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I chat with Doug Jones about makeup, mime and more

doug jones

You will know Doug Jones as Abe Sapien in Hellboy, the Silver Surfer, Pan and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, My Name is Jerry, Hocus Pocus and many more. Often behind layers of makeup and latex he brings an otherworldly quality to many of his characters.

He is also one of the nicest gentleman you could ever meet. Polite, modest and with a love of acting it was an absolute pleasure to interview him.

We spoke about many things including Hellboy 3, Judge Death, Jack Skellington and much more.

Without further ado I give you Mr Doug Jones.

What inspired you to become an actor? Was it planned or did you fall into it?

I wanted to be an actor as far back as I can remember! I was an awkward child, and when I got home each day from wearing the “class clown” persona, I felt more of a connection to the characters I’d watch on TV. Don Knotts as ‘Barney Fife’ on MAYBERRY RFD gave me hope that a goofy, skinny fellow had a place to belong on TV. Other funny folks like Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, and all the wacky characters that surrounded them totally inspired me to find the funny in life, and gave me a sense of timing as I watched them. So I knew when I grew up, I wanted to be on that TV with people like this! I arrived in Hollywood in 1985, pretty sure I was suited for sit-coms and variety shows, but little did I know of the sci-fi / horror/ fantasy genres’ love for tall, skinny, flexible actors with a history of movement, like mine as a mime.


What is your process of familiarizing yourself with the various characters such as the Silver Surfer, Abe Sapien and Pan?

When there’s such amazing source material as the Silver Surfer and Hellboy comic books, I can start there to take in the original artwork and writing that endeared these characters to readers and fans. In the process, I become a fan myself and want to do anything I can to keep these characters true to why we all love them. And with original characters like Pan the faun in PAN’S LABYRINTH or Billy the goofy zombie in HOCUS POCUS, I get to help create something original. In all cases though, the script and the director tell me so much of what I need for backstory, relationships, and the needs of all the characters I’m to play on film.

As well as the costume / makeup, movement is extremely important for many of your characters. How do you go about figuring out how the character will move?

Once I’ve read the script to see what the story calls for a character to do, then talked with the director to see what quirks he’d like to see, I go to the full wall of mirrors at my 24 hour gym, late at night when all the classes are done. There is where I can start finding his walk, his run, his squat, his posture, and his overall physical attitude. But then the costume/make-up fittings begin, and that informs me the rest of the way. I’ve had the privilege of wearing designs by the best artists in the world, and their creations inspire so much of how I move in their costumes and make-ups.

How do you stay sane while sitting in the makeup chair for hours at a time?

I never said I was sane (chuckle). I always have a great rapport with my make-up artists. They are such creative, funny people, and we tell stories, jokes, listen to music, and when someone has a laptop in the make-up trailer, there is endless short-form entertainment on YouTube. I love a good talking animal video.

If the opportunity came about would you play Judge Death opposite Judge Dredd?

Aha! I totally get it! And sure, why wouldn’t I want to play a skeletal, armored Judge who brings justice to those deserving of death? Only in the movies, I promise, this isn’t my real mission in life.

You have often played creatures from beyond the grave and those that lurk in shadows. What are your thoughts on the afterlife and things that go bump in the night?

My Christian upbringing sticks with me, so that afterlife looks pretty sweet. Death isn’t something to be feared for me, as I feel it’s just a passing to a better phase. And as for things that go bump in the night? Well, just like John Hurt’s ‘Professor Broom’ said in the first HELLBOY movie, I’m happy to be one of those who “bump back.” My guardian angel has done an awesome job of kicking some demon ass in my life!

If you could have played any part in any Film, Play or TV show who or what would it be and why?

If I could go back in time an nab a part for myself, it would have been the ‘Scarecrow’ in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Such freedom to put all my bandy-legged, expressive-faced, tom-foolery to good use! Now may I take this a step further and tell you dream roles I’d like to play? I’d love to play a gothic, classic vampire, like Nosferatu or Dracula, I’d love to play a benevolent angel, and I’d love to portray Jack Skellington in a Broadway stage production of A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

Many of your recent roles have been for web series. What do you like about them compared to other mediums?

I love the web series format. It’s like short attention span Television. I also love that this is a medium where a talented young filmmaker can create his or her own product and toss it out there in public without having to wait for a TV network to buy it from them. In a case like THE GUILD, Felicia Day started writing it for herself, and with some friends and almost no money, she filmed the first season in her house and put it up on YouTube. If you find yourself with the power to gather millions of viewers like she did, you’ll also find yourself attracting advertisers, corporate sponsors, and distributors who want to package your product while selling their own. Just like a TV network. I’ve loved being a steampunk dandy in 4 episodes on season 5 of THE GUILD, and it works just like any other TV show I’ve guest starred on. Felicia also has another web hit, DRAGON AGE: REDEMPTION (based on the game Dragon Age II), with all 6 episodes out now. I get to play the main bad guy of the story, the evil Qunari mage ‘Saarebus’ with magic in my hands, blue latex make-up on my face, and an evil laugh in my throat. I also have enjoyed being ‘Mayor Touch Conners’ in the game-inspired FALLOUT: NUKA BREAK, and the evil ‘Dr. Elymas’ with a horrible French accent in the wacky, fun action series THE DANGER ELEMENT. All of these came about because the young talent making the shows wowed me with things like a delicious character for me to play, a great story to play in, great co-stars, or previous work that proves their flair for storytelling.

