Sunday, July 06, 2008

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMYThe Evening Class Interview With Doug Jones

My editor at movieScope assigned me Doug Jones to interview for our upcoming issue fanfaring Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which opens theatrically Stateside next Friday. It was a welcome assignment. Doug and I hit it off and spoke for over an hour. Amazingly, movieScope only wanted 1800 words, which left me with quite a bit left over to offer up here! I guess we could call it the Jack Spratt school of journalism? Let no one go hungry. Not for the spoiler-wary!

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Michael Guillén: Doug, masks are associated with the Greek god Dionysos, especially with regard to the fact that—along with all that masks are said to conceal—they likewise reveal. In your career particularly masquerade has been the means by which your talent has been revealed. When you started out as an actor, did you have any idea that you would become a so-called "creature actor"?

Doug Jones: No, not even close. I had no idea. When I began and set out to Hollywood in 1985, I came out to be a sitcom star. I thought being a tall, skinny, white guy that surely I would be able to get on a TV series and be the goofy next-door neighbor who runs in, does armpit farts, says something funny and then runs back out again. That's where I thought I was destined. I finally got an agent and started to do TV commercials and my third job was a campaign for McDonald's as the character Mac Tonight and that went on for 27 commercials over a three-year period. I wore a crescent moon head and sang while sitting at a piano, floating on a cloud. Mac Tonight became a wildly popular character that lasted, as I said, for three years and in that time I became known as—not just a tall, skinny, goofy white guy—but, one who wears things without complaining and moves well. My name started getting passed around the creature effects shops because of the various people that would work on my commercial campaign. Over the years it snowballed to where we are now.

Guillén: No doubt Bobby Darin envies you from beyond the grave for the fame you achieved with that character Mac Tonight.

Jones: [Chuckles.] I hope Bobby Darin is proud. Actually, his estate sued McDonalds back in the late '80s when the commercial campaign got really popular. They sued for likeness and infringement, that sort of thing, saying the voiceover singer sounded very much like Bobby and they felt that was on purpose and that McDonalds was trying to steal Darin's style. They also attacked my movement as also being directly stolen from Bobby Darin. At the time I was fortunate enough to have never seen Bobby Darin in any kind of filmed footage. He'd been dead for a while. In my defense, I could actually say I had never even seen the man and was able to give that statement to the McDonald's lawyer.

Guillén: Despite that litigious upset, audiences are blessed that you were able to step right into that commercial campaign, gain recognition and achieve continuing work. Those early opportunities led to some of the most iconic performances in recent cinema history. That must, of course, have felt great to start right off with steady work?

Jones: Absolutely. It's nothing that I've ever rolled my eyes at or complained, "This isn't what I want." Never. It's been a career that's evolved with my definite participation. Sometimes I've gotten jobs over the years where I was wearing a big mechanical head and a tail coming out of my backside and claws on my hands, growling at people, swiping at them and drawing blood out of their necks. At times you might think, "This is thankless and useless"; but, then, it's that kind of reputation that leads you to meeting a man named Guillermo del Toro. A man who knows how to make beasts and monsters into romantic leading men. He's the one director who's been able to do that. I met him doing Mimic. I was a bug-guy living in the subways of New York. Five years later Guillermo remembered me and conversations we had during the filming of Mimic. He remembered a night that, he said, I saved his ass, though I still don't know quite why he says that. He seemed to think I saved the production on Mimic during the re-shoot period.

Five years later the team at Spectral Motion had designed and sculpted the maquette for Abe Sapien, the blue fish sidekick of Hellboy from the comic books. The team sat back from the sculpture and one of the designers said, "That looks like Doug Jones." The rest of them chimed in, "Oh yeah, we've worked with Doug, he's great." This passed around the room. Guillermo del Toro was in the room and he goes [Jones goes into a flawless del Toro impersonation], "Doug Jones? Doug Jones!! I know Doug Jones!" He pulled out my card from his wallet that he'd gotten from me five years before. He's a very loyal man who doesn't forget people. That's how Hellboy happened for me the first time around and playing the role of Abe Sapien is what cemented my relationship with Guillermo.

A couple of years later Pan's Labyrinth came up. Guillermo came directly to me, telling me, "There is absolutely no one else who can play the role of The Faun. So, please, read the script tonight"—he gave me like a few hours—"and I also want you to look at the role of the Pale Man."

