If there’s a nicer man than Doug Jones, I’d like to meet him. Sitting across from Doug is like being enveloped in sheer human goodness; this is a guy who has an unflinching positivity and a ton of love to give. The evening that Kelvin and I interviewed him was his night off and he still came to hang out – and he brought a sweet gift for one of his co-stars who was at the hotel bar that night. Doug is the heart of the cast of Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
The film also represents a major step for him: not only is Doug inside the Abe Sapien suit, he’s providing the character’s voice. In Hellboy the voice came from David Hyde Pierce, but I bet that if no one told you the voice changed in this film you wouldn’t even notice it. I had a chance to watch a rough assemblage of a scene where Abe meets the elf princess Nuala at the Troll Market and Doug’s voice matches perfectly with Abe from the first film. It’s nice that Doug gets the chance to speak here because so many of his most famous roles have been inside suits where he either doesn’t speak or someone does it for him. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new phase for him.
This is big. This is Doug Jones fully stepping out into Abe Sapien.
How nice is that?
It’s been such a fun ride for me, man. I mean, it’s not only stepping out fully in Abe and letting my own voice be heard this time as well, but the levels that Abe gets to play this time are great. In the first movie he was lovely and delightful, but kind of a one note character as a sidekick, but in this film there’s so many more levels of personality delved into.
What’s different for Abe this time?
In the absence of John Hurt’s character, Professor Broome, I feel like I’m sort of stepping into his role as the brains of the operation. Jeffrey Tambor’s character, Manning, Agent Manning – I kind of calm him down when he gets upset with Hellboy. I’m just sort of the glue that holds everyone at bay from each other. I’m also wielding a gun this time. I’ve never done that before. I have a little bit more physical activity when there’s bad guys present. Also, you just talked to Anna Walton [that will run tomorrow!]–
And there’s some sparks there?
There are some sparks there. Princess Nuala and Abe, there’s a little crush, a little love thing going on there.
Is Abe going to get some?
It depends on whatever some you’re referring to.
Has Abe ever gotten some?
No. This is his first time being in love ever.
He’s an old fellow.
Yes, he is, but he doesn’t age like humans and so he’s having an adolescent moment here, that first love and flutter, flutter ‘I don’t understand my feelings’ kind of a moment in life. How that affects your judgment comes into to play because he’s a very intellectual being and very confident in that, but when you’re feelings get involved you start making decisions that might not be so intellectually sound. So we might see Abe going through some challenges that way.
It seems like there’s more humor in this one. I saw a scene with you and the Princess meeting for the first time where there was sort of a wink?
Oh, yeah. ‘Jump out the window. I’ll take care of this. Uh oh.’ There’s been a lot of that. This entire script is very funny. Guillermo [del Toro] is a brilliant writer and just a brilliant artist anyway. I think of him as an artist who really has a clean canvas everyday and you never know what you’re going to get that day. It’s like, ‘Oh, colors, colors and shapes. Lets do it.’ To be one of his color pallets is a real honor for all of us actor types.
You’re one of his more used colors too.
This is my fourth film with him, yeah.
How does the relationship between you guys work? Are you the De Niro to his Scorsese?
[laughs] I would love to think so. Wow. I don’t know though if I would ever put myself on league with De Niro. Someone asked me the other day if I was his Johnny Depp to Tim Burton. I would love to think so. There’d be no bigger honor to me in the world. He has plans for me in a lot of his upcoming films and he’s been quoted as saying that he’ll always have a monster on his call sheet. And he likes to come to me for monsters it seems. Roles that don’t have eyes and can’t hear and have to stumble around, he seems to like to put me in those.
Jeffrey Tambor said whenever he feels like complaining he says two words – Doug Jones. He said that you never complain? How do you do it because these suits are a big deal and the sets are hot and it’s exhausting.
