Interview date: 03/31/2009
Run date: 04/13/2009
You’d be forgiven for knowing Ron Perlman’s name without actually knowing what Ron Perlman himself actually looking like. It’s not that he hasn’t succeeded as an actor in his own right, but to be fair, he has spent a heck of a lot of his career under makeup, given that two of his most famous roles have been Vincent, who put the “beast” in CBS’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and the titular character of the “Hellboy” franchise. Lately, though, Perlman has been making an impression as one of the stars of the critically-acclaimed FX drama, “Sons of Anarchy,” which will be returning for its second season in the very near future, and he’s also one of the stars of the new sci-fi action flick, “Mutant Chronicles.” We talked to Perlman in conjunction of the film’s release, but we also discussed the aforementioned projects, as well as his work on “City of Lost Children,” “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” and even “Teen Titans.” (He voiced Slade, you know.)
Ron Perlman: Hey, Will, how are ya?
Bullz-Eye: Not bad, Ron. It’s good to talk to you.
BE: So I’ve seen the first five minutes of “Mutant Chronicles” that’s up on Hulu…
RP: Oh, have you?
BE: I have. But it would’ve been better if you’d actually been in the first five minutes of “Mutant Chronicles.”
BE: But, still, I enjoyed what I saw, if that helps. I’m excited to see the full film.
RP: Thank you very much. I’m very happy that it’s finding its way to the marketplace finally. It’s a movie that I’m pretty proud of.
BE: It looks pretty cool, almost part sci-fi and part WWI epic.
RP: Yeah, it’s actually set some 400-odd years in the future, but one of the things that was so attractive about making it was the mind of Simon Hunter, the filmmaker. He had an amazingly cool take on the visual depiction of this world. He wanted to do it very low-tech, so the fact that you mention WWI, that’s exactly what he had in mind, almost as if to say that the more sophisticated we get, the less sophisticated we get.
BE: The soldiers definitely look like doughboys,
BE: I saw a review online where it said, “You’ve got war, explosions, blockbuster special effects shots, mutants, martial arts, spaceships, and John Malkovich. What’s not to love?”
RP: (Laughs) I would second that emotion.
BE: It does look like a fair amount of green screen might’ve been going on.
RP: It’s clearly the most green screen, the biggest green screen experience of anything I’ve ever done. There’s nothing about the world that we had to compare to now, so it had to be manufactured and painted in…and quite beautifully done, if I do say so myself. We were working on just fragments of sets. Like, six percent of a set, and the other 94 percent was done in post-production.
BE: Well, certainly, you’re used to working on special effects films. Was this one particularly different because it was so heavy in green screen?
RP: Well, it had its unique attributes. It was shot on a kind of a digital video camera that was state of the art at that point, one that nobody else in the world had ever worked on. Or if they had, it was maybe one or two other films. So that was different, not having to experience rollouts or reloads. And, also, the look that it afforded was quite unique. Almost what (cinematographer) Darius Khondji was trying to achieve in “City of Lost Children,” but he did it in a more traditional and conventional way. So, yeah, there were things about it that were very unique. Also, for the high concept nature of the storytelling and the world, the resources were really, really minimal, so Simon was forced to be as economical in his approach to the making of this film as was humanly possible, and in that light, having said that, what he was able to achieve was actually quite surprising.
BE: Yeah, just from what I’ve seen, it looks remarkable.
RP: Yeah, to me, nothing looks like it was compromised or shortcut.
BE: Given the semi-religious overtones of your role, I actually thought back to your work in “The Name of the Rose.” Did you enjoy playing the quasi-religious character in the film?
RP: Well, I really admired the character I was playing. I just think that this is a guy who has got an amazing heart and a set of values worth aspiring to, y’know? He’s a true spiritual being, to the degree where he’s more than willing to sacrifice his life for the causes he believes in. He’s a humanist. He believes in the goodness of man, and that man is God’s greatest creation and should be preserved at all costs…even at the cost of his own well being. So I loved playing a guy who is as clear as that, in such a simple way.
BE: I know it got a proper theatrical release in the UK a little while ago, and now it’s finally getting at least a small one here as well. Given your comments, I presume you’re quite happy about that.
RP: Oh, I’m thrilled. I’m very proud of the film, I’ve seen it twice, I love the way it turned out, and I think it’s really, really good work on the screen. It’s firing on a lot of different cylinders quite well, and I’m just real grateful that it’s making its way to the marketplace finally.
BE: I understand it’s also doing a Video on Demand premiere as well.
RP: Yeah, I guess. I understand that, too. (Laughs)
BE: What are your thoughts on that market, the idea of films premiering simultaneously at home and in theaters?
RP: Well, it’s the brainchild of Mark Cuban, who owns Magnolia Pictures. He announced a couple of years ago that he feels that this is the way that movies need to be released in the current marketplace. So…I don’t know. It’s rather unconventional, but we’ll find out over the course of time whether this is a better way of doing things or what.
BE: I’m a big fan of “Sons of Anarchy”…
RP: Oh, thank you!
BE: In fact, I just read about how Henry Rollins has joined the cast for the second season.
RP: Henry Rollins, yeah! He has a six episode arc at the beginning of the season.
BE: So what can we expect from the show in the second season?
RP: Well, y’know, a lot of the time last year, we would get the episode the night before it was beginning to shoot, and…that’s kind of the tone. And I’m thrilled about that. I mean, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m such a fan of Kurt Sutter and what he provides us to do that, y’know, I’d rather not know. I’d rather just be surprised and have that surprise guide me right onto the set, through each of the things he asks us to do. So your guess is as good as mine as to what the second season will bring.
