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SAN DIEGO, DAY 1: The ‘Hellboy’ crew speaks

by  in Comic News Comment
SAN DIEGO, DAY 1: The ‘Hellboy’ crew speaks

Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego Hellboy fans were presented with an opportunity to find out the latest news on the planned movie. Director Guillermo del Toro, star Ron Perlman and creator Mike Mignola sat down with a packed house of hundreds of fans to talk about the film. CBR News is pleased to present an edited transcript of that entertaining and informative panel:

Guillermo del Toro (GDT): Thank you very much for coming today. I want to welcome you for this chance to start
communication this early. We’re two years away from the movie so talk about
premature ejaculation. We want to do several things. We wanted to, number one,
give you a really bitchin’ poster, which I hope you guys got. The other thing we
wanted to do is to make that event special. We didn’t want to make cheap fucking
key chains or a fucking post card that you would wipe your ass with. We wanted
to give you —

Ron Perlman (RP): — Although you’re welcome to.

GDT: We wanted to give you something that we, as a geeks, would lust after. We wanted to give you something that I felt was a collectible. So the posters that you have, which we printed
2004. That’s it. We’re not going to reprint it. You’re not going to see it on
the back cover of anything. The other thing we wanted to do is to start the
dialog with you. I think Hellboy is a property that you guys love
as much as I do, being a fan. I know that we are not a majority. Right now it’s
a very elite group of readers…he doesn’t have Spawn or Marvel numbers. He’s
much more of a cult kind of comic. Therefore, I know that it’s a comic that
demands more attention…demands to be done with the utmost love and care, and
with the right people.

I want you guys to know two
things. I’m doing this movie only because I’m desperately in love with the
comic, not because I want to change it or make it better. I think that when you
know of something good, you want to build a world around it. You want to , if
possible, poke your dick into it.

Mike Mignola (MM): Really, you do?

GDT: But in order to poke properly you [need] Mike Mignola.

MM: The poke-ee

GDT: The poke-ee. But I want you guys to know that and I want you to know that Mike has not only been part of everything since the beginning of the process. The moment the movie got green lit
Mike came on board. He will stay through the process so that we can assure, not
only hours of fun crushing him against the wall…but also that the property
gets translated to film correctly. Now I give you to Ron Perlman who will say a
few words.

[applause]

RP: Thank you. Thank you. I always wondered what it would be like in the bowels of Hellboy’s world. I don’t have much to say except that it’s a thrill and honor to be the guy that gets to put on the red stuff. I welcome any of your suggestions how we go about that the best way possible but this will be my third —

GDT: — Listen to that fucking voice though!

RP: This will be my third
collaboration with Guillermo. We’ve done two other films together so he knows
all my bad habits. It’ll be interesting hopefully. I look forward to having an
amazing time working on what is a magical property and what is a fantastic
adaptation thereof, in terms of its genesis to the screen. So I’m thrilled to be
here and I’m thrilled to see so many people who support this wonderful idea.

GDT: (takes the chocolate that is on the table) Don’t eat the chocolate by the way. You’re too fat.

[laughs]

RP: Mike Mignola

MM: How weird is it to be here with these guys. It’s taken five years to get here and I gotta say that now that we’re here, we’re here with all the people we wanted to be here with. The director who wanted to do it. We got the star we agreed on the very first time we spoke. A script which we’re thrilled with. We didn’t have to make these
gigantic compromises along the way, so far.

GDT: (joking) Hellboy is invisible now.

RP: It’s a voice over

MM: He’s an eight-inch puppet. For me its just a thrill to be here with these guys It’s a hell of a ride.

GDT: Now we’re open for questions:

Q: Ron I really liked you in
The Last Supper. This question’s for Guillermo but Mike, I really love you’re
art. I love your uses of black and white and how colors apply to that and I’m
wondering how that’s going to translate into film. And what storyline are you
going to use?

MM: Well Guillermo can handle
the film end of that stuff because I don’t know how he does that stuff. The
movie is roughly based on the first mini-series. There are a lot of changes in
it and there are a lot of elements from other mini-series just kind of tossed
in. But the arc of it is roughly the Seeds of Destructions mini-series.

