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Ron Perlman has always had a penchant for playing beastly figures. Of course, we all know him as the live action Hellboy, and some of us even remember him as Vincent from the late '80s CBS television series Beauty And The Beast. Now, decades later, Perlman shares with us the actor who inspired him to take those roles and how the 1939 film The Hunchback Of Notre Dame put him on the path he is on today:
Here was something that deeply moved me about the juxtaposition of this thing that was ungodly on the outside, but inside was clearly the most precious, innocent, sweet, nurturing character in the whole pastiche of players. That was the feeling I had as a kid growing up. I never had a particularly positive image of myself physically, but I felt like there was something in there that I wished I could share with the world. It had more to do with things that are unseen, like the heart. Watching [Charles] Laughton take those two polarities and connect them in a way that was exciting, dynamic, incredibly moving and sublime as a performance piece was a very seminal thing for me. And there I am playing that character on primetime television.
While his figure may have been transformed, Ron Perlman definitely had a more flattering image as Vincent in Beauty And The Beast than Charles Laughton did in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. If you're only familiar with the Disney version, take that Quasimodo and mix it with a bit of The Elephant Man and that will paint a better picture of what he looked like. Much like John Hurt would do with The Elephant Man nearly half a century later, Laughton takes a character that is physically unappealing and forces you to look beyond to reveal the beautiful and caring person that is inside. It inspired Perlman, who would play Vincent for 3 years and jumpstart a career where he would, again and again, play a beast-like character.
I mentioned Hellboy, but even when makeup is not required Ron Perlman is not shy from playing the monster role. He's currently the voice of villain troll Bular in Guillermo Del Toro's Netflix series Trollhunters, and his voicing of the villain Clayface for various Batman projects is iconic. All of these roles draw inspiration all the way back to his playing of Vincent and, as Perlman tells THR, the brilliance of Beauty And The Beast creator Ron Koslow in his writing of the character:
Whether you're wearing makeup or not, your job as an actor is to identify the heart and soul of the character, how he moves through the universe, what his relationship is to his fellow man. That doesn't change regardless of what trappings you add on externally. The conceit of the Beast in Ron Koslow's version was so vivid and moved me so personally because this was a character who by dint of his fate was unable to participate in the thing he loved most --- which was the fellowship of man.
Wow, if Dan Stevens didn't call Ron Perlman before he played the Beast in Disney's new Beauty And The Beast, he definitely should have! It seems like Perlman just doesn't get these roles because of his dominating presence and tolerance for long makeup sessions, but this guy truly understands and empathizes with these characters in a way I'm sure not many do. Unfortunately, the classic Beauty And The Beast television series isn't on Netflix for those now inspired to check it out, but you can find a fair number of YouTube clips or rogue DVDs for sale around the web. If you've already resigned yourself that it's hopeless and you'll never see it, head over to our midseason premiere guide for some new shows to soothe your sorrows.