Haunted Honeymoon

Interview: Doug Jones (Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth)

Doug-Jones-Actor-4The youngest of four brothers, Doug Jones was born on the 24th May, 1960, in Indianapolis, Indiana. After attending Bishop Chatard High School, he headed off to Ball State University, where he graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications, with a minor in Theatre. He learned mime at school, and has also worked as a contortionist. After a hitch in theater in Indiana, he moved to Los Angeles in 1985, and has not been out of work since – he’s acted in over 25 films, many television series (Including the award-winning Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), his episode ‘Hush‘ garnered two Emmy nominations) and over 90 commercials and music videos with the likes of Madonna and Marilyn Manson. Although known mostly for his work under prosthetics, he has also performed as ‘Himself’ in such highly-rated films as Adaptation. (2002) with Nicolas Cage and indie projects such as Phil Donlon’s A Series of Small Things (2005). But it is his sensitive and elegant performance as ‘Abe Sapien’ in Hellboy (2004) & as Fauno in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), that have brought him an even higher profile and much praise from audiences and critics alike. He’s also one hell of a good hugger…

Horrornews.net: First of all, how long have you been acting professionally?

Doug Jones: I’ve been acting in the film/TV world for 28 years now, believe it or not! I started in 1986 with some TV commercials and I never really thought I was headed towards a career in monster suits & makeup. I went out to Hollywood from Indiana, where I grew up, thinking that I would be a sitcom star – I wanted to be a goofy sidekick on a sitcom. But being tall & skinny & having a background in mime made me attractive to the creature effects makeup people, and they all wanted to build suits on my bony frame. They could make me a suit that was normal sized & not too bulky, which is kind of a big deal for makeup artists. And having the sensibilities to be able to move effectively in those suits made me even more attractive to even more creature effect people, who kept referring me to others for even more work. So I owe my career to the creature effects people who made all the creature suits that I’d been wearing for all of these years.

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HNN: What was the first full body makeup that you performed in?

DJ: Hmmm, it would’ve been a TV commercial – well actually, in college, I was the mascot for the basketball team, lets start there. I was Charlie Cardinal for the basketball team at Ball State University, wearing the big bird suit.

HNN: Where is Ball State University located?

DJ: In Muncie, Indiana. where I graduated from back in the dark ages. But the very first showbiz gig that I landed was a commercial for Southwest Airlines and I was a dancing mummy in that. I was wrapped in bandages from head to toe and I thought I was a huge star!

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HNN: So what was the first feature film you appeared in?

DJ: I had done a few horror films to start out with, the straight to VHS types of horror films. I did a movie called The Newlydeads (1988), and I did one called Dark Tower (1989), with Michael Moriarty & Jenny Agutter

HNN: I remember Dark Tower!

DJ: Do you really? It took place in a high rise building.

HNN: Exactly! I remember the poster image as well, it was of a large building with lightning strikes above it.

DJ: That’s amazing! Nobody knows that!! I love you!

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HNN: Well, I love you too!

DJ: I was the ghost of the dead husband that was haunting the building, so you didn’t really see much of me until the very end during the big final showdown scene between myself & Jenny Agutter, as I chased her around the building in a huge makeup.

HNN: It could’ve been worse you know…

DJ: [Laughs] It could’ve been much worse! She was beautiful & I was so star struck by her. She was, of course, in American Werewolf In London (1981). I was still a newbie in Hollywood and here I was chasing her around in hallways, manhandling her – It was grand! You know, I forget how I even got the referral for that job. But it was the TV commercials that I had done prior that really got my movie career started. I remember the 3rd booking I ever got was for Worlds Of Wonder toys and it was a commercial for the Pamela doll. If you remember, Worlds Of Wonder were the people that created the Teddy Ruxpin doll…

HNN: I always thought Teddy Ruxpin was really creepy…

DJ: A lot of people did, he was a creepy, talking teddy bear! In the Pamela doll commercial, we were aliens coming to earth, we land in someone’s backyard and the first thing we encounter is the Pamela doll. I was in a slip on alien suit with a mechanical head, they had to glue it on from the neck down before putting on the head and it was created by Steve Neill, who was the first husband of Oscar winning makeup artist Ve Neill – who you can watch every week on that Face Off show. She and I are friends and she worked on my makeup for Batman Returns, but I met her former husband first, and he was the first makeup effects guy I had a real relationship with. So he referred me for things over & over again and we worked together a lot. The next thing that we did together after the Pamela commercial was the “Mac Tonight” campaign for McDonald’s. I was the crescent moon head that sang and that turned into a really good gig! 27 commercials over a three year period – I bought my first house thanks to that campaign. Steve had referred me for that gig, and I auditioned really well also, I’m not gonna lie! But I owe a lot to people like Steve & other creature effect specialists, because they really got the ball rolling for me & my career.