GDT: The conversion of the film
from the comics, The thing is the saturation of the black that Mike draws…we
basically started experimenting…by the way I want to clarify one thing: Blade
2, which I love as a kick-ass vampire movie is not what Hellboy will be. Hellboy
is a movie with much deeper characters, and so in. Blade 2 was of a great value
to us because we were given the tools to experiment a lot of great visual quirks
that will be on Hellboy. The depth of black and depth on Blade 2, sometimes 80%
of the frame on Blade 2 was very black with saturated colors, and we learned a
lot. One of the things we learned on that was one of the best way to do Hellboy
will be to process the movie digitally, in post. So we can …manipulate the
image after shooting the negative. That gives us not only a great range to work
on the set, with more freedom, but also will allow for a lot of the colors to
pop out. Right now with digital posting, the most involved thing is to use it to
desaturate the colors, to go to a sepia or a thick blue hue or so. The light is
going to remain rich and the colors that are in the comic.

I want to say another thing
about the color palette that is used in the comic book on bringing exactly that
into a film. The color palette in the comic goes from all those gray-blues to gray-greens
to mauve-greens and also blue colors and Hellboy is the only red element in the
page. We’re going with that. We’re going to make Hellboy, with the exception of
the scene [with] the nazi banners which we cannot do anything about; they use
red. Can’t go back and criticize their fashion sense any more. So we have the
mindset of going with the exact colors that are in the comics.

Q: How interested in you in
developing this for a franchise or are you just interested in telling the best
story possible?

GDT: Well, I think the good
thing about this project and this character is, Mike set up the franchise. He’s
the one that is on the fifth book, the fifth mini-series. So, I think that what
is interesting is the continuing adventures of Hellboy will be something that
will grow and will not be in my hands at all. I’m not really interested in, and
Mike and I have talked about it very carefully, we always come to the same
conclusion, we say, “All we need to do is make the movie that we love. That
we think is fucking fantastic.” And the way we go about translating this
is…for example the designs that Mike draws of the characters, from bringing
them into three dimensions as you have seen for example with the toys or the PVC
figures sometimes it will be hard and it can be a very delicate process, so we
found that, and you’re not going to see any brutal changes at all. Abe Sapien is
gonna be Abe Sapien. And he’s gonna be that, he’s gonna be as perfect and
beautiful as in the comics. He’s not gonna be, all of a sudden a guy that is of
someone’s imagination other than Mike’s. The same thing will Hellboy. I think
that the worst thing that can happen to the movie is you get a producer or an
agent that says, “Well, it’s a comic books. I’ll make it better.” or
“I’ll make it work.” That’s really the screwed way to approach a
projects. So we’re approaching it carefully containing that. All the gothic
surroundings and the gritty sewer and the gritty subterranean chambers and all
of that will be there and he will battle huge, fucking Lovecraft monsters
towards the end. Huge monsters.

[applause]

Mike and I were in Lake Placid
with Ray Harryhausen because one of the ideas we had didn’t work because Mr.
Harryhausen is against violence and Hellboy does kick a lot of monster ass. But
the way we conceived the picture is as the way when we were children we looked
at Harryhausen movies: you have two creatures beating the crap out of each other
and you enjoyed the hell out of it. That’s the essence of the comic book
is you get to see that a lot. It’s not a gory film. I did that one. It’s not a
gory film but it’s filled with really Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola-esque, big
action. Big fights between creatures. And we do have, as I said, the big C’thulu
creature towards the end.

Q: How will the obscure
references be made palatable to the average movie-goer.

A:

MM: I don’t think there’s that
much obscure reference stuff in the film. There’s enough to give it the feel of
the Hellboy stuff. People reference certain occult things. But you don’t need to
have a working knowledge of that stuff, you just need to know that when he’s
talking about that stuff you go, ‘Whoa. It sounds like he really knows what he’s
talking about.’ Which is why I throw that stuff into the comics, so it sounds
like I know what I’m talking about.

