Supporting Red: Doug Jones talks "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Fri, July 11th, 2008 at 5:00pm PDT | Updated: July 11th, 2008 at 5:32pm

TV/Film
Emmett Furey, Staff Writer

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" opens July 11 in the U.S.
SPOILER WARNING: The following contains minor spoilers for "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

It was more than four years ago that Mike Mignola's Hellboy was first ported to the big screen, but the cast and crew behind the first film have gotten the band back together to produce the highly anticipated sequel, "Hellboy II: The Golden Army." Rising star Guillermo del Toro, who directed both films, helped save the film franchise from fading away into obscurity after the first film's production company closed up shop by finding it a new home at Universal Studios.

Doug Jones reprises his role as the fish-like B.P.R.D. agent Abe Sapien, but this time around he gets to use his voice and hear it too: for the first "Hellboy," the studio opted to dub over the character's vocals with those from a more established actor, namely David Hyde Pierce. For "Hellboy II," Jones is a triple threat: in addition to Abe Sapein, Jones plays the Chamberlain and the Angel of Death.

Congrats on that Saturn win.

"Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," wasn't that nice? I was so honored to be able to present that too.

So, Ron [Perlman] was trying to clarify which were actually your performances, he said that besides Abe, you were also the Chamberlain and Angel of Death, but did you do the voices for all three?

I did the voices for Abe Sapien and the Angel of Death. The Chamberlain actually is a voiceover, but he's got like three lines. Guillermo wanted a very specific British accent with a certain prissyness to it, that I did do on set, but he was doing most of the ADR looping in London, so he could find the authentic thing there. And with three lines of dialogue, that wasn't like a big heartache for me to watch that go. It was a sound that I could have effected, but it was just easier to have it done there and then, it was fine.

Scene from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

But the Angel of Death was a layering job. It's yummy. It kind of was. For the Angel of Death, on set of course, my voice was hampered by those teeth, they were ginormous. I was talking like Fire Marshall Bill, "I want to tell you something!" So all of my dialogue was out here, I couldn't close my lips over those humongous teeth. But the voice the Angel of Death had by me naturally was up here somewhere, talking like this. So that voice, going into looping and doing the voiceover, and then also we went over that again with a low whisper...they kind of tinkered with the low whisper as well. So together, it just sounds lovely, I think.

Now, some of those characters are in the same scenes, so did you have to work with a double?

The closest run-in that we had (was) when the B.P.R.D. team, Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman and Johann Krauss, are with the Goblin, guiding us all to the Angel of Death. Well, now we're meeting the Angel of Death with a keyhole sort of doorway that is open, and you can see from one to the other. "Abe and Johann, you wait out here." Thankfully that was written in, so that just Hellboy and Liz could go into the chamber with the Angel of Death. So in the far background, you can see Abe Sapien, when the Angel of Death is there - that would have been my photo double, a tall, skinny, Hungarian fellow that they found, thank goodness. Because that would have been a lot of running back and forth, wouldn't it?

Doug, you're so good at voice work as well, what do you prefer, do you prefer the makeup, do you prefer the voiceover work?

Honestly -- Thank you for saying that, by the way -- I like acting. I like taking on a character, period. And if that involves visuals, audio, one or the other -- sometimes characters I've played haven't had any dialogue at all, sometimes I've done voiceover for cartoons that are just voice...I really like it all, and I don't know that there is a preference. Mostly for me, I like connecting with the character as though it's my best friend. And most of the characters I've played, even if they're evil, the Pale Man from "Pan's Labyrinth" for instance, I still got to know him. And what I find is that the better I know a character, the more I like that character, the better I can play him, the more honestly I can play him. Even an evil character doesn't know he's evil. Pale Man was just hungry, really. So I like crawling into the skin of a character, into his heart, into his soul, into his mind, and that's a fun ride for me, and however that plays out, whether verbally, audibly, visually, combination of all of the above, it's all good.

Scene from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"
If I'm remembering correctly, David Hyde Pierce provided the voice for the first film. Did you have to go back and listen to that and mimic him in any way, or were you just free to--?

Let me start at the very beginning, which was when I was cast as Abe Sapien in the first film. I was told up front (about) the potential that they were thinking already and had already talked about having a celebrity bigger-name voiceover person for this role, largely because when you're looking at big A-list actor names, with that much makeup on, and never will their face ever show, in an alter ego kind of situation even or whatever...in the Hellboy universe, we are superheroes that are stuck with our look, we don't have a Bruce Wayne by day, we don't have a Clark Kent by day; we are those freaks. Getting an A-list actor to do that (is) difficult. (It's) difficult to find someone who is willing to not be recognized. So the studio's thinking was, "Well, let's get someone to do the visuals, then we'll get an A-list actor name to voice it." Of course, me, as an actor, when you play a part, you play a part, and that includes all of it. So when I heard this up front, I said, "I would rather you not do that, I would love to just play the character like anyone else would play a character." So my name was thrown into the hat, I made the possibility known that I could be a voice choice. That was as good as it was going to get for this particular job.