HNN: You’re known as the go to guy for full suit character makeups and I think there’s only been one time where I’ve seen you as just you, with no makeup on at all. It was on an anthology show that was on NBC but I forget the name of the show.

DJ: The series was called Fear Itself and the episode I was in was called Skin And Bones.

HNN: Oh man…that scared the crap out of me! It was terrifying, especially for something on a network show & not cable.

DJ: It was really scary!

HNN: Do you have an itch to do more roles without a fancy mechanical suit on?

DJ: That itch has been satisfied over the years. The Fear Itself episode we’re talking about was filmed in 2008, and starting around 2006 or so there were a lot of young directors and film makers who really liked the novelty of putting Doug Jones in a role without any crazy makeup. Another example would be 2010’s Legion, that was directed by Scott Stewart and starred Paul Bettany and Karl Urban.

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HNN: You were the ice cream man!

DJ: Exactly! I metamorphed into something horrific but my introduction in the film was just me in my ice cream outfit, driving the truck. The reason why Scott Stewart went after me for that role was because they knew that eventually the character’s limbs grow very long and his jaw drops down to his chest, and I had the physicality for that. But he also thought that it would be a nice treat for the fans if they could see Doug Jones in a genre film, with his real face! So I get that kind of reaction a lot from directors, which I really find quite delightful. I also had the privilege of being in a zany sitcom on ABC called The Neighbors (2012-14).

HNN: Honestly, I never watched it, but I do remember seeing ad’s for it. It starred…

DJ: You know who was in it because you had a crush on her! I know you had a crush on her!

HNN: Was it Jami Gertz?

DJ: Yes! It was Jami Gertz from The Lost Boys (1987), and she was delightful to work with. I had so much fun working with her and Simon Templeman on that series. The head writer on that show was Dan Fogelman, who was responsible for writing/producing Cars (2006) & Cars 2 (2011). He also wrote Bolt (2008) and he also wrote Crazy Stupid Love (2011) with Steve Carell. He’s just a crazy guy with toys in his head and being a part of that show was a dream come true for me because, as I had said earlier, I always wanted to be a sitcom actor. So to have ABC want me on their show was a real honor for me. It was a great place for character actors like me, with my tall, skinny peculiarity, that didn’t look quite right but worked perfectly for that show. That kind of thing has been happening more for me now than ever before. I’m doing a lot of indie films, especially now, my next film is called The Midnight Man and it’s a mafia comedy where I’m playing a mafia torture expert. I’ve done a few things with Zoe Bell a couple of times as well recently.

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HNN: I love Zoe Bell! I think she’s great.

DJ: Isn’t she though? I think she’s just wonderful.

HNN: I loved the last film I saw her in, called Raze (2013). Wait a minute…you’re in Raze!

DJ: I’m in Raze with my head shaved. I played Joseph, the patriarch of that hideous society.

HNN: I really liked Raze a lot.

DJ: I’m glad you saw that, thank you. Wasn’t it intense?

HNN: I caught a lot of flack for liking that movie actually. I had written a positive review for it & got called out as a misogynist by some people that just didn’t get it.

DJ: It’s not a misogynistic film! It’s actually a very pro woman film. Thank you for understanding that.

HNN: I mean, how many times have you seen a action film where the women are the stars?

DJ: Where the women are the bad asses! A film that celebrates the power of a woman and what lengths they’ll go to in order to protect the ones they love.

HNN: Right!

DJ: That’s a power of nature that men will never quite understand & never truly will. That was the 2nd time I worked with Zoe using my real face. The first time was in a movie for the Spike channel called Angel Of Death (2009), she played a mafia hit woman and I was the doctor who patched her up. The mafia hired me for the job because I had a cocaine problem and I couldn’t get a job anywhere else [Laughing]! I love Zoe and I would do anything for her, the reason I’m in Raze is because she came looking for me to be in the film. She was the producer on Raze as well. When I read the script, I did have some reservations, but since I knew that Zoe was producing/starring in it, I knew it was gonna come out the way you reviewed it.

HNN: The relationship you have with Guillermo Del Toro is obviously a really personal one at this point. You guys are friends now and the fact that you keep appearing in his films is a testament to that friendship. What is it about working with him that makes you want to continue doing it?

DJ: He is a genius, pure & simple and any actor would be ridiculously stupid to not want to work with him! I met him on Mimic (1997), which was his first American made studio film. And again, it was because of a referral he had gotten from a creature effects guy. We shot in Toronto, using a Canadian actor in the bug costume and when they were doing pick up shots/re-shoots in L.A., the Canadian actor didn’t have the proper work visa. So it was easier to get a local, American actor and they needed someone who was tall & skinny and just like magic, my name suddenly appeared on their rolodex.

