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June 2008
An Interview with Ron Perlman

An Interview with Ron Perlman
By Wilson Morales

July 7, 2008

For most of his career, one can say that his fame has been enormous with the films and TV shows he’s done, and yet most people would probably not recognize Ron Perlman if they saw in the streets. From ‘Quest for Fire’ to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to ‘Hellboy’, Perlman has played fantastic characters and he’s back again to entertain the audience in ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army’, which is directed by Guillermo Del Toro.

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Perlman talks about his character, doing some singing in the film, and his upcoming roles, which includes ‘The Mutant Chronicles’. .

Where, how did you devise the characters, from the comic books? How did you get the feel of what was the right way to portray the character?

Ron Perlman: Well the screenplay for Hellboy I, first of all I couldn't believe how
well articulated Guillermo's feel for growing up in New Jersey, being a by-product of a completely cynical environment, which is what the East Coast, the tri-state area is. And the idiomatic sound of a guy who grows up in that, it sounds like it's me the whole movie, making this shit up. Every single line that I said was scripted by him. And it was almost miraculous, especially for a guy who clearly English is a second language. It's so
there, it's so fully arrived, developed, complete with idiosyncratic behavior, and so evocative of what this guy's persona is that there's no reason that you wanna do anything extra with it. You just say and get out of its way and let it resonate into the universe.

What did you feel that you were able to do with Hellboy in the second film that… now that the character's established? What he's about, he's sort of in a relationship now…

Ron Perlman: Yeah. It's very much the same guy, except this time we're seeing him
circumstantially in a highly emotionally compromised state because the relationship is on the rocks, perhaps in danger of burning up, pardon the pun, and he's faced with the idea of life without Liz and he's emotionally compromised. And of course he does what Hellboy will do when he's not sure whether he has a reason to live or not. He starts drinking heavily. And meanwhile, parenthetically, he's gotta go save the Earth from complete extinction while he's buzzed.

How much fun was that scene, by the way, singing with Abe there?

Ron Perlman: That whole sequence, by the way, from the time she decides she can never
really own him because he wants the world, he want the love of the world. By the way, that's nuanced, only Guillermo del Toro is that acutely aware of. He's such a great husband. He's so in tune with the dynamic of men and women interacting and all of the pitfalls. From that point, all the way through the beginning of the fight in the library, which includes a musical segue, I think that's got to be my favorite little kind of aria in our opera. And then the, the Barry Manilow moment far and away my favorite moment. It was certainly everyone's favorite day of the whole six and a half month shoot. I mean we couldn't shoot that enough. He did change angles nearly as many times as I would've liked. The more we did that the happier everybody got. It was like wrap party happiness. The good news is I liked it every bit as much when I saw it at the premier, which is the first time I've ever seen it play, as I did when I was doing it.

How difficult is it to do those scenes with the prosthetics and the make-up, and how long does it take to get into that?

Ron Perlman: I don't think the prosthetics or the make-up, I mean every job comes with it's sub-structure of problems and obstacles. And in this case, the three and a half to five to six hour prep time in order to get on the stage and work…But once it was on, once I was on the set, aside from sometime being hotter than everyone else in August and warmer than everybody else was in November, it didn't alter anything. It was basically just the uniform, the look that made up the guy. There always is one, even if you're wearing nothing at all that's still the costume. So I don't think it really changed anything. I will tell you that when they finally zip-up the last zipper and I tie up the last shoe lace and I start walking to the set, it's like that last, what's that line in the Travolta Saturday Night Fever, in the second one?

I'm gonna strut now?

Ron Perlman: Yeah. There's a strut that I don't have in real life and that's all given to how evocative the whole costume and make-up is. I mean, I feel almost indomitable.

Speaking of which, you do a lot of hanging off of buildings and jumping on cars and stuff. Are a lot of those really you on cables?

Ron Perlman: Whenever it's safe and he wants to get a good character reaction shot, it's me. Having said that, they kept me able to fight another day. It was really important to make sure that I didn't do anything too stupid and too compromising and too unsafe. After all I'm not equipped to handle myself in situations like that.

What was your reaction when you saw the final shot of the film? Did you know it was going to be that big freeze frame of just you?

Ron Perlman: No. I didn't know it was going to be a freeze frame. In fact, Saturday night was pretty revelatory for me in so many ways. First of all when you finally see a movie in real time, all cut together and finished, you either live up to the potential of what was already there, if it was really good, or sometimes surpass what you thought was kind of, I hope we can find a way to make this work. The playing of a film is kind of like a living, breathing organism and you never know by the sum of its parts whether it's going to be a good living, breathing organism, something that works, something that's affecting. Because you shoot these things in such a piece meal fashion, but does it add up? Will it play? And how is it in juxtaposition to one another? I was thrilled when I finally saw it on Saturday night. There were so many great choices that were made in terms of after it was said and done, and the post-production. There were so many great, great beautiful additions. Danny Elfman's music is sumptuous and so happy and so full of mood and so reflective of what Guillermo had in his heart when he wrote the piece. I was just pleased with so many things. That freeze frame, I didn't know it was how he was going to play it or end it. I'm a real happy camper right now.