What is the first film you remember watching?

This takes me right back to THE WIZARD OF OZ. My introduction to the value of escape and how fantasy adventures can give us that, while empowering us to tackle our real life when the movie is over.

What character was the most fun to play and what had the most uncomfortable costume?

I have fun with all my characters, as they become so dear to me. But I’ll pick a more obscure role as a fun one here. I had an absolute blast playing ‘La Gueule’ (Ugly Mug) in the French biopic, GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE. I was the alter ego of singer/songwriter and all around French cultural icon, Serge Gainsbourg. In a 5 hour make-up application, I got to play an extention of this man who had such a colorful life with booze, women, cigarettes, and the kind of music that transcends pop. He had a life I wouldn’t dare live, but playing with it on film was an absolute gas. And the most uncomfortable would be no fault of the creature effects people. The farther you get from human, the more difficult and uncomfortable a costume will be. And this one was the ‘Mother Bug’ in a turd of a movie called BUG BUSTER … a film that knew how cheesey0-bad it was and played on that. I think admitting I was in this title is far more uncomfortable than the bug suit could ever be.

mime very own bookWhat can you tell us about your future projects? Can you mention anything about Frankenstein?

Guillermo del Toro’s FRANKENSTEIN, with me attached to play the monster, is in development at Universal Studios. But with his current film, PACIFIC RIM, taking the next couple of years, we won’t be getting to ours just yet. FRANKENSTEIN is his childhood dream passion project, so it won’t be rushed. But what I can tell you about are some fun projects here — This coming February 2012, my very silly, but beautifully photographed coffee table book comes to bookstores, MIME VERY OWN BOOK, making fun of all pop culture, famous works of art, famous movie posters, historic photos, social commentary, and of course mimes. I started as a mime many years ago, so re-joining my beginnings with all this “punny” humor was nothing short of magical for me. Things you’ll see in the book: “A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” “Once Upon a Mime,” “Venus DeMimelo”, “Frank-n-Mime”, “The Little MerMime,” “MimeHammed Ali,” and on and on. It’s available for pre-order now at Amazon.

I also have a bunch of feature films finished that haven’t been released yet, including ROCK JOCKS with Felicia Day, JOHN DIES AT THE END with Paul Giamatti, END OF THE ROAD with Michael Dorn, INNOCENCE BLOOD with C.S. Lee, and I just wrapped Andrew Kightlinger’s delicious, post-apocalyptic DUST OF WAR with Tony Todd. Right now, I’m currently filming the very funny 20th Century Fox feature, NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, due for a summer 2012 release. These guys have formed a crime watch in their suburb, but without crime, all they do is drink and tell bathroom jokes. That is, until they find themselves in over their heads with an alien invasion … this might be where I come in, but that’s all I’m allowed to say for now. For this, and other Dougie news, my official website has it all —

Ron Perlman and Guillermo Del Toro keep saying Hellboy 3 is a long way off and may never happen. Have you heard anything more about it? Would you like to play Abe in a B.P.R.D. spin-off?

Unfortunately, you know every bit as much as I do about a HELLBOY 3. And yes, I would absolutely love to play Abe again in a BPRD spin-off. I would sorely miss the magic the entire HELLBOY team has together, but the chance to play my beloved ‘Abe’ again would be dreamy for me.

Would you like a chance to direct a movie?

Absolutely not. Zero interest in directing. I have enough trouble handling the stress of doing one role at a time, let alone captaining such a ship as an entire movie production. I’m very content collaborating with those genius directors who are built for this kind of stress, and handle it with such grace, ending up with a product we can all be proud of.

If you were to be killed by any movie monster what one would it be and what would be your last words?

My last words would be, “YOU SUCK, DRACULA!!” And I’m guessing that gave away which movie monster.

If you could only be remembered for one role which one would it be?

This is going to be a 3 part answer. I have more career ahead, but if everything ended today, I think the kind, gentle, witty, intelligent, clairvoyant ‘Abe Sapien’ from the HELLBOY movies is the costumed character who I would like to speak for the memory of me. Then there’s the “human” character I’d want to be remembered for, the lovable ‘Jerry’ from the sweet, funny, poignant coming of middle age story, MY NAME IS JERRY. And the overall film I’d want to be remembered for is the multi-Oscar-winning masterpiece PAN’S LABYRINTH. To me, it’s simply the perfect movie that has affected so many lives.

Doug Jones thank you so much for your time.

This has been fantastic fun, Phil, and thank you for having me! I’ll see you on Twitter! ….. @actordougjones


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