Well, first of all everyone takes very good care of me and the hell that you go through physically is not as bad some people like to say it is for me. It depends. Now, my friend Brian Steele who’s in the film playing four different monsters in this movie was Sammael in the first movie, he wears a lot of heavy and cumbersome mechanical things. He’s going through a lot. So Jeffrey Tambor looks at me and says that he won’t complain. I look at Brian Steele and say that I will not complain. So with me and the applied and glued on makeups and some limited vision and maybe with gills that are pulled over my ears it can be difficult to get through the day, but the makeup artist and the special FX team are fantastic to me. I really have nothing to complain about. But when you’re doing an eighteen hour day there are challenges physically, yes, and when you try to keep your inflection fresh with your dialogue and your moment you want the cameras to roll on a fresh relationship scene that’s going on or whatever, it is a challenge to find that zone that makes it all real when you’re exhausted and tired.
Is there a trick to doing that for you?
Catnaps whenever you can take them. I’ve been spotted on set several times in the Doug Jones chair slumped over so far even that a conversation happened while I wasn’t away. ‘Is Doug, is he asleep over there?’ Someone else said, ‘No, I think he’s having a stare down with his private bits. He’s waiting to see who’s going to blink first.’ Abe eyes are open all the time so they couldn’t tell that I was drooling on myself.
Brian plays four characters. Are you doing more than three?
I’m doing three for sure. There was another makeup that was a possibility of throwing on me in the Troll Market, but I don’t think that they’re going to have time which is fine. I think that three characters are quite enough.
You’re obviously Abe, but who else are you?
I’m Abe Sapien. The Angel of Death which is a yummy and gorgeous moment in the film that will leave goose bumps on you. Also, The Chamberlain who’s the door guy for King Balor who’s the father of Luke Goss’s character Prince Nuada and Anna’s character. You’ll see him at the beginning. It’s more of a setup at the beginning of the film to get some of their background and then the Chamberlain is his door keeper. Luke comes barging in and he’s the ne’er-do-well, renegade, rebellious kid who’s coming home to see dad and give him some what for. I stop him at the door and say, ‘We have a policy about weapons in the king’s chamber.’ So it’s a fun little moment.
In ‘Pan’, Pale Man was the only thing, as an adult, has given me nightmares. As an actor you create these characters that are so amazing and so memorable and so psychologically scarring. You’re always under the makeup too and so it’s the character and not you. Do you ever want to get out from behind the makeup fully and be just Doug Jones onscreen?
I have been Doug Jones with this face many times, but with lesser known works. A lot of TV guest starring and a lot of films where I come on and say two lines and I’m gone or whatever or have big parts in an independent film that never get scene except on DVD if you go looking on Amazon, but the thing with me is that I don’t draw that big of a distinction between makeup and no makeup because it’s all acting to me. I’ve said many times that all actors go through hair and makeup and costume. Sometimes it takes five minutes and sometimes it takes five hours, but all of it requires an actor who’s gotten into the character, the back story, the heart and soul of whoever he’s playing that day whether you’ve got reams of dialogue or whether you’re grunting and scratching people’s faces – whatever it is you have to find that space and be that character. It’s more comfortable when you get to wear a t-shirt and have some powder on your face for a sitcom. The older I get the more I think, ‘Hmm, those parts are more appealing, aren’t they?’ So, yeah.
But there’s no ego thing in getting a big role just as yourself and not a monster or in a suit?
But it is me in a way. All of the characters that I play have a little bit of Doug Jones in them, I hope, as any actor would have that. Any of Selma [Blair] character do too. There’s some Selma in everyone of them. I want to bring myself. Anyone who hires Doug Jones for a part, I want them to get a little bit of Doug Jones in it. I think it’s me in there whether they recognize my face or not.
When I see Silver Surfer I see Doug Jones. I don’t see Laurence Fishburne.
And you shot Silver Surfer with the expectation that it was going to be your voice, right?
We could be here a long time for this conversation. It wasn’t the expectation as much as it was the possibility. I think I knew from the get go that they had not determined who the voice was going to be. I was in the running as much as everyone else. Everyone loved what I was doing with the voice – producers, writers, cast mates. Everybody loved the voice that I had affected for the Surfer. In the end 20th Century Fox is really good at marketing films and part of getting butts in seats are celebrity names. I’m not really sure that the 20th Century Fox people understood the ever powerful geek fan base that follows me. I’m not sure that they were aware of that even, but Fishburne has some geek fan base and some mainstream and so he pulled it all in and that’s fine. I understand that part and whatever business had to take place, but artistically from my standpoint it was disappointing to lose my voice in that way.