GDT: It’s like when you watch E.R.
You know there’s “Give him the two cc’s of [medical jargon]” You don’t
get what there doing but as long as the guy doing the scene did his
homework. I remember Mike and I arguing about a circle of Solomon one day.
As long as we know what we’re doing. I think there’s a great amount of pressure
on movies sometimes, on the audience to try to get everything and a lot of times
it’s just there for the flow and to give you a sense of reality of those things.
We did the homework. You don’t need to do it. You’re not going to do anything
incorrect. You will not invoke accidentally the wrong demon.

MM: You won’t need a glossary
of terms to know what’s going on.

Q: Tell us about The Left Hand
of Darkness

GDT: Well, I stole the title
from the Ursula Le Guin’s novel because we were, by then, looking for financing.
It was called Monte Cristo originally but we changed the title when the Jim
Caviezel thing was happening. It’s a really fun project. I don’t know when it’s
gonna happen or if it’s not gonna happen but I stick to the projects I like. All
the time people tell me you have 10 projects and I say “yeah, but I’ve had
them for 10 years.”

Devil’s Backbone took sixteen
years, Chronos took eight, Mimic was the one that took a little, but we won’t
talk about that. And Hellboy took five. So this one was one of the ones to go
right after Chronos. It’s been with me about eight years and it’s basically an
1860’s version of T Count of Monte Cristo as a gothic western in Mexico, with a
guy with a mechanical clockwork hand and is the fastest gunslinger in the west.
It all happens at dusk with people in black clothes. It’s a great idea to do the
aesthetics of a horror film in a western. Hollywood is strange, as a big-budget
thing. I can do it independently in Spanish, just take the idea I had and do it
for five million bucks in Spanish on my own terms and screw it. That’s a really
great option. Screw it is a great option.

Q: What will the movie be
rated.

GDT: It’s the first story to be
PG-13 for me because in the comic is not gory. It’s violent but not gory. So we
will have all the tentacles that you can choke on but there ain’t gonna be any
gonna be an dick, tits, ass or fucking. Not because we don’t want to be true to
the comic. In the comic no one says “fuck you”. Hellboy says “son
of a–” and he says “aw crap” which are perfectly
acceptable. I think that the comic has a lot of action, but its not a gory film.
That said, what I consider healthy others consider super-sick, so we’ll see what
happens. When the movie’s done, when we think it’s ready, that’s what we’re
going to fight to put out in front of you, we’re not going to come out crying
“they made us cut it”. I think that the DVD is great to have it, but
if you wanted it in the movie you should have put it in the movie. Don’t put it
on the DVD.

Q: I really loved the use of
silence and stillness in the comic. What are your ideas about translating that.

GDT: I don’t know how many of
you saw them but I’ve done four movies and of the four movies, Chronos, even
Mimic and Devil’s Backbone were quiet horror movies and certainly two of them we
more interested in characters than anything else. And then I do Blade 2 and I
get concerned, “is it gonna be too fast?” I love quiet horror movies.
The great thing about Hellboy is it’s like all those movies put together.
Hellboy has a quiet, gothic horror, great characters, great action to break it,
but you will get great atmosphere. You will get a little bit of all those
movies. The only thing that you will feel, and I saw a little bit of this on
Blade 2, it’s very hard to generate atmospheric terror with a character that is
as self-sufficient as Hellboy or Blade. If you put a normal person or a kid in a
room alone in a cellar, you have the empathy of them. But if you put Wesley
Snipes with eight guns and a blade you’re like, “I wanna see him kill
whatever’s in the dark.” you don’t get afraid. It’s impossible.

We had some longer, tense
versions of the blade scary scenes and you were not scared. The same is true of
Hellboy.

Q: But he often gets the crap
beat out of him, or electrocuted.

GDT: I will have some of that
stuff. The great thing about Hellboy is you can punch him a lot.

[dirty look from Ron Perlman]

Q: Can you give us the
mythology that the storyline is based off of? Also, what creature shops are you
going to use?

MM: As far as the myths and
stuff, the film is very much based on the first mini-series. There’s actually a
lot of Catholic, uh —

GDT: — guilt

MM: — guilt in it. Guillermo
brought extra of that. There’s a little bit of demonology. But it’s a monster
movie as Guillermo said.

GDT: It’s not a [study] of the
occult..

