In the pantheon of nerd movie gods, there’s a special place for “Hellboy” star Ron Perlman, who seems to love his fans as much as they adore him.
Making his way once again to Comic-Con International in San Diego, the veteran actor introduced the crowds to his Amazon Studios drama “Hand of God,” in which he plays Judge Pernell Harris, who’s spurred into what he believes is a divinely mandated quest for vengeance, after his son is pushed to a brutal suicide attempt.
SPINOFF Online sat down with Perlman to discuss “Hand of God,” his passion for a potential third film in the franchise based on Mike Mignola’s comic book creation “Hellboy,” and what madness went down on the set of “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”
SPINOFF: At the panel you were saying you’re surprised that creator Ben Watkins (“Burn Notice”) came to you about the lead of “Hand of God,” But I was surprised you were surprised, because it seems Pernell is a dark-natured character.
Ron Perlman: Hmmmmm, I wouldn’t say he’s “dark-natured.” I’d definitely say the situation he finds himself in has made for tremendous amount of dark moments. But he’s a rather positive powerful force [to his community] prior to this.
The pilot description calls him a “corrupt judge,” is that coming later? Does he start off on the straight and narrow?
You know, I kind of take umbrage with that description even though Ben Watkins, who wrote it and created it, says it, that he’s a “corrupt judge.” I think what Ben means is that in Pernell’s business dealings, there’s a lot of under the table business shit that goes down. I think in his courtroom, he’s a believer. He’s a guy who’s a crusader. He wants to get the shit off the streets.
He believes in justice.
He believes in justice. He may over-sentence — his nickname is “Judge Maximum” — he may have a knee-jerk response to scumbags and lowlifes. And “Get the fuck out of my courtroom you piece of shit. I’m going to put you away for life because you don’t deserve [freedom]. I don’t ever want to think you’re walking down the same streets as my wife.” He’s that guy. But I don’t think he’s corrupt. He’s involved in so much of the backdoor business deals of San Vincente. He’s cut corners, like every very successful businessman.
Is he a religious man before his son’s suicide attempt?
Zero. In fact it’s laughable to the people that are closest to him when he says he’s been saved, that he’s been baptized. They physically just break down laughing. Like, what?
That’s kind of biblical actually.
And then their reaction turns really weird because, ‘Wait a minute. If you become one of the three stooges here, this whole universe of wealth is vulnerable.
Because he is essentially the tent pole of the community.
He is the guy. If he goes down, the community goes down because all the people who want to infuse business into San Vincente, they do it because they know they can depend on this dude to make sure everything stays balanced and good and on track. That’s how powerful he is.
You have Garret Dillahunt as your sidekick. For me, I hear Ron Perlman, Garret Dillahunt together, corrupt judge and vengeance, and my expectations are instantly high. Because your grumble means trouble, and Dillahunt plays a psychopath beautifully, it seems the stakes for the show are high from go.
And we’re two guys who are struggling to get better. You know his struggle to stop being a psychopath and to stop being violent is real, is sincere. And then when he meets me I am on this sincere quest to get better as well. But I’m asking him to utilize his unique skillset, not only to make us better, but to make the world better. All of a sudden KD, which is Garret’s character, says “Maybe I was meant to have this skill set. Maybe I can use it in the name of God, rather than as an offense to God.” So it really gets tripped out.
So you, as a producer on the show, went to Amazon with “Hand of God,” when Amazon is still an evolving brand in original entertainment. Was that part of the excitement for you in this project?
Well, it became clear by the time we went to Amazon — that one was one of the last companies we went to — it became clear in presenting the project how dangerous the project was. How difficult it would have been for a network to want to get involved in a show has the word “God” in the center of it.
And the religious element of how that could be conceived?
No matter how much someone may have admired what Ben had written, and the world of the show, it’s a little bit controversial to get involved with a show that discusses religion or God in the United States of America. That’s just the way it is.
And that didn’t scare you at all?
Didn’t scare me at all. I’m the kind of guy that says, “Bring it.” I want to go at the hypocrisy straight on. I always have; I always will. But I can see how the corporate guys, the guys who have to write the big checks, answering to stockholders and shit, I can see where they can go, “Mmmmaybe not.” So by the time we got to Amazon we realized whoever has the balls to say yes to this show, has some balls. And sure enough Amazon responded immediately. And not just did they respond, but they responded uncompromisingly. Like, “We don’t want you to change this. We love how dangerous this is. We love this discussion.”
