In his autobiography, Easy Street: The Hard Way, Ron Perlman tells a story about the unshakable faith that Guillermo Del Toro had in casting him in the main role of the red right hand of doom. The story goes as follows: Del Toro was set up to make Hellboy at Universal, but over time Universal kept throwing big name actors his way to persuade him into making the movie as soon as possible. At one point, the studio was apparently very excited about using Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or Nicolas Cage in the title role, but Del Toro allegedly said he'd only cast Ron Perlman.
While promoting today's release of The Strain on Blu-ray and DVD, I asked Guillermo Del Toro to confirm if both Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Nicolas Cage, the two big names Ron Perlman dropped in the aforementioned memoir, were actually pushed on him by the studio. Not only did he confirm them in his statement below, he went into some more detail about the lengths it took to get Hellboy actually made.
"Absolutely, absolutely true. I never met with The Rock, but I met with two or three actors that I won't name, but big stars. After every meeting I would go back to the studio and say, 'Yeah, I like the guy... but I like Ron Perlman more.'"
While Ron Perlman is the end all, be all actor to play Hellboy, it's still kind of fun to think about what The Rock could have done with the role. The big difference between the two would obviously be that The Rock trades in a slicker sort of strength, while Perlman is more direct in his application of brute force. The Rock's Hellboy would have probably been smoother, with more of a way with people; instead of the lovable misfit that Guillermo Del Toro knew the character was at heart. But, as Perlman can attest to in his autobiography, Del Toro never showed to the meetings the studio set up with Nic Cage or The Rock.
That knowledge of the character would lead to the insistence of Del Toro to have Ron Perlman cast in the film's titular role. This motivation spurred what the director recalled as, "a long seven or eight year journey to get Ron accepted," which saw Universal become one of the two original studios who entertained the pitch to pass it up. Funny enough, they would eventually become the next and current home of the Hellboy franchise, after Revolution and Columbia Pictures balked at making Hellboy II: The Golden Army. And to think, if Guillermo Del Toro had played ball and cast Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, we'd probably be seeing Hellboy IV: Hell Or Bust on our Blu-ray shelves today.
The fact that Guillermo Del Toro stuck to his guns and kept Ron Perlman in mind for Hellboy is the biggest factor to the film's eventual cult success, but it's also the reason that the franchise isn't an instant greenlight. While the possibility of Hellboy III has been mentioned back and forth between the two men who brought him to the screen, Del Toro feels that the big reason studios won't give money to the cause is simply that the home video revenue stream that made the first two films somewhat profitable has "dried up." Maybe it's not too late to bring The Rock on board for the Hellboy franchise, as he's been proven to be "franchise Viagra," and can play a Hell of a villain. Perlman vs. Johnson... who wouldn't pay to see that?!
The Strain: Season 1 is on DVD and Blu-ray today, while you can see both Season 2 and Guillermo Del Toro's next film, Crimson Peak, in 2015