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As computer-generated imagery and performance capture become the norm, old-fashioned costumes and makeup can seem like a thing of the past. But when it comes down to it, when something can be created practically, it is often hard to beat and usually stands up better to the scrutiny of time. Guillermo del Toro's upcoming film, The Shape of Water, has the director's trademark tangibility to it and this time, features a creature as one of the leads of the film. Frequent Guillermo del Toro collaborator, Doug Jones, plays the amphibian man in The Shape of Water and it sounds like wearing the suit for the role was far more nightmarish than any monster.
A profile on the prolific actor described the laborious process involved in putting on and wearing the fishman costume. The suit itself took three hours to put on and was so skin-tight that Doug Jones had to literally use K-Y Jelly just to get into it. Once on, the actor couldn't see at all through the eyes in the helmet and could barely hear and yet still had to carry out a performance. To top it all off, according to The New York Times, the suit would soak up water like a sponge, becoming ridiculously heavy, and being a water creature, it was pretty much always wet. Walking around in wet clothes all day except they're skin-tight, you can't take them off and you have to work in them? No thank you.
However the lead creature designer and sculptor for The Shape of Water, Mike Hill, noted that the actor never complained about a process that I imagine many other actors would not have endured. In fact, when they needed a professional dancer to be a body double for a dance sequence, it quickly became apparent just how brutal wearing the suit was, as Guillermo del Toro explained.
That sounds awful. It also proves that not just anyone can put on a costume like that and perform. This was just one of many challenges on a production that Guillermo del Toro has described as "terrible." But Doug Jones is a trooper and this is what he does. While you may not always know it's him, Doug Jones is the man behind some of the most interesting creatures seen onscreen. The creature actor has worked with Guillermo del Toro on Pan's Labyrinth as the Pale Man and as Abe Sapien in Hellboy. He was also the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and TV audiences may know him from The Strain or most recently, his role as Saru in Star Trek: Discovery.
Doug Jones is part of a stellar cast in The Shape of Water and while the costume and filmmaking process were brutal, the juice appears to have been worth the squeeze. Early reviews are super high on the movie and it looks to be a surefire contender come Oscar time. The Shape of Water hits theaters on December 1st.