Guillén: When Guillermo approaches you to play one of his characters, does he show you his drawings? Or does he talk the character to you?

Jones: Initially, at first, it's talked to me. What comes shortly thereafter is a trip into the creature effects shop where he's hired artists to design the make-ups that he's come up with. That can be days or weeks later. For the first Hellboy, I think it was that same day after I got the phone call that I went into the production office and saw the sculptured maquette of Abe Sapien. The costume sculptor Jose Fernandez was sitting right there along with designer Steve Wang and Mike Elizalde, the shop owner; they were the ones who had been talking about me just the day before. There sat the sculptures that they all said looked like me and I said, "Those do look like me." So I had a rough idea already of the character and Guillermo, he often sketches in this diary book of his, he writes notes and does drawings of monsters and creatures. He's been doing this for years since he was a youngster. He always has a diary book with him that he's able to do notes in and so for Pan's Labyrinth both The Faun and The Paleman with the eyes in his hands were in that notebook. When I was approached about Pan's Labyrinth, that was something he had talked through with me first and then I was flown over to Barcelona to the creature shop Effectos Especiales where they then showed me the designs on paper and sculpture-wise what they were thinking of for The Faun and for The Paleman. I got the idea quickly.

Guillermo and I usually talk before a film starts about the character. He very much motivates from the inside out. He gets into the heart and soul of the character, gives me specific movements, tics, or characteristics that he would like to see incorporated from that heart and soul. That gives me something to go home and chew on and think about. I go to my late night gym and—after the aerobic classes are done—I'll look at myself in the mirrors and review what we've talked about and discover in front of these mirrors how this character moves, walks and lunges. Does he run? Does he crawl? How does he react to things? That's the physical thing. I can then take that with me into the creature shop and—once they start designing pieces on me and I go into fittings where I'm actually sliding things on for the first time or getting glued into things for the first time—that's when I can see what capabilities these creatures have that actually extend beyond my human capability. Sometimes it's finger extensions or something on my head that is very expressive that does even more than I can. Or sometimes it's a limitation where your arms don't move as high up as you thought they could or you can't squat down as low as you thought you could because of constraints of the costume. Those are the things you find out during the whole process. You learn about the character and try to incorporate all those costume and suit restrictions and capabilities into the organic being that you're to become.

Guillén: Guillermo has specifically stated that you create the ecosystem around the characters.

Jones: Yeah, I've heard him say that. I'm very complimented by that. That's exactly my goal: when the camera rolls I want you, the audience, to think, "That creature woke up looking like that today."

Guillén: I've been blessed to have had the chance to sit down and talk with Guillermo and have actually seen his diary sketchbooks so I know exactly what you must have felt when you first saw these images and drawings. It must have been an exciting feeling to know you get to be the kinetic expression of those drawings.

Jones: The exciting part for me is that I know how much Guillermo's creatures mean to him. They are his house pets. I picture Guillermo in this big house full of critters and creepy crawly things and man-animal mutants and all kinds of creatures; they're all his house pets. He loves them all dearly. I have been very blessed and fortunate enough to be a couple of those pet creatures of his that get to sleep at the foot of his bed. I've been the privileged one a few times and I appreciate and am honored by that.

Guillén: You give them life. I'm sure Guillermo is honored to have you animate them.

Jones: We just saw each other last night at the Saturn Awards where he got something like a lifetime achievement award. On the red carpet outside someone who was speculating about The Hobbit was asking him on camera with me standing next to him, "So Guillermo, what do you have for Doug in The Hobbit?" It put him on the spot because it's too premature for him to be announcing anything about production on The Hobbit; but, Guillermo said, "Oh no, no, no, you'll be seeing him. I'm sure I'll be putting him through some kind of torture and inconvenience and some kind of pain." I looked at him and said, "So nothing new then?" He went on to tell the reporter, "Listen. I can't say anything official; but, what I can tell you is that—if I did a hemorrhoid commercial—Doug Jones would be in it!" [Laughter.] That gave me the quote of the century. I absolutely love him for saying that.

Guillén: And having met Guillermo, I have to say you do a great impersonation of him!

Jones: I adore the man.

Guillén: Which leads me to say that it's lovely to know that Abe Sapien this time around will have your own voice.

