Doug Jones is the man behind almost all of your favorite creepy crawlies from Guillermo del Toro's imagination. In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Jones plays three of the most surreal characters, including everyone's favorite fish man Abe Sapien. We got a chance to catch up with Doug and talk about the behind-the-scenes secrets of Hellboy II and Hellboy III, his dream role as Guillermo del Toro's Frankenstein monster, his role inQuarantine and playing the ice cream man of doom in a religious apocalypse film Legion. Including spoilers.
Abe is really important in Hellboy II. We get to see whole new side of this character. What did you think of Abe's transformation from proper gentleman to love sick friend?
That was new for the Abe Sapien character. In the first movie, he was established as an intellectual guy. He brought a certain power as the clairvoyant, the guy who could put his hand out and read things. When I read the script for Hellboy II, I almost got goose bumpy and teary eyed. What Guillermo del Toro wrote for me was a leading man, romantic role, but I'm still a fish-man freak. What a nice wonderful turn for me.
Thank goodness for Guillermo del Toro. He's one of those directors that knows actors better than we know ourselves. He knows what I'm capable of, that's why he wrote Abe the way he did. In addition to seeing that Abe Sapien had a big role this time, he also asked me to play the Angel of Death and the Chamberlain. I was saying, what? Three characters? And that sort of intimidated me, because each of those characters required 5 hours of make-up which means Doug doesn't get a lot of time off.
What new Abe moments really stuck out to you in Hellboy II? Where did we get to see the new Abe?
The scene that really grabbed my heart was with Abe Sapien and my love interest Princess Nuala from the elven underworld, when she comes into our care. Abe Sapien has this pitter-patter-of-the-heart love connection with her for the first time in his life. It's at night in the library of the B.P.R.D. and she's reading a book of poetry and he comes down the stairs and [they] read the poetry with each other. And you realize they both have a little hankering for each other, but they're both so innocent and awkward they don't know what to do about it. And it reminded me very much of myself as a teenager. Then right after that, Abe Sapien is bemoaning what to do with this new found love thing and he doesn't understand what's going on, and then Hellboy comes in having domestic issues (because [he and Liz] are a married couple, that are fighting) they have some brother-brother buddy-buddy time, leaning on each other. Hellboy brings in his six pack of beer and Abe's never had a beer before. They open one up and they're having guy time and then during that scene they start to hum along with [a CD of love songs].
Yes, Abe got plowed! Who's idea was it to have Abe be all mumbly stumbley drunk with the whispering?
It was in the script, but the way I said it was mine. Liz was asleep, and we're trying to get more beer, so we have to go to Hellboy's room. Liz is asleep on the bed and we're doing that, "I'm going to be quiet now, but actually I'm louder than I would be otherwise." I've never been drunk in my life. I don't drink, but I've observed a lot of people that were inebreated.
So you and Ron didn't get drunk to prep for this role?
No, but Ron enjoys his beer. I'm not going to lie about that, nor would he. He plays Hellboy from his heart, he is Hellboy, and I'm a little Abe Sapien, so on- and off-camera is pretty much the same.
You play a lot of sympathetic creatures as well as incredibly frightening creatures. For example, the Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth was terrifying. Is it harder to play sympathetic monster over a scary monster? How is it different for you?
The more difficult acting challenges are the characters that are more ambiguous. Like the Faun from Pan's Labyrinth. When you meet Pan the Faun you're not sure if he's good or evil. There's a little bit of creepiness to him, there is also some beauty to his look. His behavior is tricky: he's a prankster, but he's also very heartfelt and nurturing at the same time. So it leaves you guessing if he's good or evil until the very end. So characters like that... In Hellboy II I also play the Angel of Death when you met the Angel of Death you get that same kind of ambiguous feeling. You don't know if it's a man or a woman. There's a scary and creepy vibe, [plus] a nurturing care-giving side. There is definitely some foretelling in that scene as to what will happen in Hellboy III, so pay close attention to the dialog. I love characters like that. It lets you play more.
How do you think what happened to Abe in this movie will change him in Hellboy III?
It might toughen him up a little bit. I think at the end of Hellboy II when we come out and have words with the head of the B.P.R.D., those words we all have with him mean a lot. You think Abe has been through a lot, and he's never talked about that way to anyone. I'm not sure what the plans are for Hellboy III. Guillermo has not shared everything. He's given some hints and it's going to be a darker film, but a Guillermo del Toro film with darkness is never without hope. It will have a ray of light and still have the characters, but it will be epic. I think we'll have a visit from the Angel of Death again as well.
Do you think there will ever be an Abe Sapien spin-off series of movies, like the comic?
You know, beats me. I don't have a clue. Everyone from fans to people involved with the movie, to people involved with the comic book... comments have been made casually, but nothing with intention attached to it. Abe is a character who has become my favorite ever. I've gotten to know him better than any other character, because I've been with him for so long. Two feature films, two animated films and a video game. To revisit him again in his own spin off or maybe a TV series it's been speculated by everyone. I think artistically and creatively it wouldn't be something I would hate to have happen.
It was great hearing your voice coming out of Abe. Was there any vindication for you being able to voice your own character for a change?