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So I got called in to do 3 nights of shooting and on my 2nd night there, I was sitting at the lunch table and Guillermo sat right across from me. Now I didn’t know who he was, I knew he was quite a big name in Latin countries by then and he had already done Cronos (1993) and he was quite beloved in Mexico, but I was just the dumb American guy who had never really heard of him before. He sits across the table from me and he says [Sounding EXACTLY like Del Toro] “So tell me everything you’ve done before“. He wanted to hear about all of the creepy creatures I’d played and since this was in 1997, I had quite a body of work under me and had worked with a lot of great makeup artists. He asked me “What’s Stan Winston like as a person?” and I told him I was in Hocus Pocus (1993) and he said “Oh, that’s Tony Gardner. What’s he like to work with?” Guillermo wanted to know if they were nice people to work with, are they nice to work with? Are they friendly? That’s equally as important to him as someone’s artistic value and what they could bring to a project. I knew he was different upon my first meeting with him and the way he was giggling throughout our conversation was priceless! He’s a true fanboy and a true fan of film and storytelling. He’s unlike any director I’d ever met before.

At the end of our lunch, he asked me if I had a business card, and I handed him one. It stayed in his wallet for the next five years! 2002 rolls around and he was gearing up to do Hellboy, Spectral Motion was the shop handling the creature makeup effects, Mike Elizalde heads that shop up. Jose Fernandez sculpted the maquette for Abe Sapien and Steve Wang was the original designer for it, and I had worked with all of them in the past! So when they revealed the maquette to Guillermo to get his OK on it’s final design, rumor had it, since confirmed, that upon looking at it, Guillermo fell to his knees and exclaimed, “Oh, I am so fat”! Which was his way of saying “What a beautiful thin creature” – I think! Afterwards, Mike, Jose & Steve suggested that I would be perfect for the role and Guillermo said “Doug Jones? I know Doug Jones” and he went into his wallet, pulled out my card and the rest is history.

HNN: He had it all that time…?

DJ: Isn’t that amazing? He’s a genuine lover of people and when he likes you and there’s a relationship to be formed, he always keeps you in mind. Crimson Peak will be our fifth film together.

HNN: Has filming started on that yet?

DJ: It’s completed! Crimson Peak is wrapped now and it was also filmed in Toronto. I play a couple of key cameos, different characters in the movie. I’m not allowed to tell you what I’m playing, but when I realized I’d be doing a lot of press this year for Falling Skies (An alien invasion series currently on TNT), and I’d probably get a lot of questions regarding Crimson Peak, I asked Guillermo what I should say he said, “Tell them it’s a haunted house story, what the eff do you think I’m playing?” [Laughing].

HNN: I swear if I close my eyes, it’s like he’s standing right in front of me. You do his voice so well!

DJ: [Laughing] Thank you, I’ve had a lot of time to perfect it!

HNN: You know, he is the reason that I started to write.

DJ: He is? How do you mean?

HNN: Well, I had met him at a Times Talk event in NYC a few years back – when The Strain was published. After he spoke to the audience, he (along with co writer Chuck Hogan), was signing copies of the book and my daughter wanted to meet him. When we got up to the table, he took a shine to my daughter since he has a daughter with the same first name (Mariana). We ended up trading email addresses & we actually kept in touch for a little while. He exhorted me to try writing because he felt my email’s had the “Tenor of a writer“. I was truly honored & flabbergasted when I read that.

DJ: That is so sweet of him! He loves to figure out people. He loves to appreciate their strengths. He loves to find their weaknesses and try to cultivate all of it. And that’s what makes him such a great director because he does that with us as actors as well. He knows my strengths and weaknesses better than I do, and he writes for me – he creates characters for me based on those strengths and weaknesses.

HNN: You mentioned your “Strengths and Weaknesses”. What do you consider your strengths & weaknesses to be?

DJ: Guillermo will tell you! As a matter of fact, there’s a documentary called Men In Suits (2012), and it’s kind of an expose about people like me, who wear suits in the movies for a living. In it, he compares me to Brian Steele, who played Sammael in the first Hellboy film, and Mr. Wink in Hellboy 2. Brian’s gift is that he’s about 6′ 8″ and he can wear those big heavy suits in the movies we make. And in the film, Guillermo says that he would never cast them in each others roles, because Brian has a brute strength and physicality that can bring life to larger creatures, while Doug has a fluidity, an elegance about him. He’s called me the “Fred Astaire Of Monsters“, which is such a great title. But he would never put me in a role that involves a lot of action or stunts like that, and for good reason, because I’m better at the cultivated characters that have witty dialog & are more gentle. I don’t know if it’s a weakness or not but he knows what we’re good at, and he’ll write towards that.