Jones: You're very sweet, thank you so much for that. The voice issue has been something of a monkey on my back. It's one of those decisions that I didn't have the clout or the power to ward off the first time. It wasn't so much a creative decision as it was a business decision for the studio. Basically, I know the job of acting. I do not know how to market a film, what sells, or what gets people to buy tickets. That's the studio's job and I leave that in their capable hands. David Hyde Pierce—who the studio hired to do the voiceover for Abe Sapien—basically saw my performance on film, heard my performance in his earpiece on the original production before he voiced over, and stepped back, wondering why he was there.

Guillén: I imagine at this point it must also feel good that—because you are gaining credence as an actor in your own creative right—studio decisions to posture a voice/body split will become increasingly infrequent. The slights of Hellboy and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer are a thing of the past.

Jones: Replacing my voice in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was another unfortunate marketing mishap. I shouldn't call it a mishap. It was another studio decision; a mishap on my part, perhaps, because I think I can speak for actors in general that none of us want to watch a part of our performance be replaced or taken away. I'm certainly no different. Especially once I heard a piece of footage played back where I heard myself and I thought, "Oh wow, I think that's it." I don't like to boast about my own performances, but, on Silver Surfer I lowered the register of my voice to where it was direct and commanding, but peaceful. He was a calm character who had nothing to prove to anybody. When the writer of the script, when my cast mates in the film, when the sound editors and producers, when all kinds of people told me secretly and privately that the voice I'd given the Silver Surfer was exactly the voice they had imagined, that the velvety tones I was giving him were perfect, and they all said, "I hope they keep your voice, Doug", when you hear all those kinds of comments and then you watch the movie and the voice of Laurence Fishburne comes out of your mouth, it's disconcerting. Now, mind you, again, Laurence Fishburne? Fantastic actor. I admire the man and always have. I think he has a lovely voice himself. It's just a matter of, again: no actor wants a part of his performance taken away.

Guillén: Well, fortunately—as I said—we get to put these mishaps behind us in Hellboy II and we'll get the full-bodied, full-voiced Doug Jones; the complete performance.

Jones: Thank you for that. It's been a mission of mine to bring a kind of dignity back to creature acting where an actor is acting underneath a lot of prosthetics. The golden era of creature acting with Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi, it's my mission to bring those moments back and to achieve the kind of respect that those wonderful actors had back in the golden era. To have that kind of attention and dignity and respect is something I'm trying to reach out and attain for—not just myself—but for anyone else who does this kind of work. There are quite a few of us. Part of that dignity and respect is—when approached with a role—that it not just be a monkey that's needed to jump around while a "real" actor comes in to do the voice. If you're hiring an actor to do a part, you're hiring an actor to do a part like any other role in the film. That means you can hire an actor to take on a character physically and vocally as any other character. As I've said, I've done lots of acting without rubber make-up on, I've guest-starred on a lot of TV episodes and done a lot of smaller parts in bigger films that flew by and people really didn't know it was me. I'll tell you, when taking on a character who is a human being wearing a t-shirt and jeans, you still have to take on the physicality of that character from head to toe, I believe. Any actor does. His posture, his intentions, his heart and soul do come out physically as well as verbally. It's not just spitting out lines. It's no different from that end of the spectrum all the way to the guy who's growling with a snout, a tail and talons on his fingers. You still have to find the heart and soul of that character. It takes an actor to do everything within that entire spectrum.

Somewhere along the way someone drew a line that said, "Actors go all the way to here and from there on are these people we call suit performers." That's a title that I would like to have erased entirely. I think it takes an actor to do all of it.

Guillén: Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. That being said, your physicality is so consummate. How did you train to become such an excellent physical actor?

Jones: As far as formal training, the closest I can tell you is that I did learn the beautiful art of mime when I was in college. As a freshman back at Ball State University in Indiana, I was living in the dorm and down the hall from me lived another tall, skinny, goofy, funny guy named Reid Steele. Reid approached me one day after having gotten to know me in the cafeteria downstairs—he was a senior, I was a freshman—and he noticed that I talked with my hands a lot and that I had a very expressive face. He noticed that I would mimic people and act things out and get ridiculous and get lots of laughs from people and so he approached me one day and said, "Have you ever heard of an art form called mime?" I said, "Like pantomime?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, yeah, I don't know much about it." He said, "Come to one of our shows. I think you'd be perfect to join our troupe." There was a mime troupe on campus and he was the lead performer and director. He had directly trained with Marcel Marceau in Paris, France during the summer and then had come back to the school with the thought of forming his own mime troupe, which he called Mime Over Matter. Very clever title.

