Ron Perlman and director Guillermo del Toro have quite the history together. The duo first united on the filmmaker’s 1993 debut Cronos, and have remained tight ever since. They reunited for the first time in 2002 when del Toro made his first comic book movie, Blade II, and Perlman became a leading man when they worked together on both Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
But with Pacific Rim they are heading into whole new territory. In the epic sci-fi movie Perlman plays Hannibal Chow, a black market dealer who gets monster organs and parts from the government and sells them through underground channels. But why should I explain it when he is the expert?
As I reported yesterday, last year I flew up to Pinewood Studios in Toronto, Canada with a couple other journalists to visit the set of the upcoming summer blockbuster, and between touring the soundstages and watching the crew film Perlman was kind enough to spend some time talking with us. Decked out in full costume – which included gold-plated shoes, a maroon shirt, multiple tattoos and a gnarly facial scar, Perlman discussed the inside outs of both his latest character and his history with the director. Check it out!
Did you have to be in Sons of Anarchy to get this job?
Because there’s a few of you...
It seems as though everything works for a reason, so I’ll just say “yes” to everything… as long as it’s a yes or no question [laughs].
You obviously have a great relationship with Guillermo del Toro. Can you talk a little bit about when he presented you with this project and asked you to be involved?
I’m not exactly sure of the sequence of events with regard to this, but I actually think this character was designed to be played by another ethnicity other than myself. And somewhere along the way, he had the notion, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to turn this guy into more of an invention.” So, in other words, somebody takes on a persona that completely sounds like he’s someone else and acts like he’s someone else but he’s really, you know, as you see me. That added a dimension to the larger-than-life aspect of the character. And he ran it by the studio, and miraculously, they agreed.
Are you doing an accent in the film?
No. I’m playing somebody very close to my own origins. But a completely made-up persona… which makes him even more full of shit [laughs]. And I think that’s the charm of the guy—that he’s kind of elusive, hard to pin down.
Can you talk a little bit about the look of the character—the tattoos, the ring, the scar on the face—and how that feeds into your performance and how it reflects the character.
Well, clearly he’s someone who’s concerned with the things he’s been able to accumulate. He’s a bit of a collector in the film. He’s a collector of endangered species, so he likes to surround himself with exotic accoutrements and adorns himself fittingly for his large appetites to enjoy the finer things.
One thing I think we’ve all been blown away by is the amount of practical sets; the director seemed to base everything around a practical set or element before amplifying it with CGI. What was your reaction walking onto these sound stages, seeing some of these things they built?
That’s always been Guillermo’s preference to have as much there practically as is humanly possible, and that digital graphic images are more a punctuation mark than they are a replacement. He enhances the reality with these things that are juxtaposed against it, rather than replacing reality completely. But there’s always a real base, no matter how fantastical the image is that ultimately ends up on screen. And I really believe that he philosophically thinks that that engages the viewer to a greater degree, when there’s more things there that are actually there. I, for one, am not nearly as engaged when I’m looking at something that’s been completely drawn up on a computer that replaces anything that’s in real time and real space. It just engages me all the less, rather than all the more. And I learned from my many times working with Guillermo that that’s his preference, and he’ll always opt for that. So I’m not surprised to see the scope of these sets. I know, in reading the script, that one expects a futuristic world that’s rather formidable and is attacked by something that’s even more formidable than the scope of the world itself, so therein lies the conflict of this particular story.