So once the film was completed, and I had been on set every day delivering all of Abe's dialogue as well as all of Abe's visuals, no one had any complaints with me, everyone I heard from said that I effected the right voice. And I was directed to sound a little bit like Niles Crane from "Frasier," a little bit like HAL the computer from "2001: A Space Odyssey," and that's the sound that I did my best to effect, which makes me not very far from David Hyde Pierce in the end. So when he was then brought in to voiceover, what happened was, everybody was happy with what I did, and Guillermo del Toro called me ahead of time to say, "Your role has been voiced over by David Hyde Pierce." I asked him point blank, was it a performance issue on my part, is there something I can learn from this, was there a shortcoming of mine, what can I take out of this experience? He said, it was the studio saying, "Yeah, Doug's great, but don't you owe us a session with David Hyde Pierce like we talked about?" They're thinking marketing, they're thinking putting a name with a role, they're thinking getting butts in seats. That's a part of the moviemaking business that I'm not a part of, and I don't know anything about. So they made that decision for their own reasons.

Guillermo del Toro directs Doug Jones, Ron Perlman and Selma Blair in a scene from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

What happened then was, David Hyde Pierce comes in, he hears my original performance in his earpiece, he sees my performance on the film footage that he has to voiceover, and he steps back and says, "Why am I here?" to himself. He did his job, as he was hired to do, and did it beautifully, and then what happened was, when it came time to promote the film, the mileage that they were hoping to get out of the David Hyde Pierce thing backfired a little bit, because he did not take a credit in the film. He refused to take a credit in the film. He didn't show up for any of the press, he didn't show up at the premiere. And when asked why later, he said, "Out of respect to Doug Jones." He did not want to take any of the limelight away from me, so that makes David Hyde Pierce unlike anyone else I've ever met in all of Hollywood. It's a very ego-driven city we're in, and for someone to act like that was exceptional. Not expected, I never would have sat there going, "I hope he does that." I fully expected he would take a credit in the film because he earned it, but the fact that he didn't made him different than anybody else. I've never met him, yet when I do, he's getting a kiss right there, because I really appreciate what he did for me.

Then what came around were the "Hellboy" animated features, "Hellboy: Sword of Storms," "Hellboy: Blood and Iron." Voice jobs really, there was no visual, as they were animated. So they went to the original voice person. They went to the voice person that you heard, which was David Hyde Pierce. He politely declined. And when he did that, they came to me and said, "Voice of Abe Sapien: would you like it?" I'm like, "Would I like it? Yes! Finally!" So that also helped the transition.

When I was told by Guillermo del Toro that I had been voiced over in the first film, a part of the conversation was also, "Doug, if we're fortunate enough to do a "Hellboy" part II, I would like to have your voice in that, I would like to bring it all back to you again. So that was already out there, that was all circling out there. The animated features now using my voice was a nice way to transition into it and cement that decision. Fan response was very positive and very favorable, which I was eternally grateful to them for, I actually teared up reading the reviews. Then going into "Hellboy II," my performance stayed every bit the same as it was in "Hellboy," so I didn't have to mimic David Hyde Pierce. Basically, we worked off of each other kind of in the first one anyway, and now in the second one I just did the exact same performance vocally, and that's what you hear in "Hellboy II" now. I'm very grateful that it's come full circle like that, because it was a monkey on my back for a few years.

Jones as the Angel of Death in a scene from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"
Have you and Guillermo had any discussion at all about you doing something for "The Hobbit"?

We were at the Saturn Awards the other night, and on the red carpet, someone said to him, "So, Guillermo, what do you have for Doug in 'The Hobbit'?" So there he was in front of me on camera, and I'm like, "I'm interested to hear this too." And Guillermo said, "Well, I'm sure I'll put him through some kind of pain and suffering," and all that. So he was kind of like giving a thumbs up that yes, I'll show up somewhere. Wouldn't commit to what that was, so I don't know what that is yet. He also said at some point during the night, "Listen, if I direct a hemorrhoid commercial, Doug Jones will be in it." And I would be playing a hemorrhoid probably, but one with a heart and a soul, you know what I mean? And a beautiful vocal performance, I might add.