I went to one of their shows and I was absolutely mesmerized watching people tell story after story in sketch form that were funny or touching or frightening or whatever with nothing but their bodies and their faces, their whole physical beings, without a sound, and without props. They created an entire world with every sketch that I could see. I could see the room they were in. I could see the car they were driving. Whatever it was, I could see the entire thing and I sat there baffled by this art form. Of course I went up to him after the show and said, "Please. What do I have to do to get into this troupe? I need to learn from you." That started my four years of being in the mime troupe at Ball State University. By the time that I was a senior, it was my duty to be the leader of the troupe and to bring in the young folk by saying, "You might be a good mime." I do owe Reid Steele a lot because—what that art form did for me—was it awakened everything from the neck down, and the facial expressions, and learning how to tell a story without using words. It makes you very aware of storytelling and character development and everything that has to happen visually. When you then couple that with a character that has dialogue, it completes you. It completes me anyways. Finally, when the camera rolls and it's all there visually, I'm in Heaven.

Guillén: Respectful of mime—because I've actually taken mime classes myself and I recall how strenuously physical they were and how fit you have to be to handle them to be expressive effectively—how are you then hindered by the accoutrement of creature costumes and prosthetic makeup?

Jones: Again, I don't think I would ever say "hindered." There are more difficult things to wear than others, depending upon the role. I would say the farther away you get from human, the more difficult it is.

Hearing? If you've got dialogue and you're bouncing lines back and forth with another character … I'll tell you, the motors that are sometimes in my head piece … there's oftentimes rubber over my ears, which muffles things. Any part of the face and/or head that's motorized, like in Pan's Labyrinth, which is where I probably had the loudest motors because I had ears flapping and eyebrow movement that was being puppeteered by off-camera technicians, well that required motors in my head piece, and battery packs and the whole thing. When "action" was yelled, I would hear, "[Jones makes whirring, buzzing and clicking sounds]." It was loud! And little Ivana Boquero, playing Ofelia, was saying her dialogue to me and I was basically watching her lips move with my very limited vision. I had to keep her in my very narrow site of vision. It has some challenges, yes, it does; but—as long as I'm able to let the audience believe that this character is organic and grew up this way—then I've done my job. I work it all in somehow. I take it on as, "This is the world this character lives in; it's not odd to him to not be able to see or not be able to hear properly or be clumping around on stilts, where balance is an issue, this is just what this character grew up with. This is an everyday thing for him and this is how he wakes up. I have to incorporate it into his being."

Guillén: My God! What an amazingly compensatory discipline. You must be a centered individual to cope with the process. To be under make-up for five to seven hours at a stretch, how are you able to sustain concentration? Do you meditate?

Jones: That's a great question. I wish I had a good answer for that. I've been told by make-up artists from all the various jobs I've done over the years that I could possibly be the most patient person they've ever worked on, which I take as a huge compliment from people who do this every day. I do zone out very easily. I also enjoy the make-up artists as people so very much. They're all so extremely creative. A lot of people who do creature effects make-up especially were the kind of kids in school who doodled demons and angels and fireballs in their notebooks when they should have been taking math class notes. So they're very interesting and colorful, creative and funny people oftentimes, mostly, so spending time with these people—five hours at a time—is interesting. We all have a lot to talk about and now—thank goodness!—with the age of the Internet and laptop computers, they'll pull up things on YouTube that we'll watch and laugh about or we'll be playing music often, talking about various musical artists that we all like or don't like, and I usually get made fun of for my musical choices. The time passes faster than you might think and then, again, watching this character come together piece by piece is helpful.

Guillén: Are you suggesting it's the collaborative rapport that helps you be patient?

Jones: Absolutely, it is. Yeah. I owe make-up artists a lot. Without them, I wouldn't be able to play this wide array of characters. There are a lot of actors out there who do not enjoy a make-up process like this because of the challenges—as you put them—which includes the discomforts and some dulling of the senses. It is disconcerting to a lot of actors; but, if you look at is as—instead of something that's being heaped upon you and that you're burdened with—but as this wonderful world that's being opened up to you. You could never play with your own face in the same way. Then it becomes a much more positive experience. Tom Floutz is the one make-up artist that I call "mine", he's the one make-up artist I want to work with. If someone asked me, "Do you have a preference of who works on you?", I would have to say, "Someone like Tom Floutz." He made me up as Abe Sapien in the first Hellboy. He made me up as the Silver Surfer. He made me up as Abe Sapien and as the Angel of Death and the Chamberlain in the second Hellboy. Along with Simon Webber, his assistant from the U.K. We have really bonded over the years and he's become—not just a wonderful artist because his work is flawless—but, he's also someone who takes care of me. He's someone I lean on who—if I'm having a day where I'm not feeling well—he takes care of all those needs well. By the end of a shoot, I find myself crying on him because he's taken such good care of me that it's like the nursing home patient that's saying good-bye to the head nurse. That's what it feels like.

