnum, you know? He's a guy who makes the show possible, in a very good way. And he loves movies, but he hasn't devoted his life to filmmaking as Guillermo has. And anything more I would say would be unfair to both people. You can't name those two people in the same sentence. Even though you just did.

Question: Having worked with Uwe Boll, what do you think of his reputation?

Perlman: I'm not going to comment on Uwe. I never saw the film. Let's say that. I never saw Dungeon Siege. I hear it's got problems. I like the guy a lot. I like the guy a lot and I'm not going to say anything negative about him, ever. Because he's a really good-hearted guy. And that's all I have to say.

Question: Any chance of bringing Outlander to Comic-Con?

Perlman: I don't know what's going on with Outlander. Outlander was supposed to come out last March, and I don't know why it didn't. I can't get any kind of answer as to what the status of it is.

Question: When you signed on for Hellboy 2, did you have any idea there was going to be singing?

Perlman: No. I'm very happy...You know, what a bonus.

Question: Has Barry Manilow seen the movie yet?

Perlman: I don't know.

Question: How about working with Doug Jones? Did the use of his actual voice change your interaction with Abe Sapien?

Perlman: It didn't change my performance in any way, shape, or form. I thought it was phenomenal that we finally got a chance to bask in the greatness of Doug Jones. Times three, by the way, because he's also the Chamberlain and the Angel of Death. And it's his voice in all three instances--I think maybe not in the case of the Chamberlain, but it's certainly his voice in Abe, and it's certainly his voice in the Angel of Death, for sure. He's a major talent who's finally getting the attention that he so richly deserves.

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