Have you signed on to a sequel for that?
I have, and well, as is common for roles like that, for franchises like that I have a three picture deal, yes. Whether they exercise the next two options is up to them. I hope so. I want to stay involved with it and I would love to get my voice back for that one next time too. We’ll see how all of that plays out.
There were rumors of a solo Silver Surfer movie…
A lot of rumors, I know. At ComiCon there was a writer who’s initials were JMS, I think there were rumors that he was hired to write the script and he was talking about it at ComiCon. Other rumors I’ve seen online where Fox has a whole schedule of upcoming movies and ‘Silver Surfer’ has been moved to the front, but no one has called me and said, ‘Hey, Doug, here’s our schedule.’
Is mocap different from suit work?
I’ve never done mocap. I’ve never worn a green screen leotard with dots on it. As the Silver Surfer I wore a makeup and costume so I stepped out of my trailer as the Silver Surfer everyday. It did have some tracking dots on it so that they could put the treatment on it later, but the original tests were me in a rubber makeup and suit that had some enhancement over it that was like a transparent mercury looking thing. It was gorgeous. It became more and animated with each pass, I believe, because what you saw in the end was like, ‘Oh, that looks like CG.’ I saw some scenes where I was like, ‘Yep, that’s me with CG over it.’ Then other scenes were like, ‘I was never there for that one.’ So my stunt work was done digitally, but when you saw the Surfer powered down in his tarnished state that was all me with some enhancement on the eyes.
We talked to Guillermo today about this movie opening and making $200 million and they do ‘Hellboy 3′. When that happens where do you want to see Abe go?
Oh, golly. I’ve seen Abe go so many places in this part two that I can’t imagine. I’m tired enough that it’d be okay if he stayed home while they all fought the fight. I’m kidding, Guillermo [laughs]. No. I haven’t thought that far ahead. You’re talking to a very tired boy right now. I think I’ve been working more days than anyone else in the cast.
You’re here to the end then?
I’m here until the bitter end, yeah. The very last day of filming is the Chamberlain that I’ll be playing. Where would I like to see him go? If you asked me this on ‘Hellboy 1′ I would’ve told you everything that I’m getting to do in ‘Hellboy 2′.
Did you tell Guillermo that?
I didn’t have to. Abe is a beloved character for Guillermo. He really adores Abe and he wanted to see more of Abe. So the buddy time that I get with Hellboy this time is very brotherly, very camaraderie, very buddy buddy. I love it. There’s more of that. There’s the love interest. More hands on with the bad guys. There’s more of the team. Even with Selma there’s more of a brother/sister thing going on with us this time too. I wanted to see more of that as well. So I have everything that I want with this one. So part three it’ll be gravy, a yummy gravy. Gravy is good. Mashed potatoes aren’t the same without them.
When you’re done here and go home in November do you have something lined up because everyone is booking heavy for the strike?
I’ve heard. ‘The strike, the strike.’ That may or may not happen, right?
Yeah, but it looks like it’s going to happen.