Guillén: That brings up something else I was going to say: it's not like you do one role. You took on two roles in Pan's Labyrinth and have taken on three different characters in Hellboy II with three different sets of challenges. How do accomplish that logistically? Are the scenes of a separate character filmed separately? Or do you have to keep switching back and forth between the make-up processes?

Jones: In the case of Pan's Labyrinth, the Pale Man was my second character that we did in one dedicated week, which was somewhere about two-thirds the way into the shoot. So I did The Faun, The Faun, The Faun, The Faun, a week of the Pale Man, and then back to The Faun. That was an easy transition. I knew that my week of the Pale Man was coming where from Monday to Friday it was going to be the Pale Man week. Making that transition was great and wonderful. The Pale Man was a great one to crawl into too.

Guillén: I am admittedly stunned by all you have to think about when you're stepping into one of these characters. A character like Abe—who comes across as such a gentle creature and, basically, the heart of this film—I understand falls in love in this movie?

Jones: Oh my gosh. This is such a great story line.

Guillén: He falls in love with the Elf Princess Nuala?

Jones: Yes, this is Princess Nuala, the Elven Princess who is the twin sister of our bad guy, our nemesis, Prince Nuada. The relationship that Abe Sapien and the Princess have on film together is absolutely charming. Both of them have an innocence to them. Both of them have a lost soul demeanor to them. When they find each other, it's electric and it awakens an emotional side to Abe Sapien that he did not know he had. He's been a very intellectual being over the years, sort of like Spock even, and he's a very old soul; he's been around for a long time. To have this part of him awakened makes him into this gibberish adolescent again. Another Guillermo del Toro trait is that he takes these creatures, these monsters, and gives them such humanity within storylines that deal with the human condition. This part of Abe Sapien's character this time will remind all of us of our first love, the first crush we had when we were in high school, that first puppy love thing that we fell into hard and heavy when we were sure that this was the one we were going to marry and I can't live without her or him. It was that kind of revisitation for me. It reminded me of the very first girl friend I had in high school when I thought the world had stopped and I started making really stupid decisions for myself based on this beating heart that I had. Abe Sapien is going through something very similar to that. It's woven into the story line so well because it does affect his decision-making skills and his intellect, which he brings to the table of the superhero team. That's what he brings. We'll see if he makes all the right decisions or not and what repercussions come from that.

Guillén: When Guillermo and I sat down to talk, we spoke a bit about the Catholic underpinnings prevalent in much of his manifested world. I'm aware that you are also a practicing Christian, are you Catholic?

Jones: I've been a lot of denominations over the years but I call myself a generic Christian, yes, and am attending a church now that would remind you of Catholicism. It's more orthodox. On the first Hellboy, when I was given the script the first day and was told to go home and read it that day and get back to him that night, I'm reading the script called Hellboy and he's a demon from Hell. I'm thinking, "Okay, I have to respectfully find a way to tell Guillermo I can't do this movie." That was my first thought before I cracked open the script. Then I started reading it and realized, "Oh my goodness, I am so not offended by this. In fact, I'm enlivened by it. I'm finding my faith being nurtured and challenged by this story. This is good."

I loved seeing images in that first movie, where Hellboy had a decision to make. He was being enticed and tempted by the nemesis in that film to regain his princely place in Hell. "Here is the power you can have. Here is what you were meant to be really. And here's what I can offer you." That's when his horns grew back, during this decision, when he was feeling tempted by that offer. Well, that's when our young agent Myers was watching this, got Hellboy's attention, and tossed him the rosary that his father Professor "Broom" had given him and that he grew up with as a boy demon. Hellboy caught that rosary in his hand and the image of the cross was burned into his palm. Looking down at his palm is when he realized who he is now and what decisions he had made in the life he'd chosen for himself. That was such beautiful imagery for me. Anyone who comes from the faith that I come from can relate to it and understand.

