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INTERVIEW: DOUG JONES (PAN’S LABYRINTH)

DVD REVIEW: GRAND THEFT AUTO – TRICKED OUT EDITION
February 18, 2007
DVD REVIEW: GUARDIAN, THE
February 18, 2007

INTERVIEW: DOUG JONES (PAN’S LABYRINTH)

http://chud.com/nextraimages/deltoroint10.jpgDoug
Jones is a guy you should know by name, if not by voice. After appearing in
Blade 2, Guillermo del Toro tapped him to play Abe Sapien in Hellboy. More
recently Jones brought to life both Pan and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth.
He’s pretty much wrapped his role as the Silver Surfer in the FF sequel, and will soon begin shooting Hellboy 2, where he’ll be voicing Abe Sapien as
well as physically portraying him.

sequel, and will soon begin shooting

The obvious question: do you speak
Spanish?

Not on
the street – not from my own brain, but if it’s put in front of me in writing
and I can memorize it, yes. I did speak Spanish to do all the dialogue, but they
had a voice actor to come in and tweak the nuances of the dialogue that I just
couldn’t hear. And that was fine with me — I was terrified going in, thinking
the Spanish would be the downfall of my career. I was comforted to know that
there would be a voice actor to save me. In fact, Guillermo said, "Aw, you
can count to ten for all I care, just give me the right pauses, we’ll be
fine." But I couldn’t leave him with my lips, going one two three four…and
have them try to sync it up later, it would be like a bad Godzilla dub. And I
had an English translation of every scene, so I was able to figure out the
sentence structure and where to emphasize.

You experienced something similar
on Hellboy

Well,
that was quite a journey, with the voice of Abe Sapien. When I got the job
originally, it was presented to me that they wanted a physical actor to go
through the makeup process and be on camera, and a celebrity voice to market
the film with. I put in my two cents and said I’d rather they not do that. The
names at the time were Kevin Spacey, David Hyde Pierce, Steve Buscemi. They put
my name in the pot with those. I was told that, if you give us the sound we
want on set, we could leave your voice in. I did, and they didn’t. And I
understand; when you’ve got that much money riding on a huge studio film, I
understand marketing has to be a part of the plan. I didn’t want that to
happen, but that’s what happened.

But the
story has come full circle for me. David Hyde Pierce declined doing the
animated
Hellboy, so I voiced Abe Sapien for two animated features, with
more in the works, I’m voicing the video game soon, and I’ll be starting the
next film in May, and happily I’ll be voicing Abe in that:
Hellboy: The Golden Army.

What will we get from Abe in this
one?

A lot
more of Abe. You can expect him to have as much story as Hellboy, some fighting
skills you didn’t see before, hands-on with bad guys, wielding weapons and
perhaps…a love interest?

That conflict obviously didn’t
affect your relationship with Guillermo.

No, and I
wouldn’t even call it a conflict. It was a set of decisions, and when you’ve
got a studio film the decision makers are plentiful, so it wasn’t just
Guillermo. He gave me a wonderful opportunity.
Pan’s Labyrinth now is my
third film with him, so I hope to work with him again. He’s one of the few
directors that I trust. And David was not a bad choice for the voice; he
sounded great. So do I, though!

You have a background in mine and
other physical arts. When you get a script, do you approach it differently from
a traditional actor?

I like to
think of myself as an actor first. For some reason the mainstream press calls
me ‘Mime Doug Jones’ a lot…and really, that’s not me. Nobody likes a mime,
first, and I’m an actor. I approach every role…to me, acting is a full body
experience, because communication is a full body experience. Right now as we’re
sitting here talking, my facial expressions are working, I’m gesturing, my body
language is telling you something, so all of it communicates, I think. My
approach to a part is, yes, I do the ‘behind the eyes’ character development
thing, and try to find his soul, yes, but I take it all the way out to every
limb, to the tips of my fingers and my toes.

Do you suffer from physical
exhaustion while working under makeup?

I would
say that doing jobs like this is…every actor has to go through makeup and
costume, mine just happens to be five hours long. Or seven for Abe, which was
the longest I’ve ever done. So I have to think like an athlete as well as an
actor. It takes a lot of physical agility and stamina to push through some
discomfort, some heat, not being able to go to the bathroom at will. And your
senses are dulled. Sometimes I can’t see as well, can’t feel, can’t hear. There
are obstacles that I have to push through and find the character when they yell
action.

[Note from Russ for those who have
yet to see Pan’s Labyrinth:

(A) What is wrong with you?

(B) The following block of three
questions contains potential spoilers.

Skip to the Fantastic Four questions
if you want to avoid the spoilers, though I’m really not sure why I’m warning
anyone who can’t be bothered to go see one of the best films of the past few
years.]

And your costume as the Faun
wasn’t even consistent — it seems like a lot of people don’t notice that he
gets younger as the film goes along.