So it’s very rare that you see a company that has an many assets as they do, and has as much to lose as they do, behave that boldly. Especially when they’re a fledgling in the arena of original content and television production. So my hat went straight off to them. And then collaborating with them along the way, all the way to a few weeks ago when we finished shooting the ten episodes has been one of the best creative collaborations that I have ever witnessed. They were the opposite of intrusive, they were enabling, like “What do you need? What more can we do for you?” And they enabled us to make the show we wanted to make, and they stood on the sidelines and encouraged.
This is what you want. You know business and creativity can be very very strange bedfellows. And it’s very rare that it works as smoothly as I just described. Trust me when I tell you that. It’s a very rare thing.
Regarding that, I recently saw the documentary “Lost Soul,” which is about the making of “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” I’m curious what your experience was like on that shoot.
Yeah. Well, that’s a whole ‘nother interview, isn’t it?
If you ever want to give that interview, I would be happy to take that on.
I’ll be happy to give that interview, but I think it’s like it’s too long an answer for right now. Because that’s a complicated, complicated situation. People got fucked in that deal. And lives got really fucking messed up in that deal.
Yeah, have you seen the documentary?
I have not. I’ve been told about it. I was traveling when it dropped, and so now I’m back and I can get it on Netflix?
It’s on iTunes and places like that.
I could probably get it on Amazon.
You know what? That’s where I got it actually. Points to Amazon, that’s where I watched it actually. I recommend it. It goes through the whole thing with the director and everything.
Richard Stanley, which is someone I got very close to. And I felt horrible what happened to him.
Did you know he was on set? Like, after he got canned, did you know he’d come back?
I was — [begins to chuckle] — I was part of the cabal that surrounded him and protected him that night. So I was complicit in him being on set. We all wanted to fuck the man on that film.
Oh, I wish they had talked to you for the doc!
Well, call me. We’ll set up a whole separate thing on “Lost Soul.”
That’d be amazing. You’ll hear from me. But I do want to ask about “Hellboy.” You talked about “Hellboy 3” at the “Hand of God” panel very passionately, is there a script in the works, or is it just kind of sketches?
Well, no, Guillermo [del Toro] definitely knows almost scene for scene what would happen in the third installment. He designed the saga to be a trilogy, and to have this conclusion that would address the destiny part of “Hellboy,” the nature versus nurture conversation of “Hellboy.” And then he introduces the impending birth of the twins. She’s pregnant with twins at the end of “Hellboy 2.” And then what — no movie?
That’s why I’m on my soapbox. Its because the notion of all those things being finally resolved are rather epic and very theatrical, and would make for a great movie. But it would particularly make for a great movie to the people. We didn’t have the biggest audience of any comic book movie, but the people who came came, and they loved it and invested in it. And my point is we owe them the result, we owe them the conclusion.
I don’t want to go back and put on four and a half hours’ worth of fucking makeup every day. I don’t want to do that. I want to do that as much as I want a colonoscopy. But we have to! In my mind, it’s not even negotiable.
So between “Hellboy 3” and “Hand of God,” it sounds like you consider acting more than a career but a genuine vocation.
Well, I’m very devoted to culture in general. I think it’s the thing that gives our lives meaning. Aside from love and marriage and family, the only thing worth living for is great music, great paintings, great plays, great symphonies — all of these things that remind us that the human condition is a precious thing we’re all commonly living out together. And when the culture is sublime, which the movie industry has a history of hitting upon decade after decade after decade for over a hundred years now, that’s important to me. That’s kind of like a religion to me. And so that’s what I fight for, the ability to make beautiful stories. That’s who I am.
Is that why you jump around to so many different projects, including voicing the Lich on “Adventure Time”?
Yeah. I like working. I like performing. It’s very cathartic for me. I love the people I meet in the business, who are brilliant and creative and don’t think like I do. I go, ‘Like how did you come up with that? That’s just mind-blowing.’ Even the guys on “Adventure Time.” Same thing. So yeah, I’m living in a state of being turned on almost 24/7/365. Who’d complain?
The “Hand of God” pilot is now available for free on Amazon Instant video. The remainder of Season 1 will arrive in early fall.
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