What was one of your favorite creatures or creations that Guillermo made when you walked into the troll scene? Were any that you liked or enjoyed?

Ron Perlman: That fish guy. I couldn't stop looking at him. In fact I had fish for lunch that day. I think, probably in the whole movie the think I marveled at most was the Angel of Death. That was just tremendous design and execution and just the great imagination of Guillermo del Toro in full bloom. And then the fact that it was Doug playing him was the bonus.

The way he goes from one character and…

Ron Perlman: Yeah. He's the Peter Sellers of our day. That's the last guy I know that played multiple roles in movies.

Can you see yourself returning to this role in four years?

Ron Perlman: He said it won't be four years?

It will be four years. It will be at least three years.

Ron Perlman: Let me see, I'll be…it'll be four years before pre-production. By the time we shoot it'll be five, maybe six. Are you praying that? If you are and you want to see a third movie you better pray. I pray every day that I have the strength to just get through today, much less like what's gonna happen when I'm 63.

How was the fight sequence with Luke Goss?.

Ron Perlman: It was dazzling. I think Brad Allen was a phenomenal addition to our film. Our new stunt coordinator – he spent 14 years working under Jackie Chan and that whole Hong Kong opera approach to fighting and especially to the purposes of cinema. And he just brought all these beautifully imaginative elements to the fight scenes, and he's a great fight choreographer. I just thought the two big fights between Lucas and the prince and Hellboy couldn't be better. They were really dazzling and worthy of the moments that they occur in the movie.

How long did it take you to learn them?

Ron Perlman: The fights? I spent most of them in an armchair. I didn't have to learn anything. I was basically there eating popcorn. Ron? Yes.

Well you get thrown about a bit.

Ron Perlman: I get thrown about a bit but it's a question of was it really me. Seamless, though, wasn't it? It looked like it was me. Yeah, it was me.

What sort of challenges does a sequel bring to working on a project if any?

Ron Perlman: The challenges were the scope of what Guillermo was trying to do in this, and I think there was a huge amount of empowerment that took place by the whole Pan's Labyrinth experience. I just think that he truly finally came to terms with the possibilities of cinema and now refuses to settle for anything less than exactly what he wants to do. He can think of things that he thinks is cool and worthy of shooting. So it was challenging because it was just bigger and more complicated and more…our hours were really long and the time we spent shooting a scene was far longer, but I don't think it had anything to do with the sequel. It was trying to realize this unbelievable epic world that Guillermo was depicting.

When you were a kid was than fantasy creatures or supernatural figures that you enjoyed, like a character or something?

Ron Perlman: I loved…of all the things I read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was the thing that had the most impact on me. I was a big fan of Jack London's when I was a kid. I wasn't much of a comic book guy and I certainly wasn't drawn to science fiction literature very much, but those two things really stand out in my mind, literature-wise.

What else are you working on?

Ron Perlman: Right now, I just finished two films back-to-back. One called ‘The Job’, which is based on a play that played here in Los Angeles, written by Shem Bitterman. Low-budget film, but really great writing, maybe one of the most theatrical performances I've ever had the opportunity to give. And then right after that a movie call ‘Boon Ra Ku’, which we just shot in Romania, which is a very stylized post-apocalyptic look at man's inclination to be violent and brutal.

What do you play in that?

Ron Perlman: I play the most violent and brutal man in that movie (laughter), and prior to that I did this thing called Mutant Chronicles which we're trying to get into the market. In fact, we're going to have a screening of it at Comicon and allow the fans to sort of have their input as to what the movie does well and what it needs to work on. If you keep checking it out, it's going to be like on the 26th of July – it's either a midnight screening or ten o'clock at night. I don't know the venue yet.

And you're soliciting input from the fans?

Ron Perlman: We're soliciting input from everybody who's a fan of movies.

So you'll be going to Comicon?

Ron Perlman: I'll be going to Comicon. It's being hosted by Thomas Jane and myself. The two co-stars of the film 'cause we both love this guy Simon Hunter and we think that the movie is really, really good. You know, the distribution world right now is hobbling along. Where this picture probably might have gotten easily distributed maybe three years ago, right now everybody's careful with their money. And so, right now were trying to build a fan base from the ground up. And then I'm shooting a TV series. We're in the second episode. We've got 13 on the air. It's for FX. It's called The Sons of Anarchy. It's about a motorcycle club – a bunch of badass miscreants.

Was the humor something that attracted you to this role?

Ron Perlman: It's everything. To me it's far and away the most attractive thing about Hellboy – the fact that he doesn't take anything seriously. He's kind of like the Dean Martin of superheroes and if you're a fan of Dean Martin, he actually says in his nightclub act "I don't take nothing serious" – which is why everybody loved Dino so much is because he managed to find the absurdity, and the lack of reverence for absolutely every subject in the book, including just living his life. He was never drunk, but he acted like he was constantly swimming against the tide. And we love that guy. We love that guy because he manages to take the most serious thing and find the lightness, the unbearable lightness of it.

Thank you very much.

Ron Perlman: Pleasure.


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