LOS ANGELES—Twenty-seven years after American actor Ron Perlman came to Canada to play a caveman in Quest for Fire, he is still hiding under makeup.
His latest film is Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which sees him again playing the comic-book hero he introduced in the 2004 film Hellboy. To play the part, he spent hours in the makeup chair. Although most actors would probably find the process tedious, Perlman says that he has never felt particularly uncomfortable undergoing transformations.
“When I was first starting out in this business, I was quite uncomfortable in my skin,” he says in an L.A. hotel room. “So I was happy to make Quest for Fire, and then the beast in [the late-1980s TV series] Beauty and the Beast. I discovered that I was more comfortable behind the masks than being myself.
"I was freer, in a way, because I was no longer me. Instead, I was playing transformed versions of myself. These days, in my late 50s, I am more comfortable in my own skin and I don’t need makeup as much. So I look at the choices and think, ”˜How much pleasure am I going to get playing a masked character?’
"However, when the character is something like Hellboy, you know there are a whole lot of guys who wish they were me. This is a great character, one who is truly legendary and epic, in comic-book terms. And I find him to be a phenomenal character to spend time with.”
In the second installment of the series, Hellboy and his fellow members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense are assigned to send a dark prince back to the netherworlds from which he came. (The film opens July 11 in Vancouver.)
Like the first film, it is directed by Pan’s Labyrinth’s Guillermo del Toro, who started talking to Perlman about playing the lead character several years before the hero was brought to the screen. Perlman says he had low self-esteem and hadn’t thought of himself as a leading man before del Toro offered him the role. He says that playing a misfit hasn’t been that hard for him.
“To be a guy who lived on the fringes and then had success after having never been invited to the party before Guillermo fought for me for seven years is extremely gratifying. I have to admit that I have been incredibly sensitive to all the knocks that I have taken in my career.
"I am not unique. Everyone goes through tough times and deals with things in their own way. My way of making things right in my private life has been to exorcise the demons through acting. And one of the joys of acting is to take things that might remind you of chapters in your life and re-create them in your performance. There is nothing that Hellboy is going through that I haven’t felt at some point of my life. So I have tried to draw on those things.”
See also Guillermo Del Toro raises some Hellboy.
Read our review of Hellboy II: The Golden Army.