MM: Exactly. It’s not Alistair
Crowley. It’s not hardcore mythological or hardcore religion. Names are pulled
from mythology, from folklore, from demonology, but it’s a monster movie, as the
comic is. So you won’t need to know anything going in.

GDT: But one of the books Mike
and I, the first time we met, we were like ‘you use this and you use that,’ and
we were like ‘yeah.’

MM: We read the same books
which is very interesting.

GDT: We both love Arthur
Machen…we both have a particular fondness for a book that’s called passport to
the supernatural by Bernard J. Herbert. —

MM: — Oh yeah —

GDT: — which catalogs the most
beautiful catalog of vampire, zombies, werewolves mythologies. It was printed in
the seventies. It’s a rare book but if you can get your hands on it it’s a lot
of fun and it was actually a kind of sphincter tightening read. You have to
dislodge from the chair after reading.

In terms of the movie, what
Mike has said is true. Listen to the name. It’s “hell, boy.” It’s not
“hell SPAWN” or “hell CHILD.” It’s self-effacing in a way.
In the comic, the beauty of it is you have the origin of hell is, yeah there is
the whole catholic idea of hell or the concept of hell, but, it has also a
sci-fi, multi-dimensional feel. Remember those aliens, the Jack Kirby aliens who
monitor those things and that Mike has not been gentleman enough to tell me what
the fuck they do.

MM: When I know I’ll tell you.

GDT: But it can also exist as
another dimension, a dimension that includes C’Thulu-esque creatures that are
bigger than man and bigger than mankind. The translation is, just as much as we
wanted to cast the right actor, we wanted to cast the right shop for doing
Hellboy. Because we couldn’t just go and go after just any makeup effects shop
to do Hellboy. So we knew from the start we wanted Rick Baker. They’re doing
Hellboy for me.

What we’re doing is one of the
guys who worked on Blade 2, a guy that was a really smart, great engineer of
mechanical effects, said “I want a chance to prove that I can have m own
shop and I can do a great job,” so we’re giving him a chance to have is own
shop. It’s a new shop called Spectral Motion and so far they’ve been fantastic
in what they have done in creating the creatures.

We have Wayne Barlowe, we have
Mike, we have three Japanese artists…

MM: Also we do have a
professional designer on the picture, Ty Rueben Ellington who worked on Jurassic
Park, who worked on Star Wars, who worked on Casper —

GDT: — Unfortunately —

MM: — and who designed the
mimic for Mimic.

GDT: — and who designed the
blade-weapon for Blade 2 that Reinhardt uses. The gun with the big blade.

MM: — and he designed
Hellboy’s gun for this and it’s amazing —

GDT: — it’s a good gun.

Q: Is the B.P.R.D. in it? And
Ron, can you give us an “aw crap.”

RP: Aw crap.

MM: The B.P.R.D. is in there
quite a bit, actually.

GDT: We have Liz Sherman in
there. We have Abe Sapien. Abe is my favorite character from Hellboy. I think
that it’s great to see Abe. Abe is in there three-quarters of the movie and then
I think the second movie would be about Abe Sapien’s love life maybe, with large
mammals or something. Those are the members that we could cram in, but not all
of them are in.

Q: For Ron, what’s your take on
Hellboy’s personality and what kind of preparation are you taking for the role,
if any?

RP: Well I have some chocolate
in front of me.

[del Toro takes the chocolate]

RP: Hellboy, in my mind, in a
nutshell, is summoned to Earth for the purposes of serving evil and creating a
hellish world on Earth to be used in for someone else’s expedience in their
quest for power and through a skirmish at that moment in time, is adopted and
raised and socialized to use his supernatural abilities for good. So he’s kind
of betwixt and between. And he has a pronounced sense of both poles. He’s a
little bit bi-polar. The way it manifests itself in his personality. The way
he’s come to find a comfort zone on earth is that he is just an under-achiever
basically. And that he’s the world’s biggest and most epic under-achiever.
He has this incredible physical presence and ability. He has a huge heart which
can be molded either for the use of good or for evil. And he has this
mischievous, devilish kind of circuitry which kind of undermines all of this,
which always is in conflict with one another. The fun is going to be in finding
the balance and finding out where he truly lives.