BE: Was the experience on the first season everything you’d hoped it would be? Because you hadn’t really done series television in awhile.
RP: It was far more than I’d hoped it would be. I actually was rather trepidatious, because there were a lot of really, really cool movies happening for me at the time, and I didn’t have TV on my radar screen, but I read it, and when I realized the scope and breadth of what these guys were asking me to do as an actor, it was just an offer that I couldn’t refuse. And then, of course, I get on the set and find myself in one of the greatest companies of actors I’ve ever experienced before. They’re all really accomplished. There are no egos. They’re fun, fun people to be around. We had just a superb experience on the first season. FX is as great an organization as you could hope to work for. They’re very supportive, they’re very unobtrusive, they really, really know when they have something good, and they don’t mess with it. I’m really enthusiastic about the continued success of the show.
BE: Speaking of movies, is there any headway that you’ve heard on “Hellboy III”?
RP: I have not heard anything about “Hellboy III.” I think that the dust is finally just settling on the full release of “Hellboy II,” and, y’know, I think I’ll have to factor in the fact that Guillermo del Toro is now going to be working for the next four years at least on the two “Hobbit” movies. So I think talking about “Hellboy III” is premature.
BE: One of my friends is a huge fan of “City of Lost Children,” and he wanted me to ask how it was to play One and to work with Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
RP: Working for them was almost like going to church every day. Those guys are really, really, really like high priests of cinema. The set is a very reverential kind of place, the concept of what they’re trying to shoot at any given time is incredibly well-articulated, and they’re the results of amazing amounts of time and conception. And there I was, the only American in an entirely French setting, so it was a film that was quite exotic to participate in on a day to day basis. You could feel that there was a lot riding on it, because they had just made “Delicatessen” and it was the emergence of these two visionary filmmakers that no one had ever heard of before. This was their follow-up film, and it was ten years in the making. It was a film that they originally wrote to be done first, and then they had to shelve it and do it when they felt that they had the resources and the good will from the film community to pull it off.
BE: Was “Island of Dr. Moreau” as grueling an experience for you as it appears to have been for everyone else who worked on the film?
RP: Grueling? No. I don’t remember ever doing any real heavy lifting on that film. I remember that it was, y’know, rocky. It was unpredictable, it was unwieldy, and it was a strange experience, because the guy who came up with the idea to remake the film and conceived of the style in which it would be made got fired after the first four days of filming. They scrambled to find someone else, and ultimately John Frankenheimer took the reins, but this was a movie that needed two or three years of gestation just in terms of its stylistic demands, so it became a strange animal as a result of those events.
BE: You’ve done plenty of voiceover work in your career, though I think my favorite might be your role as Slade on “Teen Titans.”
RP: Thank you!
BE: Do you have any particular favorite roles you’ve done in the voiceover field?
RP: I like doing voiceover work. I just like it in general, because you’re constantly working on a very first-instinct level. You show up, you get in front of the microphone, you look at the lines, you say the lines, and then you move on. So there’s not a lot of… (Laughs) You work on a really primal level, is what I’m saying. You don’t have to shave. You don’t even have to wear pants. But, uh, that wasn’t your question.
BE: (Laughs) No, I was really just wondering if any specific roles had stuck out for you.
RP: Well, I enjoyed doing the “Hellboy” cartoons and the “Hellboy” videogame. I enjoyed the very first one I ever did. It was a character called Sergeant Grating on a show called “Bonkers.” It was Andrea Romano who broke my cherry and gave me my very first cartoon voice role. But Slade was with her as well, so she provided me with tons of delightful re-visitations to the sordid world of cartoon voices. Oh, and I liked this “Danny Phantom” thing that I did, too.
BE: And you’ve got this Conan video game and movie that you worked on as well.
RP: Well, no, I did that, like, five years ago. I don’t know whatever happened to that or why it’s still on IMDb.
BE: Yeah, they’ve got a 2009 release date for the movie, “Conan: Red Nails.”
RP: Yeah, well, they’ve been saying “this year” since 2003.
BE: Oh, and the wonderful woman who watches my daughter a couple of days a week is a huge “Beauty and the Beast” fan, so I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you at least one question about working on that show. Did you enjoy the experience, and were you concerned that it might end up being an albatross around your neck, given how people were just obsessed with the show?
RP: Well, I very much enjoyed the experience. I completely appreciated how unique it was in the world of television, which is a rather derivative world. You know, you’ve got your doctor shows and your cop shows and your teacher shows and things like that, but nothing like “Beauty and the Beast” had ever existed before and hasn’t since. And on that basis alone, I never thought we’d go past the pilot, so every episode we did past the pilot, which was…how many did we do? Fifty-six hours or so? They were like gifts, and I really enjoyed playing the character, I really enjoyed the people I was working with, I loved the writing. So, yeah, on balance, it was a good experience.
BE: And, lastly, any further headway on playing Elvis in “Bubba Nosferatu”?
RP: The rumor is that we start shooting it sometime in the late fall.
BE: Sounds like it’s closer to coming to fruition than it ever has been.
RP: Yeah, things are looking pretty good. Things are starting to come together. The will is certainly there on everyone’s part.
BE: Excellent. All right, Ron, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I’m looking forward to both “Mutant Chronicles” and Season 2 of “Sons of Anarchy.”RP: I appreciate that a lot. It’s been a pleasure talking to you as well!