HNN: Let’s speak about Abe Sapien for a bit. The character has a beautiful sense of humanity to him, and that’s really telling because he’s more human than a lot of the actual humans he’s surrounded by. A lot of that humanity comes from the body language you use when you play him, but I was wondering if there were any times when you’ve asked to change a line to bring some of that humanity to the character? Or is it all Guillermo?

DJ: I’m gonna say it’s all Guillermo. He writes so beautifully & so brilliantly, but there are times where he’ll collaborate, and he collaborates really well. Hellboy 2 is a good example, in the scene where Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) & Abe are getting to know each other in the library and you can tell there’s a bit of that teenage, awkward, romantic tension going on – it’s a very sweet scene. The scene was supposed to end with Nuala saying “Goodnight Abraham” before she walked away. But Guillermo wanted a button at the end of that scene, he wanted it to come back to Abe, so he asked me “What would you do there?”. So that’s where I got the idea to say “Good Night” to the princess and getting it all wrong and it comes out as “Good night..your highness, uh your majesty…uh ma’am!”. And I kind of hit myself on the head and say “Oh god…ABE!”. And he loved it and it stayed in the movie! When he sees something and it works, he leaves it alone. He’s a true genius.

HNN: Did it bother you that someone else’s voice was used in the first Hellboy film?

DJ: No actor wants to see part of his performance replaced by somebody else. I don’t begrudge anybody at all, I’m a big fan of David Hyde Pierce and I thought he did a great job in the film, but so did I! I have to give myself some credit here. But I put my heart & soul into creating Abe on film and when the studio mae that choice to replace my voice with someone who had a bigger name, it was very demeaning to me. But by the time that Hellboy 2 came around, David was instrumental in making that happen because he was brought in to do his voice over on the first Hellboy film and when he put on his headphones and heard my original voice, which he was about to dub over with his, he asked “What am I doing here?“, it was very sweet of him but he went ahead and did the job he was hired to do. But when Hellboy came out in theaters, his name was not on the film! It’s on IMDB but it’s not in the credits on the film, and that’s because he asked for it to be excluded. And when he was asked “Why?”, he said it was out of respect to Doug Jones. Actors just don’t do things like that, I’ve never met him in real life, but when I do, I’m gonna kiss him on the cheek!

Now when Guillermo called to tell me that this had happened and the studio requested a celebrity voice over for Abe – Actually, there were rumors about this happening before I was originally cast but it was early in my career and I wasn’t a celebrity just yet. So I understood the marketing plan but I asked them not to do it regardless. So the studio loved my voice but they always had the celebrity voice over plan in mind anyway, so that’s what they went with. So after David didn’t give them the bang for their buck that they were hoping for, Guillermo told me that if he ever makes a Hellboy 2, he would love to use my voice for that, and that’s what ended up happening. And in between Hellboy 1 and 2, they made the animated Hellboy films, Hellboy: Sword Of Storms (2006) & Hellboy: Blood And Iron (2007), and they actually put out offers to David to reprise his voice role and he politely declined, so bless his heart for that. So they came back to me and it all worked out really well, although I was really worried about how the fans would react when they heard my voice but the fans loved it and I actually teared up a bit when I read all of the positive reviews.

HNN: Is there ever going to be a Hellboy 3?

DJ: Oh, from your lips to god’s ears! I wish it were so and all of us want to finish up the trilogy properly, Guillermo has a story all set up as well but we’re having a standoff over money. Guillermo did the first two Hellboy films on budgets far below what the average blockbuster films usually cost. He made Hellboy for $60 million, he made Hellboy 2 for about $85 million and movies like that usually get budgets around $150 million. Guillermo wants $150 million to make the third one, he doesn’t want to have to scrimp & save & stretch each dollar out to its breaking point. Making the first two Hellboy films was really stressful, Hellboy 2 nearly killed him! We all watched him age a lot on that movie and I don’t want to see him stress out like that again either, none of us do. So he’s having a standoff with the studio system because no studio wants to give him that much money to make it, unfortunately. So in the meantime, we’re not making the movie. This is the one question I get from every fan I speak with.

HNN: Thanks so much for your time Doug, but I have to ask you one last question.

DJ: That’s fine. By the way, you’re really good at this – you ask great questions.

HNN: Heady words! Especially coming from someone like you, thanks! Now for that last question: I’m told that I’m supposed to ask you for a hug…

DJ: You most certainly are! Come on over here…

At this point, Doug Jones embraces me and it’s pretty freaking spectacular! It’s hard to describe, but it sorta feels like I was being embraced by a deity of some sort. His hug was warm, inviting and most of all, sincere. I felt completely refreshed and completely elated afterwards. This dude is some kind of magic man…

HNN: Whoa. That was an experience I’ll never forget! Again, thank you for your time & your hug Doug!

DJ: It was my sincere pleasure!

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