But everything that he does is
epic.

My favorite thing that has been
invented for he purposes of the film is Hellboy’s bachelor pad, for lack of a
better word. It’s kind of like what my room would look like if I wasn’t married
and have kids. There’s a lot of empty pizza boxes and magazines and old dirty
socks and stuff. That’s helpful.

He’s kind of fun to be around
because he’s very devilish and he’s very cognizant of his power, but reticent to
use it or misuse it. He occupies this very kind of delicious, sort of “ah
fuck it”, when in doubt, “nah. Nah, fuck it.”

GDT: With Hellboy the word
reluctant comes into play. He’s a reluctant beast of the apocalypse but he’s
also…a regular guy. He’s a guy that is faced with extraordinary circumstances
and extraordinary foes, and he’s a blue-collar guy. He’s like “Do I really
have to beat the crap out of these tall creatures with tentacles?”

It’s an attitude that Mike had
very clear from the start when we talk about it. It’s essential to the comic
that he’s like that. He was born to one thing and was raised to do something
completely different. That dichotomy is really interesting and Hellboy, his
journey in the movie is learning which side he’s gonna lean toward. If you saw
“Wake the Devil” and “Seeds of Destruction” essentially
that’s what the character’s go through.

RP: He has epic appetites as
well, which he and I share in the comics , almost to the point where he’s
willing to destroy himself to get that last piece of cake. His epic appetites
are his defining characteristics and also in many cases his own undoing. He’s a
terrible romantic so when he decides he’s going to be in love with somebody he
would destroy himself —

GDT: — and the rest of the
world —

RP: — and the rest of the
world. So he’s somebody we all feel for because we all know that feeling, what
it’s like to want something so bad and you’re not sure how far you’re willing to
go to get it. Hellboy is able and willing and screws himself up time and time
again trying to satiate his appetite.

GDT: The title of the comic is
“The World’s Greatest Paranormal Detective” right? And he detects very
little. It’s like The Amazing Screw-On Head. The Greatest Paranormal Detective.
He detects the following: He opens the door. If the monster is there he beats
the crap out of him. That’s the extent of his investigation. It’s not like in
the comic he goes, “Well this leads to that which may indicate…” No,
it’s “oh, there you are. Bam!”

It’s essentially as much an
oxymoron as the Amazing Screw-on.

MM: And I knew that. I knew he
was a bad detective. I put that on there as a joke. It wasn’t like I just really
write bad detective stories. I never had any intention of writing detective
stories.

GDT: But the great thing about
Hellboy is that’s his title, right? Why is it because he’s earned it? No, but
who the fuck is gonna tell him?

RP: But his sense of great
detective work is: “What do you think? OK. Let’s go get them”

Q: How will the movie effect
the comic.

MM: Well, I don’t look at it as
effecting the comic because when the film is over and done with the comic is
what it was. It’s not like when the film is done I start drawing the film
version of the B.P.R.D head quarters or the design of the Abe Sapien changes a
little bit to be closer to the film. It’s a parallel universe. In a lot of ways,
the way I look at it is Guillermo, with me, we’ve come up with a script that is
a little different and a lot of ways a lot better than the original mini-series I
came up with. There are things that are different because there are things that
work in film that don’t work in comics, and vice versa. So, I look at them as
things that stand right next to each other. I don’t look at the film as being in
the line of comics. It’s just off to one side. I’m very comfortable with it. I’m
very happy about it.

Q: When you created Hellboy,
were there things you left out?

MM: Yeah. There was a whole back story.
I created a whole mythology and stuff, some of which surfaces in the film. Some
of it is exactly what I had in mind. So there are things in the film that
I haven’t had a chance to put into the comic. Around the time the film comes out
I’ll be doing a mini-series…I’m going to comic that says what I had in mind
for that side. So there’s a lot of back story that I plotted out.

I’ve always said of Abe Sapien
that I liked it better that people find him in a jar in a basement. I can’t do
better than that.

Q: Mike what makes Ron and
Guillermo the people to do this film? Guillermo: what makes Ron the person to do
it? and Ron why are you working with these two?