The voice issue has been a monkey for a few years. I've been voiced over about three times. Unfortunately they've been three notable times, where people think I'm always voiced over. One of which was the first [Hellboy], but now that's been rectified and it's back to my voice. David Hyde Pierce did the voice over the first time because he was the bigger name and had the more recognizable sound. When you're marketing a film, that's a part of the film-making world that I'm not a part of. David Hyde Pierce is a consummate gentleman. When he came in to do the voice over me for the first time, and he saw and heard my performance on film, he backed away and said, "why am I here?" He ending up doing the job he was hired to do, but in the end he refused to take a credit in the film, he didn't show up to the premiere and he didn't do any press for the film. When asked why his answer was, "Out of respect to Doug Jones." He didn't want to take anything away. Nobody does that in Hollywood, we're an ego-driven town. He has a very giving and humble attitude, he's become a hero of mine. I owe him a lot. When it came time to voice the characters for the Hellboy animated movies David Hyde Pierce politely declined, and they came and gave the voice to me and that set up the wold of Abe. And when negotiations were coming for Hellboy II they said, "Doug the voice is yours." I feel like the character is all mine. When I'm hired to play a character I want to play the character all of it. So thank heaven and Guillermo Del Toro and David Hyde Pierce for that.
I think with the Silver Surfer was another one of those cases where the studio had their marketing plans to attach a name like Laurence Fishburne who's huge with his Morpheus fame and the young audience that the Silver Surfer brought with it. They were doing what they needed to do to sell tickets. I don't begrudge them or blame them for that, but for me as an actor and having affected a voice for the Surfer that I loved... No matter how good Laurence Fishburne [may be] (and he's a wonderful actor), seeing that part of my performance taken away, it never feels good.
I'm really excited that Guillermo mentioned you as the actor he would want to play the monster in his Frankenstein, I think that would be an amazing role, are you excited about it?
That came as a huge surprise to me. It was at a red carpet even and he [Guillermo del Toro] had mentioned it to a journalist after he was asked. When I was told that he said that, my knees went weak and I almost fainted. I thought, "Are you kidding me?" The image that we are left with is the big lumbering Boris Karloff interpretation, which I loved and thought was brilliant and so iconic... Obviously the Frankenstein that I would play... would have a different feel to him. That's the feel that Guillermo wants to go for if he does ever get to make this film. Turns out there was some art work submitted, that was Frankenstein artwork that was based on me. If I could play a Frankenstien that looks like the fan art that I have seen, directed by my favorite director Guillermo del Toro, that would be an absolute dream job for me, hands down.
He's a tragic, sad character, a monster, yes, because of the bizarre way that he's put together, but such a tragic back story and soul that's awakened in a world where he doesn't belong. He's very lonely. That's something that we can all tap into. I would love to tap into that and bring it to the screen.
This has all been talk that's happened with Guillermo and the press and me and the press. Guillermo and I have never discussed Frankenstein.
Please tell me the Silver Surfer movie is going to happen? What's the word?
I wish I had something to tell you, it's a heartbreaker that it's gone this long without word. A year ago at Comic Con, J. Michael Straczynski the wonderful writer and creator of scifi worlds, was hired to write a script. He was talking about it freely and the intention was to have a spin-off for the Silver Surfer. I have a standard three-picture deal. Everything is in place, but it's just a matter of, Are they going to do it or not now? And the longer it goes... The script has been at the studio for over a year now, we just don't know and the longer it goes the more forgotten it might become. So that's the fear. The fans have been very vocal about wanting to see the Surfer again. I would love to crawl into his skin again and get to know him better this time.
Tell me more about your character in Legion, he's an ice cream man at the end of the world? What's an ice cream man doing there?
It's an end-of-the-world epic story staring Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany and a host of others. It's a great great story that involves angels. It's sort of a modern day Noah's Ark story. It poses the question, Is humanity in a state that God would need to cleanse the world again, much like he did when the floods were sent?
The role I play in the film, it's a cameo, towards the end of the film. When my character shows up it's the beginning of, "Uh oh." I play a character called the Ice Cream Man. It's one scene but it's a very notable moment of the film. The Ice Cream Man sounds fun doesn't it? You have that sense but when I step out of the ice-cream truck you realize that something isn't right with this guy. It's kind of like a clown with a knife behind his back. I do a little something on film that will freak you out. I'm wearing a little uniform that an ice cream man would wear, with a little hat and bow tie.
Will your character have a biblical reference?
Not my character specifically, no, but there are Archangels. The archangel Michael is a lead character. That's who Paul Bettany plays, and there's a little bit of a showdown later and you get to meet Gabriel from the bible. There are a lot of parallels to the Noah's Ark film. Noah's Ark in this film is really a truck stop in the desert. The survivors are a bunch of every day average people that you wouldn't think were exceptionally saintly. And the flood isn't water it's more of a legion of angels from heaven who have come under God's command to do a little cleansing of Earth.
What else is in the works right now?
I did a cameo in Quarantine. It's a scary film shot reality-style with the one-camera look. It's like a Cloverfield. I'm in a moment in the film at the end where you realize this could be the guy that caused all the problems. It's a little bit of make up and a little bit of scary. It was shot hand-held with one camera. It was shot very quickly, my scene took a day.