Are we at an impasse already? Right now I have two independent films that are juggling each others schedules to accommodate me which is great. One is to play an Italian Mafioso which is great because look at me. This is with my own face and it’s so against type that I had to say yes. It’s a quirky comedy and it’s an Australian film that’ll be filmed in Australia. So I’ll get to go down there and be in this comedy that would remind you of like a ‘Snatch’ coupled with a ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrells’. It’s that kind of feeling maybe, or also maybe a ‘Pulp Fiction’. So it’s a dark and comedic thing. It takes place in Australia, but there’s New York Italian mafia guy who comes in to do some dirty work and that’s me. So I can’t wait to crawl into him. Another one is a coming of middle age story about a guy – they were talking about a February filming, but now they’re talking about May or June, but marketing for ‘Hellboy’ is going to start in July and so I’m not sure. I’m going to have to juggle a lot of things. I’m really looking forward to that though because it was written specifically for me. I’m a goofy tall skinny white guy and I’m the lead character of this film which just doesn’t happen all the time. Paul Giamatti has been one person that’s been able to pull that off with things that are written beautifully for him. I’ve been looking for a Paul Giamatti type storyline and this is the one. It’s a young filmmaker that I met when he was in film school. I did a short film for him and he’s written an absolutely brilliant script that I read and said, ‘I have to do this.’ So it’s being financed independently in the Midwest and we’ll go back to my home city of Indiana to film. It’s a middle aged guy who reinvents himself as a Goth kid. That was the original script that’s now going through changes and it’s all about whatever ridiculous things he can make himself. His twenty something year old daughter comes back home to live with him and finds him in this state. It’s like, ‘Dad. What?’ We all come to terms with each other and it’s a great relationship story and a dramedy, I would call it. Then another film that I’m hoping to get is something I can’t talk about much because it’s not mine yet, but that’d be to play a scientist from semi-recent history, from the 1950’s and that there was a lot of controversy around. It’d be a supporting character actually. It’d be other scientists that are the lead characters, but a very crucial supporting character that I’m dying to play him. He’s pivotal so I’m hoping that comes through as well.
It’s been four years since you filmed the first ‘Hellboy’. Did you believe that there was going to be a second one?
Always. I always did. When we were making the first one, Guillermo talked about that he had three of these movies in him. Something about that man, anything he says I follow him around like I’m his dog. It’s like, ‘Yes, master.’ Anything he says is golden to me and so when he says he’s going to make three ‘Hellboy’ movies he’s going to make three ‘Hellboy’ movies. Come hell or high water he’ll make it happen and so I’ve always know. When the Revolution/Sony thing went amuck and we didn’t have a home Guillermo said to me, after he wrote the script for part two and I saw him somewhere – he said to me, ‘I’m not going to let you read the script yet because if we don’t get to make this it’ll be the biggest disappointment of your life.’ That’s how well he had written Abe at the time. Hearing that though, that’s when I knew it was going to get made. If it’s that good it’s going to get made. So I never doubted it once. I believe that he’ll make ‘Hellboy 3′ whether we make $200 million or not, somehow and someway.
How different is doing the voice work for Abe in the video and the cartoon than doing the live action film?
It’s different because when you’re on a set, in the environment and you’re wearing the costume and you have other characters in front of you and you’ve got the sets around you it’s so easy to find the moment because you’re living in it. When you’re doing voice over work for animation you’re in a studio and they haven’t animated you yet and so you’re kind of coming up with all of this verbally and with sound. You come back in later to do some looping and fill in spots and so it’s a little bit more difficult because you’re not standing in the environment, but you have to find the zone with your imagination and often times you don’t have other actors in the room with you. I love the interaction thing. Part of ‘Hellboy’, I think it was for ‘Blood and Iron’ that Selma and I had a couple of crucial scenes together in and so we actually got to be in the studio together and so that really, really worked for us because the chemistry was there. So I prefer having another actor to play off of instead of hearing them and what they’ve pre-recorded and now I’m doing this between their lines.
Do you find yourself doing Abe physicality even when you’re just behind a microphone doing the cartoon?
Oh, yeah. You can’t help, but strike a pose and strike a posture and let the hands start going when you’re talking and pontificating when you’re talking about something. To me acting is a head to toe experience. I think that most actors do take on the physicality of the character no matter what. Even if you watch a puppeteer, someone who’s off camera with joysticks on their thumbs and operating a face of a character that’s attached to a Brian Steele, for instance, that puppeteer is often going like – [into recorder] I’m making a lot of facial expressions right now – do you know what I mean? They’re faces are going like this and they’re tongues are going because they have to find the zone too. They’re performing every bit as much as the actor who’s face they’re working.
Considering that it’s been four years was it easy getting back into it with the rest of the cast, with Ron [Perlman] and Selma?
Instantly. We got together and did a read through in Guillermo’s office before the film started and we all clicked immediately and the joking started all over again and the love and the hugs was all there.
I heard that you guys all call Selma Monkey Brain?
I haven’t heard so much of that this time, but Guillermo’s nicknames for us change and evolve all the time. He calls me Doug Cajones right now. That’s what I am this week [laughs].