Guillén: Guillermo excels at expressing the rockbed of faith within even the lapsed Catholic. He pronounces these lines of faith so clearly and—as you said—respectfully in his visual imagery. While filming in Budapest, was your faith heightened by the proximity of orthodox practice?

Jones: Being in Eastern Europe—or Central Europe, as they're calling it now—has always done that, yes. I love walking around in an old city like that and walking past a cathedral that has so much history. In Budapest, as well as Prague where we filmed the first Hellboy, a dear friend of mine, Brian Steele—who has played a lot of creatures alongside of me over the years; he was Sammael in the first Hellboy and plays Wink and three other creatures in Hellboy II as well—he knew I was a churchgoer and on Easter Sunday while we were shooting the first Hellboy movie he said, "I'd like to go to this Catholic cathedral you've been attending for Easter, if I can join you?" I said, "Of course! Come with me." We walked into this old cathedral, which was absolutely ornate and gorgeous with art work that has been handed down through centuries, and sculptures of Jesus and angels, amazing art work, a building that had so much history to it, and had been active with church services happening almost on a daily basis for hundreds of years, Brian walked in there with me and he said, "Wow!"—we're whispering in the back of the church because the service had already started—"You can tell a lot of prayers have been answered in this building." So, yes, that part of Europe is steeped in tradition like that and with history.

Guillén: Moving past Guillermo's aggrandized images of satans and angels which you've been helping him create in both Hellboy movies, I understand you've been working on another film with a working title of Knock, Knock where you play—imagine!—a human being?

Jones: Thank you for mentioning that. I'm looking forward to this. The title is now called My Name Is Jerry. This is a film that has become something of a dream role for me. People ask me—after playing such a wide variety of characters over the years—if there's a character that I've been dying to play? Jerry is one of those characters. He is an average, middle-American white guy who is going through a bit of a midlife crisis. It's a coming of middle-age type of story. In his boring, mundane existence, he's finding a reason—a need—to reinvent himself. This is kind of classic for people in their forties. I've been through it; I know. Jerry finds himself wanting to have more of a purpose, more of a reason to wake up and be excited about living again, and he finds himself lured into the punk rock scene by happening upon some young people who are into that scene. So there's some funny involved in this because he does not fit; but, yet, he's still welcomed into it by these kids who take him in. Meanwhile, his estranged daughter—who he has not seen in 10 years—moves back home with him when his ex-wife passes away. His daughter is about the same age as the kids he's hanging around with and this creates a bit of a conflict. He's also, meanwhile, going through some work issues and changing jobs. He's kind of a Sad Sack when you meet him at the beginning of the film and—through the course of the movie—it's his job to become a hero for himself. My Name Is Jerry is about watching this Sad Sack character bounce back and, again, make some choices that can lead him to a more triumphant existence. It was so much fun to crawl into this character. I love Jerry. The script has been rewritten enough times that it's so well interwoven now. Catherine Hicks has come on board to play my new boss in my job change, and Don Stark (from That '70s Show) is playing my best friend salesman mentor in the movie. I'm very excited to be working with these two people and the rest of the young cast, many who are newcomers.

Guillén: And I understand the script has been written specifically for you?

Jones: It was written specifically for me, yeah. That's what I was so complimented by. The young director Morgan Mead was in film school out here in Los Angeles, approached my agent at the time to ask about my participation in his 10-minute thesis project to final film, and as I always do whenever I'm approached with any kind of a project—whether it's a big studio gig that would pay lots of money or whether it's a small, independent film that has no budget whatsoever—I want to read the script. I don't want to say no without knowing what it is. I don't want to pass up a gem that I might have missed had I not read it. So I do read everything. I asked for this fellow's script and it was an eight-page yummy little piece of delightful tomfoolery nonsense, which I love, and a character that he wanted me to play for just one page of it that was delightfully insane. If the character is there and the story line is there and it's a story I want to help sell, the next step is for me to have a sit down coffee date with that director and I did. Meeting this young fellow Morgan, three hours later I said to him, "Not only do I want to be in your short film thesis project; but, I want to be in every movie you ever make from this point forward." He was an absolutely delightful young man who has such potential and vision and a screw loose in his head. I like people who aren't quite right. They're the funny ones.

