BEING RED: Perlman talks "Hellboy II"

It was more than four years ago that Mike Mignola's Hellboy was first ported to the big screen, but the cast and crew behind the first film have gotten the band back together to produce the highly anticipated sequel, "Hellboy II: The Golden Army." Rising star Guillermo del Toro, who directed both films, helped save the film franchise from fading away into obscurity after the first film's production company closed up shop by finding it a new home at Universal Studios.

Wrenched from Hell into our dimension as a baby during World War II, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) was raised by Professor Broom (John Hurt) to embrace the better angels of his nature. In the present day, Hellboy serves as an agent of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, a secret government organization charged with protecting America from all things occult, paranormal and supernatural. At the end of the first film, Hellboy made a conscious decision to shirk his destiny as a harbinger of the end of the world. But did that truly change his fate, or simply delay the inevitable?

"Hellboy II" is Guillermo del Toro's fourth collaboration with actor Ron Perlman, who also starred in the director's "Cronos," "Blade II" and the first "Hellboy." Perlman, whose breakout role was playing the Beast in the 1980s "Beauty and the Beast" television series, is also no stranger to full-body makeup. CBR News, along with other members of the press, spoke to Ron Perlman about his role in "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

There was a long break in between the Hellboy films. Was it easier for you the second time around, was it like riding a bike, or was it hard to get back in the character?

It's probably the least adjustment I make from, like, the conversation I'm having with you to "action" that I've ever had to make as an actor. I didn't make any alterations behaviorally or voice-wise, or this or that or the other thing. Guillermo kept saying, "When you start acting, you're going to screw up, because I've done everything in my power to make Hellboy you and you Hellboy. Don't make any adjustments, just do it." That was very freeing, actually, the most freeing direction I've ever been given. There's no real adjustment either for "Hellboy" or "Hellboy II," the only thing that changes are the circumstances of which scene we're shooting on any given day.

How much input did you have, if any, in the way that Hellboy developed for the second film?

Zero. I didn't want any input. Why would you ever think that you're going to come up with a better idea than this guy who's truly got a handle on this thing in a way that's complete and holistic and profound? You just bask in his glow, and thank him and be grateful for the amazing dramatic opportunity he's given you.

Does that make the makeup more tolerable, knowing that you have somebody that you trust that much?

Well, for some strange reason, the makeup has never been a burden. When it comes on the heels of absolute no sleep, then everything's a burden. But I regard the transition into the makeup every day as kind of like a ritual of preparing to become Hellboy, almost like a Samurai goes through that highly ritualistic transformation from mortal to warrior. And I come out the other side looking a whole lot cooler than I do in real life, so why would anybody complain about that?

Doug Jones played Abe Sapien in the first film, but his voice was dubbed over by another actor. We're hearing Jones as Abe in "Hellboy II." How did you like working with him this time?

I thought it was phenomenal that we finally got a chance to bask in the greatness of Doug Jones -- times three, by the way. He's also the Chamberlain and the Angel of Death. And it's his voice in all three instances. I think maybe not in the case of the Chamberlain, but it's certainly his voice for Abe and it's certainly his voice for the Angel of Death for sure. He's a major talent who is finally getting the attention that he so richly deserves.

How much improvisation was there on set? There seem to be a lot more natural, deadpan lines in this film.

That's simply they way Guillermo writes. It sounded like I was making the whole movie up in "Hellboy," and yet I think there was maybe one improv in the whole movie. He's got this idiom down, this kind of like longshoreman guy who was raised in New Jersey, Eastern kind of American slang. For a guy for whom English is a second language, it's kind of remarkable.

How much fun was it to embrace Hellboy's humorous side? It seems like there's a lot more comedy in this movie, especially physical slapstick.

Yeah, it's great. My favorite aspect of Hellboy is the trash talk, and the cynicism and the humor, it's real East Coast. I'm a New Yorker by birth, I spent almost my whole life there, and I know that humor. I know that kind of gamesmanship that jocks have. Guillermo somehow captured it in a way that was hard to believe and too good to be true all at the same time.

How does Hellboy go from being brought up from Hell by Nazis and given to Professor Broom to becoming this sort of cynical, trash-talking New Yorker?