MM: The first time we asked
Guillermo, the first question he asked me is who should play Hellboy, and he
knew and I knew because somebody had suggested Ron to me and I said “of
course, that’s perfect.” Because I’d never thought of it…and once I knew
that I literally could not imagine anyone else. When Guillermo met me and said
who should play Hellboy, he knew and I knew and we were kind of sizing each
other up, who as gonna say it first and of course we said it at the same time.

And then Guillermo went on to
say I want to make this The Last Emperor of cheesy monster movies.
I wasn’t aware of it at that time that I had a formula to what I do, but that
was certainly it. Over the years, comparing notes. We like the same stuff, we
reference the same materials, I can’t imagine there’s another filmmaker out
there. Certainly not one of Guillermo’s quality —

GDT: — and girth —

MM: — He just has a feeling
for this material, so it couldn’t be in better hands.

RP: I was lucky enough to get
asked by Guillermo to do his first movie Chronos back in 1992 and we’ve just
become best friends and occasionally worked together since that point. So, I’m along
for the ride. I have no idea what these guys see in my but I feel very blessed
and grateful that I get to be the beneficiary of their most twisted
imaginations. It’s all been really cool. Being in Chronos was really cool. Being
in Blade was super-cool but I’ve got a feeling that being in Hellboy, that’ll be
the project that will be on the gravestone “…and he was Hellboy.”
Who in his right mind wouldn’t want to be Hellboy. I don’t ever stop to think
about why I’m in because if I did I’d probably have a nervous breakdown. I’m
just hoping to keep on this beautiful train we’re on.

GDT: Finally about these two
guys. When we started he process of adapting Hellboy and we had one of our first
meetings in the studio and they started the stupid questions that they always
do. And they say, “couldn’t he be a guy that is normal and then when he
gets angry he turns into Hellboy?” No, he couldn’t be that. “Well,
does he have to be red all the time?” Yes. “Does he have to be called
Hellboy?” Yes. And after that round of things they said, “well go
write the screenplay.”

So I come back and they say,
“we love the story, the idea. Can The Rock be him?” No. Stone Cold
Steve Austin can direct. They say, “who do you see?” Everybody at the
time started dancing really fast and saying, “well it could be this or it
could be that.” and I say, “it’s Ron Perlman.” Why do I believe
Ron is the guy to do it.

I think that, number one, a guy
can do Vincent in Beauty and the Beast and Name of the Rose
Salvatore and a Neanderthal in Quest for Fire. That’s a fucking
range. Number one. Why, because those three characters are parts of Hellboy.
Hellboy can be a Neanderthal, can be Salvatore, can be Vincent. He’s a guy that
you can admire. Personally I would like Hellboy to be my dad. “Will you
adopt me? I’m fat”

Number two: many actors you put
a mask on them and it dies. The mask dies, the effect dies and it becomes
prosthetic under dead flesh. This is a guy that makes it come alive.

And the third and final thing
aside from knowing how much of Hellboy lives inside of Ron. How much they have
in common. I asked him to work on Chronos because I admired him and I try to
work with people I admire. But the last the last thing and the most
important one is that fucking voice.

About Mike: When I was shooting
a movie in 97 and having a really hard time doing it, essentially having a
grinder on my nuts going very slowly…then popping one at a time, I would have
one single thing to look forward to and that was every single issue of Hellboy.
I love Mike. I remember the period when Mike became Mike when he went from
Rocket Raccoon to all of a sudden in Cosmic Odyssey and there was those weird
figures with huge torsos and tiny legs, and that guy with the huge fucking hole
in his chest. And there were all those crazy things and little by little, Mike
was becoming more his own creature. The way he evolved and all of a sudden:
Hellboy. And when Hellboy happened I knew I was looking at a universe that was
so unique. I don’t know if it happens to you but very seldom a comic book would
make me recede back in years and become regress to a ten-year-old kid. When that
happens at the ripe old age of 38 and 500 fucking pounds on each cheek of my
ass, that’s magic. That is something that is not often scene. and you go,
“if this is that fucking good why am I not dedicating several years of my
life to making it happen? So that’s why I’m working with them!