Unfortunately, there was another character where you were re-voiced, and I was just thinking, could we hear a taste of your original Silver Surfer?

I'll tell you, for the Silver Surfer, I used my lower register, I spoke down here most of the time. A line like, "All that you know is at an end." I loved the Silver Surfer character. Recently had the joy of having lunch with the writer of the "Rise of the Silver Surfer" script, who's also head writer/producer on "The Simpsons," Don Payne. Don Payne, before his butt hit the seat, he was already going into, "Hi, Doug, it's so good to meet you finally, I'm a big fan of your work." I went, "Don, I'm a big fan of your work, are you kidding me?" And he said, "I just want to tell you right now, as dailies were coming back from Vancouver, we were looking at the rough footage, your voice that you effected for the Silver Surfer is exactly how I heard the Surfer when I was typing." Did that warm my soul? It really did. So, again, I asked the producers, I asked everybody on that job, "Was it a performance issue?" And again, a resounding no. Even my castmates, Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, the Fantastic Four, every one of them was reported somewhere in the press saying they loved my voice for the Silver Surfer. So I never had any doubts that I missed it somehow. Again, getting Laurence Fishburne, Morpheus, you know, was a marketing choice, and, again, he's a brilliant actor, did a great job, but as an actor, none of us want to see any part of our performance taken away or replaced. I'm not bitter, it would just be nice to keep your performance intact, that's all.

Scene from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"
Maybe it'll be on the DVD.

They'll never play this for you ever, I can promise you.

I think he took a credit, so he's no David Hyde Pierce.

Doesn't make him less of a person. Wow, that's a tough one to talk through. No, Laurence Fishburne, he's every bit a gentleman. In fact, a friend of mine saw him in his apartment building one day, like in the lobby, and said, "Hey, Laurence Fishburne!" And Laurence was like, "Yes." "I'm a friend of Doug Jones.'" He goes, "Oh, well, I never met the man," but they had a lovely exchange I guess. Again, when you've done a job in a film, there's nothing wrong with taking credit for it, it's okay to do.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have a lot to talk about, we could be here all day. The next thing that you'll see me in is an episode of "Fear Itself," the new show on NBC, it's an anthology series, each episode directed by a well-known horror film director. So there's a darkness to this anthology series, and my episode is titled "Skin and Bones." I wonder why they came for me, you know what I'm saying? I play a wealthy ranch owner who's been missing for 10 days up in the mountains, and at the top of the show I return home, and I'm not quite right when I get back. I've been possessed by a little something up in the mountains, and I show up at home 60 lbs. lighter than when I left. So all the photos around the house are me with some computer enhancements. And it was directed by Larry Fessenden, he directed "Wendigo," and a whole litany of horror films with a heart. His stories have a nice psychological, foreign-film pacing to them, with lots of character development. So I really loved working with him.

Scenes from "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"
Also, I'm the cameo kid this year, I did a cameo in a movie called "Quarantine," it's a Sony Pictures/Screen Gems picture, it's a remake of the Spanish language film called "[Rec]." It's a very handheld, reality-looking, "Cloverfield"-ish, "Blair-Witch"-ish looking, and I'm kind of a cameo at the very end of the movie, it's kind of like, Oh!" That's he reaction you'll kind of have.

Another cameo I did, I was able to play a knockoff of Agent Smith from "The Matrix" in a superhero spoof movie called "Super Capers." And I don't have a clue about distribution on that, or when it's going to happen. And another film, I played a cameo, my role was the Ice Cream Man, a freaky little ice cream man in a movie called "Legion." Also Sony Pictures/Screen Gems, starring Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany and Tyrese Gibson. And the next one I'm about to start is a slice of life dramedy about a middle-aged white guy going through a midlife crisis, needing a reason to reinvent himself, called "My Name is Jerry." And I'm playing the role of Jerry. No makeup, no chase scenes, and no re-voicing. We also have Catherine Hicks playing my boss in the movie, we have Don Stark from "That '70s Show" playing my best friend, mentor/salesman guy in the movie, and then it's a cast of a lot of newcomer young people in the film as well. This character finds himself reinvented into the punk rock world, so he hooks up with a lot of young kids. Where you'll find some funny in the movie is that he doesn't really fit in this reinvention process, and he's going through a little bit of self discovery. I've been very busy, I'm very blessed. With the success in the recent years that I've had, roles are coming to me that are really interesting and really fun, and directors who I've been wanting to work with are now calling on the phone going, "Hey," which is a dream come true for me, it really is.

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TAGS:  hellboy, abe sapien, doug jones, guillermo del toro, ron perlman

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