Well, the cynical, New Yorkish guy is strictly a product of his environment. He grew up in New Jersey. And he didn't get to go out very much, but I'm sure there were an awful lot of local people that intersected with him, and gave him the accent, the swagger. Gave him that sort of worldly, world-weary, New York/New Jersey kind of vibe. At least that's what I decided.

With regard to the heart of the guy, that was completely a gift from Professor Broom to Hellboy. And I think it's so strongly embedded in him that even though he has these primal impulses that come with his DNA, somehow the heart triumphs over the nature. The nurtured aspect triumphs over the nature aspect in Hellboy. At least so far. He's been tested, but not nearly as much as he will be in the third one, if there is a third one.

Do you think a third Hellboy film is a distinct possibility?

I think it's a possibility. I think it's completely a function of how "Hellboy II" does in the marketplace. If it does quite well, then I'm pretty sure there'll be a third one.

How would you like to see the character grow in the third one?

I don't have an agenda. I'm completely in the hands of Guillermo, where he takes it will be fine with me. He has given me a rough idea about the direction of the third movie, and I can tell you that in true trilogy fashion, it's the closing of all of the things that have been foreboded in the first two films. It's the "Cometh to Jesus" moment, and it gets very, very heavy and very dark. Very cinematic.

Hellboy has a love for kittens and television. Would you count yourself a TV junkie or a cat person?

I love cats and I love television. And I love to watch cats on television.

Were you a fan at all of horror/sci-fi movies before you became an actor known for your work in those genres?

The work that I've gotten and the work that makes up my resume is purely coincidental, it has nothing to do with my own personal aesthetic. When you do one [such film], you're on the short list to do a second and then a third. And the proclivity of the guys who found me acceptable to work with, and that's a very short list, happens to be sci-fi oriented. There's Guillermo, there's Jean-Pierre Jeunet, there's Joe Dante.

Can you tell us about "Mutant Chronicles," the film based on the role-playing game starring yourself and Thomas Jane and John Malkovich?

"Mutant Chronicles" is a picture that is finished, but yet not finished. I guess there are enough problems with it that we're actually going to take it to Comic-Con and have a fan screening to sort of find out what is right and wrong with it. It's a picture, to me, that has a huge amount of great work in it, particularly on the part of Simon Hunter the director, and Thomas Jane and John Malkovich and I are incredibly proud of the picture, and we're going to do everything we can to help get it out into the marketplace.

Are you going to be at Comic-Con?

We're going to be at Comic-Con with a screening. It's just coming together as we speak, 10:00 or a midnight screening on the 26th of July, Saturday night.

When you signed on for "Hellboy II," did you have any inkling there was going to be singing?

No. I'm very happy, what a bonus.

Has the Hellboy makeup changed since the first film?

Not a whole lot. It moved from being Rick Baker makeup in "Hellboy" to Mike Elizalde Spectral Motion makeup in "Hellboy II," but everything remained the same except for some slight alterations. I think he looks a little younger, a little bit more energetic, a little sexier.

How difficult is it to maneuver in all of the Hellboy makeup, prosthetics and te costuming?

It's not that bad. The tail is probably my biggest obstacle. It sometimes zigs when I zag. And you don't want to trip over the tail, because then you squish the rubber.

To follow up on your comments about Guillermo earlier, why do you think that makes him the right person to do "The Hobbit"?

I think Guillermo's the right person to do any movie you can think of. I think that he was born to be a filmmaker, that he occupies a class unto himself as a filmmaker, he's already made one movie in his short career that goes on the 100 best movies ever made, which is "Pan's Labyrinth." And I think that "The Hobbit," which is an exercise in fantasy, is very, very, very lucky to have Guillermo del Toro at the helm.

Who are you going to be playing in "The Hobbit?" It's almost a given you're going to be in it.

I hope you're right. We haven't discussed it. I did say when I found out he was going to be out of the country for four years, "I'm gonna miss you, pal." And all he said was, "No you won't."

Now discuss this story in CBR's TV/Film forum.

Dark Phoenix Already Being Pulled from Theaters

More in Movies