Interview : Doug Jones, Pans Labyrinth


We had a chance to sit down with Doug Jones and talk to him about his upcoming work in Pans Labyrinth. Although this interview focuses on Pans Labyrinth he was cool enough to spill some beans on Fantastic Four : the Silver Surfer and HellBoy 2. The youngest of four children, Doug Jones was born on 1960 in Indianapolis, IN, USA. He was educated at Bishop Catard High School and later Ball State University in Indianapolis, leaving with a degree in telecommunications and theatre. At the same time, he was studying mime for pleasure, never suspecting that it would one day become his career. Having trod the boards in various theatre pieces, he left Indianapolis for Los Angeles in 1985 to pursue a film career. A fistful of B-movies (NIGHT ANGEL, CARNAL CRIMES, MAGIC KID, among others) was followed by a role as one of Danny DeVito's henchmen in Tim Burton's BATMAN RETURNS.

Jones has been in work solidly ever since, appearing in some forty feature film and TV series appearances, and more than 90 music videos, notably for Madonna and Marilyn Manson. For del Toro, Doug Jones has already portrayed one of the humanoid cockroaches in MIMIC, and the aquatic Abe Sapien in HELLBOY. Other cinema roles, sometimes hidden behind elaborate make-up, include: M. Night Shyamalan’s THE LADY IN THE WATER; the comedy BENCHWARMERS, with David Spade and Rob Schneider; HOCUS POCUS, with Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker; MYSTERY MEN with Ben Stiller; THE TIME MACHINE by Gore Verbinski and Simon Wells; Barry Sonnenfeld's MEN IN BLACK 2; Spike Jonze's ADAPTATION; and most recently Andrzej Bartkowiak's DOOM. On television, Jones made an indelible appearance in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “‘Hush,” which was nominated for two Emmy Awards. Other television credits include “Criminal Minds,” “C.S.I.,” “Tales from the Crypt” and “The Guardian.”

Q: Are you happy to be the guy in costume?

DJ: Always. I mean , yes. I'm happy to have a job always but I'm really happy to be working for Guillermo del Toro any time. You just talked to him, isn't he wonderful? Don't you love that man? I just adore him.

Q: Do you prefer heavy makeup or CGI dots?

DJ: Well, to this day, I've never done CGI dots for motion capture. I just finished a job where everyone thought that's what I did and that is not exactly the case.

Q: Would that job involve silver stuff?

DJ: Mm-hmm, perhaps.

Q: What can you tell us about Silver Surfer?

DJ: The good thing is that somebody from MTV put a story out, they were doing a set visit and they told something they probably shouldn't have and that's when I walked on set, they said, 'And then Silver Surfer walked in the studio door. The hush fell over the crowd' or whatever he said. But he reported that the Silver Surfer was dressed in dark grey muscle and shrouded in a black hooded cape to keep him from the public or something like that.

So that's out there now so I'm not telling any tales out of school by reporting what he said, am I? You didn't hear that from me, you heard it from MTV, okay? But I would be remiss if I said it's just that. 20th Century Fox really is spending a lot of money putting together the very best visual effects done by Weta with the very best practical effects done by Spectral Motion to create a look that is really going to stun you on film. He is absolutely, I'm not kidding, he's stunningly gorgeous.

Q: You've seen it?

DJ: I saw a test at the early stage and it was like drop dead. Oh my gosh, this is going to make the fans wet themselves. Yeah, you are.

Q: Talk about speaking Spanish?

DJ: The fact that I don't speak Spanish? Well, sure. When I first got the script and the request from Guillermo del Toro to please be in this film, consider this film, read this script, which by the way was a huge compliment. I'd already worked with him twice before, once on “Mimic” and once on “Hellboy,” so we had a relationship established. And when he sends me an e-mail saying, 'You must be in this film. No one else can play this part but you,' you tend to perk up your ears and listen. ‘Okay, what's the script?’ [mumbles some noises]. So I read it within hours of getting it and it was such a -- I couldn't put it down. I turned the last page closed, wiped a tear and said, 'I do have to be in this movie.' I read an English translation of it, so I wasn't in the Spanish mode yet. I was like, 'Oh, what a great story. What great characters. Ah.'

