Ron Perlman could not have been more surprised that Hellboy was actually written with this 54-year old actor in mind. So of course, how can the tall character actor possibly say no to writer/director Guillermo Del Toro? “Oh, you are kidding? Who in their right mind would say no to this character? It’s a dream come true,” says the highly enthusiastic actor. Perlman, who achieved initial success starring in the TV series Beauty and the Beast, was unconcerned that by starring in the title role of Hellboy, he stepping into yet another beastly, and unrecognizable, character.
“It’s Guillermo first of all. My association with him is 14 years old now and you can’t revere a filmmaker more than I revere him and his incredible integrity and ability. So that when Guillermo calls you and says ‘I’m cooking something up, and I want you take part in It’, that’s when you start looking. He’s animated me on three separate occasions that have been some of the greater chapters of my time on this planet.” The actor adds that delving into the heavy make-up and costume, enabled him to dig deep to play the character. “Those things are jumping off points, the parameters. It’s what makes making movies as cool as it is, and makes every assignment absolutely unique. There are some that engage you and inspire the juices of your imagination to flow to a greater degree than others.”
Of course, Perlman, who has appeared in over 40 films, was not the ideal choice for a studio that was investing some $60m in this project, admitting that “I knew Guillermo had a desire to see me in the role but I knew that he’d never pull it off,” genuinely believing that casting the actor was a long shot. “I had been the kind of guy who was flying under the radar. I had a nice career as a character actor, but this was gonna be a big studio movie, which it had to be by nature of the scope and epic quality of the story that he was gonna tell.” But if the film ends up a huge success, perhaps even at this point in his career, is Perlman ready to move OVER the radar as opposed to under it? “I’m happy with whatever comes. I mean, I would love for this movie to vindicate the risks that Guillermo took in making it and I would love for Guillermo to be able to say it was worth it; that this was a battle worth fighting, because at the end of the day we’ve been proven to be smug.”
Perlman remains genuinely passionate about this particular comic book adaptation, describing it as “the best adaptation of another source that I’ve ever personally participated in. His characterization of Hellboy was so vivid and so obvious, from the way this guy trash talks, with the snide wise-cracky, blue collar kind of every man quality to him. I mean, you saw this guy in your mind’s eye and see this thing as you’re reading it. Therefore, it was not a hard job to figure out Hellboy’s personality and to figure out his heart. Nor did it require a great deal of behavioural adjustment on my part because he ended up writing a character that kind of moves through the shit in the same way I do.”
Perlman revelled in the physical hardships he endured making Hellboy and is quite happy to do it all again if a sequel is greenlit. “The more typical and the greater the hardships, the more enthusiastic I am to embrace it. In the case of Hellboy, he is a character anyone could play for the rest of their lives while they were growing tired of him. He’s got every aspect of humanity that an actor would just revel in exploring, participating and he’s got this heart that is this beautiful. My favourite part of Hellboy is his heart.”
In the meantime, while fans wait eagerly for Hellboy’s return, Perlman has another pet project he is working on. “I have actually been trying to set up a project that I’m going to direct and the elements seem to be coming together rather rapidly, so I think I’ll be directing a picture in the fall.” The film is a low-budget film, the very antithesis of Hellboy, called Wooden Lake. “I’ve offered that to actors at this point.” None of which will be Perlman, he hastens to add, smilingly. “I never direct myself, because I don’t like working with me. I would punch me in the mouth if I had to take my direction,” he adds laughingly.