Guillermo
makes a lot of decisions that are artistic choices and are very calculated on
his part, but he never answers to the audience, and never tells them what to
think about it. The decision to make Pan age backwards — the first time you
see him he’s older, decrepit, grey in color, his eyes are cloudy, and I
affected a stiffer movement. Every time you see him he gets more agile,
younger, more powerful. By the end he’s auburn of hair, color ful of skin, and
his eyes are clear and sparkling. That subtle aging backwards, Guillermo never
explained to me. My interpretation is that, she’s been away from the underworld
for so long, the underworld is waiting for her return and decaying in her
absence. I’m a reflection of that. The more tests she passes, the more she
believes her destiny and trusts her instincts, the more young and powerful I
become and the more real the underworld becomes.

Have reactions to the film
surprised you?

We all
knew that we were making a piece of art. When I read the script, Guillermo sent
me an email saying ‘you must play Pan. No one else can play this part but you.’
And when he told me it would be in Spanish I knew he was wrong. There’s gotta
be someone, say, a Spanish actor, who could do better. And he sent me the
script and I had to decide in five hours or something. So I read it in one
sitting, I ate it up with a fork, and I really connected with Pan. I’m closing
the last page wiping a tear and knew I had to be in the film, and I knew that
with him as director and writer and independently produced, I thought, this
really has a chance to become a classic.

How did you end up taking on the
Pale Man as well?

In that
same email was ‘and I also want you to play the Pale Man!’ So my first thought
was ‘yeah, you cheap bastard, you’ve got me in
Spain and want me to play another
character, for free I’ll bet!’ But Guillermo makes no decision that isn’t
calculated and thought out ahead of time. And the Pale Man, I figured, it’s one
little scene a cool scary character, blah blah, I’ll do it.

I had no
idea that he was going to become the poster boy for the film and an image that
people go home and have nightmares about.

It turned
into the most amazingly shot and edited scene and the makeup was fascinating. I
had no eyes in my head, since they were in my hands, but the nostrils were up
kinda high and kinda big, and that’s what I looked out of. I could see out of
the right nostril with my left eye and the left nostril with my right eye. So
it was a disorienting cross-eyed thing going on. And the legs…the legs on both
characters had some CG going on, but not as much as you might think. I was
moving around prosthetic pieces that were on me, and they would green screen
away the rest of my leg. So the Pale Man had these dinky, thin bony legs…yes,
I’m skinny, but c’mon. That was attached to the front of me over a green
leotard. And Pan, those legs had the backward knee that animals had. That was
all practical, all built on me, and they had to just wipe out my legs.

Guillermo
wanted the same actor to play Pan and the Pale Man because, as he said on set,
‘You know, in my sick mind I think that the Pale Man is kind of a creation of
Pan.’ And that makes sense, because he’s part of one of the tests Ophelia had
to pass that Pan set up for her, so he probably was an extension of Pan’s
personality.

We have to talk about the
Fantastic Four…are you aware of the iconic nature of the Silver Surfer?

I’m aware
of it now. When first approached, I was not. I’m not a comic book reader, so
when these roles come to me I have to do some research. What’s the hoopla?…is
there hoopla? I went to a comic book store in
Burbank and talked to the pale faced kid
behind the counter, and he ran through the store grabbing comics, action
figures, all of it. I went home with the Essentials volume with the first 18
issues of the Silver Surfer’s book, and also the Fantastic Four Essentials
where he was introduced initially. I wanted to look at the original, see how he
was born. And I fell in love with him, and I can see why he’s iconic. He’s a
true gentleman, he has valor. He’s very Christ-like, very angelic.

And you’re providing the voice?

So far,
so good. Again, big studio. Layers of decision makers. They really want him to
fly so there can be more films later. I went into this knowing they had the
right to replace my voice if they so choose. They’re really happy with the
sound they’ve got, but then do they want to synthesize that as well? I don’t
know. I’m ever hopeful that they’ll keep my voice in some form, even if they
enhance it later. And when I saw playback and saw the look and the sound of him
together, what I gave them really worked for me, so I hope it does for them as
well.

What was your costume comprised
of?

It’s a
combo platter. To my understanding, that is. I don’t want to speak for anyone
else, because I’m not qualified to. As I understand it, it’s the best of all
worlds. First: state of the art practical effects. I wore a makeup and costume
on set. Beautifully constructed by Spectral Motion, the same people who brought
you Abe Sapien. The other part would be WETA doing the CG enhancements.
Together, this makes the Silver Surfer, as I understand it. The trailer is a
combo as I described, and some shots are completely CG.

Speaking of the trailer, have you
heard the controversy surrounding the Surfer’s ‘endowments’?

Someone
sent me a link to a freeze frame, and I don’t remember doing that. The costume
was…enclosed. And all my business was tucked in. And I can’t tell you…if my
naughty bits are discussed one more time in a conference room!. It was all
about, make it smaller, can we tuck it in, can we bind everything up and smash
it down more? So I think it was someone having fun somewhere, because I’m not really
sure where the free-hanging boys came from.

Have you seen Galactus…is there a
Galactus?

I have
not. Again, so many decisions are being made every day, we went into it with a
lot of things not decided. My official answer, that no one has told me I can’t
say is: it’s difficult to introduce the Silver Surfer on film without Galactus
having some sort of presence, now, isn’t it? There, that’s my answer.