An alternate title for this piece would be My Breakfast With Hellboy.
When Kelvin and I first got to the location where the Troll Market was being filmed – an actual cave out in the countryside of Hungary – we stopped by the mess tent to grab some coffee and breakfast. As we’re sitting there, a giant red figure walks in with his tiny little dog. It was Ron Perlman, wearing most of his Hellboy outfit, minus the hand and the face. It was a weird scene, this transitional phase between Ron and Big Red.
Leigh, our amazing Universal rep, set it up so that we could bug Ron while he ate his bacon and eggs. His dog sat by his side, begging the whole time.
By the way, this is a serious semi-exclusive. We only got to talk to Ron through a stroke of luck; we watched him work for a couple of hours in the Troll Market (you know that scene in the trailer where he gets thrown in the water, his cigar gets wet and he says, ‘OK, now you’ve pissed me off’? That’s what we watched) and while he was friendly in between takes, he zoomed out as soon as he could – getting the makeup off takes quite some time. I don’t believe the majority of sites that visited the set after we did had an opportunity to sit down with Ron. Enjoy.
So you’re halfway through ‘Hellboy 2′. How long does the whole process take?
It took fifty three years [laughs] and then another four years to get to the second one. No. This is a short version of my prep time which is about three hours because I have a t-shirt, but when I have the naked torso look it’s another hour and then when I have the naked torso look and they want to shoot three sixty it’s another half hour after that.
And the rest of the face takes how long?
Well, when they’re just doing the face like they’re doing today it’s two and half, three hours just for the makeup and then the rest of it. By the time I walk on set I’ve been here since yesterday.
How do you deal with it? What do you do in the makeup chair to keep your sanity?
I have dancing girls. They entertain me. Believe it or not I love the guys that I’m working with, Mike Elizalde and this guy Anthony Parker. He’s a very young English guy who kind of came onto the ‘Hellboy’ makeup team mid-stream. We sit and we listen to great music and shoot the shit and time flies. We take a few breaks here and there and then the idea that it’s ‘Hellboy’ which is far and away the favorite character I’ve ever played. It’s a breeze.
How has your character changed over the four years?
The character hasn’t changed. The situations have changed. He’s married now. The relationship is being tested. So we’re seeing a Hellboy who’s not quite as fraught with swagger and self-confidence and cynicism as the first time around where he basically always had nothing to lose. Now he has a lot to lose. So emotionally the stakes are much higher for HB. That’s fundamentally the main difference.
How is the rest of the team? In the film has it been four years since the last adventure?
I don’ think it’s specified, how much time has elapsed between one and two. I think it’s fairly recent.
So the team is still working together as it was before?
Yeah. Everything is exactly the same except we don’t have Meyers. We come to find out that Meyers is on assignment in the Arctic circle because he posed too great a threat to Hellboy’s love life.
When you come back for the sequel, after establishing everything in the first one, what’s some of the stuff that you really wanted to hit this time now that the introduction was out of the way?
Personally, I defer to the greatest imagination and mind working in cinema and that’s Guillermo [del Toro]. Then it’s like why would I even want to have any personal preferences when I know that what he’s going to present me with is going to be the greatest meal that one could ever want.
But to some extent you have to have a sense of ownership over Hellboy because he is you.
No. It’s really deferred to Guillermo and Mike [Mignola]. I mean, for me from the get go this has been one of those characters that’s almost like too good to be true because he’s so wired like I am. He’s a complete under achiever. He’s a complete outcast. He’s never going to participate in the mainstream and is kind of always on the fringes. He’s a slob. His room is a complete fucking mess. His life is a complete mess. He has a couple of redeeming qualities that he refuses to indulge himself in because they just happened to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, by the way…’ so when Guillermo, or when I first read ‘Hellboy I’ I kept having to pinch myself. I said, ‘No. Nobody’s really going to let me play this guy.’ The way that Guillermo wrote the music of the character, his speaking which he had to completely supply because in the comic it was always one or two word sentences and there was no personality, just a glimmer or a hint of a personality but all of the meat had to be put on the bone by GDT. He’s a Mexican guy. English is a second language to him and yet he wrote a vernacular and an idiomatic kind of character that was so New York and so kind of from the bar room. It was as if he grew up in the complete same surroundings as I did. This comic book adaptation and these characters couldn’t be in a better set of hands than in Guillermo’s and so I completely defer to him and my attitude is like, ‘What do you have in store for us this time?’ In reading ‘Hellboy 2′ I was a little bit daunted at how emotionally vulnerable Hellboy is in this one. It’s a very different exercise as an actor. He’s drinking. He’s fucked up. His old lady is going to leave him. She can’t handle living in that crowded room with his fifty six cats. That’s been the exercise here.