Then I went back to the e-mail where he was like 'da da da da it's going to be in Spanish.' IT'S GONNA BE IN SPANISH??? Oh no. So I'm telling him, 'What do you mean no one else can play this but me? There's a ton of Spanish actors who know Spanish.' So I was terrified and he assured me that everyone would be fine, we'll get a voice over actor if you just want to count to 10, just do it in the right pausing, in the right mode and move, give me the right feeling. I can't count to 10. I can't do that to him. So he also talked about learning Spanish phonetically. I'm like what does that mean, phonetically? So he put together, he said, 'For instance, if you want to say ‘blah blah blah blah blah’ in Spanish, you might say ‘the cheese cup fart.'

It's a ‘sounds like’ game, the phonetic thing, a string of English words together that are nonsensical, but you at least know the English words and can remember them, and then it forms a sentence in Spanish that makes sense. Well, to me, that form of memorization was even harder than just going to the page and learning the Spanish which is what I did. It's an ancient form of Spanish. Is that more difficult than the contemporary? I don't know, I don't know either one. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.

Q: While shooting, did he stop when you'd get something wrong?

DJ: I'm gonna pat myself on the back here and say that I did a damn good job, okay? I really, really buckled down and committed myself to learning that word for word and I got the pronunciation semi-right before I even went in. They offered me a dialect coach that could help me form my words and I said, 'No, let me try this on my own.' I got proud about it, you know. My makeup artist from DDT (Arjen Tuiten, efectos especiales), I had five hours of time every day getting into the Pan make-up and costume and mechanics.

It was quite a multi-faceted process to become Pan from head to toe. So they would hear my dialogue over and over. We had five hours for me to practice the scene every day, didn't we? So one of them would pick up the script while they weren't doing something and read the other lines with me. And if I was pronouncing something horribly wrong, they would correct me. So that's pretty much- - some words in Spanish are like seven syllables long for one word. I went golly. So knowing where to put the punch or the accent on that was like ‘please help me, please help me, please help me.’

Q: When he sent the script, did he also want you for the Pale Man?

DJ; He did. He mentioned the Pale Man in that first e-mail as well and I thought, 'Oh right, you cheap ass. You've got me in Spain, you want me for free, you get a second character out of me. Right.' But after seeing the film and seeing how it all came together, I'm looking at it and I can see like, 'Okay, if Pan is creating these tests for Ofelia to pass to claim her birthright or whatever, could the Pale Man not be a creation of Pan?'

Anything's possible in this world that he's from. So I looked at it that way and then it made sense on film. It's like I can see why Guillermo wanted- - Guillermo doesn't make any decisions that aren't really calculated, so to have me play both parts was something that he had in mind. And I didn't want to ask too many questions even to get like backstory, to dig into his reasoning because that might ruin it for me if I know too much. I really trust that man. If he wanted me to take a crap on film, I would take that crap and I would know that he would form it into some piece of art that would be gorgeous and we'd be winning awards next year for it.

Q: The two creatures carry themselves so differently, was that your creation?

DJ: Yes and no. it was collaborative. With Guillermo, what he does is he directs me ahead of time. We get together and we meet and he will give me physical quirks and characteristics he'd like to see along with character development ideas and what not. I get to go home and put my own spin on that and practice that and rehearse that, go in front of mirrors at the gym and get posturing and movement. And then also when doing the dialogue as well, putting my own spin on that as well. So Pan was interesting too because he aged backwards. I don't know if any of you caught that when you saw the film.

The first time you see him, he's a big grayer, his hair. One of his ram horns is kind of eaten away at the end and his whole coloration, and I was carrying myself a little bit more hunched, my steps weren't as smooth. By the end, he has auburn hair, his horns are completed and shiny, and he's more erect and fluid. So that was a subtlety that again, I didn't even ask questions. I just said, 'He's aging backwards. For some reason, I'm gonna go with this.' But to me, he might have gotten younger and stronger and more fluid and more powerful as the movie goes on because if this is a part of Ofelia's imagination, we don't even know for sure is it real or is it imaginary. If it is, she's depending more on this fantasy life throughout every step of the way in the movie because her reality is getting worse and worse. Her mom's getting more real, her stepdad's getting more and more evil. Death is happening, the Civil War is escalating. So she needs to retreat away from this more and more so Pan becomes more vivid and more real and more colorful. That's what it meant to me anyway. But I wasn't answering your question, was I?