He went home from film school back to the Midwest and he wrote a feature film script called Knock, Knock at the time, which he sent to me in an email saying, "Have a read. Tell me what you think. Is this something you'd be interested in?" I read it and just fell in love with the character of Jerry immediately. Again, it's gone through some rewrites and is now called My Name Is Jerry. It's become an absolute dream role for me. I owe Morgan a lot for that. Someone told me a while back that a lot of actors complain about their agents and their managers, "I'm not getting out enough. I'm not getting seen enough. Blah blah blah." They think it's the job of the people representing them to get them noticed and seen out there. It was a director who pulled me aside once and said, "Doug, your success in this industry is going to rely on your relationships with directors." I have found that to be true over the years. The directors who have come looking for me in the last couple of years, and the directors who have come looking for me again after working with them and knowing them before, has been how my career has resurrected. This case of Morgan Mead writing a script for me and coming up with something of a budget—he approached my alma mater Ball State University back in Indiana to finance the film—so it's a creative and an educational venture at the university level. It's being staffed up by professionals and department heads and the crews underneath these department heads are students who are going to be earning class time credit for their participation in the film. So it's unlike anything I've ever done before.

Guillén: I truly admire that. Finally, will there be another appearance of the Silver Surfer? Did you have a three-picture deal revolving around the Silver Surfer?

Jones: Yes, as is standard for a franchise-potential kind of character like the Silver Surfer. I did agree to a three-picture deal with 20th Century Fox regarding the Silver Surfer before doing the first film. That means they have the option to use me two more times if they so choose. The Rise of The Silver Surfer opened at theaters, with pretty good numbers, and it had always been my understanding that they would roll the Silver Surfer off into his own franchise from his introduction in this Fantastic Four sequel. They did bring in J. Michael Straczynski to write a script, which he did apparently from what I understand, he was talking about it at Comicon in San Diego last year; but, again, that was over a year ago and it still sits at the studio. So I'm not sure what condition it's in development-wise or if it's cooled down. J. Michael Straczynski was interviewed recently on superherohype.com or something like that, where he was talking about his theory of why it hasn't been made yet. I think The Rise of The Silver Surfer made a little bit less at the box office than the first Fantastic Four movie did so that might be what has left them a little bit unsure whether to proceed forward or not. These are guesses. I'm just talking out of my left ear right now. I have no idea what I'm saying. But these are all guesses that J. Michael Straczynski ventured forward. I would love to revisit the character. I would love to crawl into him again to get to know him even better.

Guillén: The Silver Surfer was one of my favorites as a kid. I'm of the age where I actually bought all those comic books when they came out.

Jones: Did you?

Guillén: Yeah. I know many people have said this, but he really was like a Christ figure to me. He taught me some basic humanitarian values as I was reading those comic books at the same time that I was attending church. The two sermons melded. I hope you get to step back into the character too. I would love to see what you'd do with him even further.

Jones: Thank you. He means a lot to me and I would love to get that chance. Again, I love the Christlikeness of him, the sacrifices he made to become the Silver Surfer, and researching back into him and those comic books, to see how he was written originally by Stan Lee and how he was drawn by Jack Kirby with those classic beautiful poses, there was just so much to chew on from the source material. He's a whole world unto himself.

Guillén: I want to thank you so much for your time, Doug. This has a great time conversing with you. I am in awe of your artistry. You are a consummate actor, a true actor, and I look forward to catching Hellboy II next week at a word-of-mouth screening. I can hardly wait!

Jones: Thank you. You're so kind to talk to and you're very easy to talk with. Thank you so much for creating a safe playground for me to talk in today. You're wonderful.

Cross-published on Twitch.

3 comments:

Paul Martin said...

Another great article, Michael. I knew of your appreciation for del Toro, so you seemed well-prepared for this interview.

I didn't like Pan's Labyrinth as much as you, though aspects impressed me, in particular the creatures like Pale Man. I was just posting on another forum today about how boring I find most contemporary CGI and that old-fashioned methods like puppetry and creature characters are much more interesting. I even specifically quoted Pan's Labyrinth.

It was also interesting to read Jones' references to Bela Lugosi, and his respect for what he does for a living. Not everyone likes what they do for work, but do it because it pays the bills.

Maya said...

Or to paraphrase the ol' songmeister: "It's nice work if you can get it and you get it if you sit in a chair for five to seven hours and have makeup and prosthetics applied to you."

Hmmmm. Can you think of anything that rhymes with "prosthetics"?

Michael Hawley said...

Dyanetics? No quick fix? Cold ice picks? Pyrotechnics? White cake mix?