So you think that Guillermo is going all out on this one? What do you think he’s trying to bring to it?
I think that Guillermo only has one gear and that’s full out on everything that he does. He’s definitely going all out on this one, without question.
More action in this one?
We have a phenomenal stunt team here. We have a guy who was Jackie Chan’s protégé. He’s our stunt coordinator and then he brought all of these guys from Tony Ching, ‘The Flying Dagger’ guys, to do all this wire work, this flying stuff. The choreography and the execution is amazing. You won’t even be able to compare number one and number two.
How much of the stunts do you do yourself?
All of them. I’m telling you that. If you believe that I have a bridge that connects Manhattan from Brooklyn and it’s for sale.
I understand that bridge is over at the backlot where you’ll be filming later.
Yeah, that’s right. I loaned it to them, but if you want to buy it I’ll make you a nice deal .
So you’re shooting today in the Troll Market. What’s sort of happening here in the scene? Can you setup what’s going on?
The opening scene of the movie things are unleashed as a kind of calling card by our bad guy and we come to find out that these things that have devoured an entire auction house worth of people and property are Teeth Fairy’s. We eventually track down that the fact that these Tooth Fairy’s had to have been purchased at this Troll Market which is mythical and supposedly doesn’t exist but in Guillermo del Toro’s world it really does exist. We really do get lucky and find it and we go down there to show photographs and question people, saying, ‘Have you ever seen these things? Do you know where we can buy them?’ We’re trying to figure out who unleashed them. Then that brings us to the main A-plot which is this prince and princess who have been laying dormant for a thousand years and the prince just can’t handle the truce that he made and decides to wage war against the humankind. That’s really what the movie is about.
[There’s an interruption as another actor stops by to say hello to Ron]
So just now we had a guy who’s playing the two headed guy come over and say that he’s never seen you out of makeup and you mentioned to him that you’d never seen him out of makeup. How is that as an actor, working against these people in these incredibly bizarre get ups? How does that work with the connection between yourself and say Doug [Jones] who’s in the Abe Sapien makeup?
It’s easier because there it is right in front of you and there’s nothing to get in the way of the relationship between Big Red and Blue. Every time I see Doug – I’ve seen him out of makeup three times since we arrived four months ago. They were all at dinners that Universal threw and frankly he looks better in the makeup. But you know, to me when I see him he’s Blue and I’m Red because he hardly ever gets a chance to see me. We both arrive at like three or four o’clock in the morning and he goes to his makeup trailer and I go to mine. By the time we see each other we’re on set and we’re the guys and it’s the same with all the others. There’s a lot of monsters in this movie. In the first one there was a couple and now there’s forty four. HB tangles with most of them if not all of them.
The design on the sets are incredible. That’s got to be something that helps because instead of standing in front of a big green sheet you’re in the Troll Market.
Yeah. The set is amazing. I heard that the set was magnificent and I got down there early so that I could down there and take pictures with my little digital camera like a complete idiot fucking tourist so that when it came time to do the work it was like, ‘Okay, this is the place and we’ve got a job to do and we’re going to do it and get out.’
How is it to be back working with Selma Blair?
Great. He’s written a beautiful role for her this time. She has a lot more to do. Emotionally they’re very much intertwined. Like I said before the relationship is tested like all relationships are and we’ve had a lot to do together on this movie.
Have you a lot of scenes to do with Luke Goss?
He’s the prince, yeah. I’ve not had a lot of scenes with him, but we’ve got a bunch coming up. He’s got his thing going and I’ve got my thing going and when we finally meet it ain’t good for either of us. He’s a formidable opponent.
Today is day seventy eight out of a hundred and twenty days here total. What’s been the sort of best thing that you guys have done here and what do you look forward to the most?
Well, we started with the small intimate stuff and that’s my favorite stuff to do because that’s where all the acting is. There were some things where like – well, all I can do is point back to ‘Hellboy 1′ in that scene where she comes in and tells him that she’s going out for coffee and he’s writing the letter and he follows them on the rooftop and is spying on them and he’s eating milk and cookies. John Hurt then gets killed and then there’s the funeral and culminating with the scene where Selma says she’s going to come with me to Russia. That sequence is my favorite sequence in ‘Hellboy 1′ and it’s the second act. It’s where all of the people are, you really see them in action and you find out that these are people worth spending time with in the movie theater. Basically we got all those scenes done in this movie in the first two months and then we moved to the big, big sets and the big fights and everything like that. So a lot of the stuff where I have the best time is already behind us and now it’s just a question of surviving.
Now they’re putting you in a harness today. Are you getting tossed or something?
I’m getting flown, yeah.
How tough is that?
I’m going to find out. Talk to me in about eight hours. If I’m not in traction than I guess it worked out okay.