Q: It’s about the physicality and the difference between the two.

DJ: The Pale Man evolved as well. At first, Guillermo even thought that he should maybe have a gallop to him of some sort, that is fast and terrifying in a ‘you can't get away from me’ sort of way. But what he evolved into is what you saw on film where he's creepy, crawly and has a stiff ‘I've been asleep for a long time’ sort of walk to him. But he's still scary.

And he's moving slower. Ivana was running down the hallway much faster than I was coming after her, but it was terrifying somehow because it's like as I interpret it, he's in his own chamber and when children get in there, they don't go out. So he had all day. ‘I'll find her eventually, right? She'll tire.’ So that's how I looked at it. But of course, she finds a way to outfox him. So yeah, but if you look at those two characters, you may not know that it was one person playing both of them but I don't know.

Q: What was it like being on set with Ivana and how did you eat in costume?

DJ: Well, I couldn't sit in a conventional chair. When I was in the Pan, the leg contraption was quite elaborate. They CGed part of my leg out with the green screen wrapped around my leg and other parts of leg built around that. Very complicated and with the ram horns on the head, to hold my head up was like ‘Ugh, I can't take it anymore.’ It was heavy. So to rest, they had like a bar thing with a bicycle seat sort of thing on it and a T bar this way that I could rest my head on forward. I couldn't lean back on it but I could lean forward. So it was this one position. That's all I could do. I would eat, but then I'd be like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, then put my head forward again.’ It was really a labor of love, can we talk about it?

Q: Which suit took longer to get into?

DJ: They were both about five hours. Pan came together glue-wise and makeup-wise a little bit faster but the mechanics were something that had to be plugged in. A lot of things had to work in concert with them together and with puppeteers operating half my face and all so he had many various elements that had to be screwed on mechanically and zippered and pinned and snapped and Velcroed. The Pale Man was more of a glue down job and color blending that had to happen with silicon pieces. Pan was mostly foam latex and the Pale Man was silicon because it had to get the little waddle.

Silicon has much more of a lifelike movement to it and he was piece by piece glued on. In fact, he was so elaborately glued together that during the five days- - it was a five day Monday through Friday shoot that they had planned for the Pale Man sequence to be completed. It turned into a four day shoot for me because I went home the first day with diarrhea. I was drinking the tap water and they had a little issue with their something something bacteria, I don't know. Anyway, so in order to get those last four days to happen, I had to- - well, I didn't have to but they were going to release me at night and bring me back the next day with only like three hours of sleep.

In order to get more sleep for me and for the makeup team, I wore a lot of the Pale Man back to the hotel. I didn't tell anybody this during the shoot because I knew that Guillermo would have my hide for it because he wants me to relax and be out of this all. But I had them take my head and neck off and my hands off but leave the arms and the torso on. The legs came on, the Pale Man legs were really thin and bony. Yes, I'm thin and bony, yes, but those were like actual bones with skin dangling off of them. I was wearing the complete makeup around my torso but it would blend into the bony legs that were attached to the front of me with my legs in green screen color. So they could take those off pretty easily too with the drop of my pants, which I did a lot that week. But this glued on bit, it takes hours. They would wrap me in saran wrap so that the flaps wouldn't stick to themselves or to my sheets, oh God. So labor of love. Have I said that before? Yeah, yeah.

Q: You sacrificed for your craft?

DJ: I sacrificed a lot and I'm happy to sacrifice a lot for a craft that involves Guillermo del Toro honestly. To be honest with you, and I'm not just blowing smoke, I love that man and I loved his work. I think he was just telling you at the end when I walked in here on him about the difference between independent film and studio film. And when he's doing an independent project like this, he's set free to create the sculpture completely on his own. And that's when this true, beautiful art happens. So knowing that and taking the cut in salary to do this job and what we all did to make this movie happen was well worth it. I'm so happy to be sitting here talking with you now, with the Golden Globe nomination for the film and hopefully an Oscar nomination on the way and all the other awards it's been winning. It deserves that and I'm really proud to be a part of it.

Q: “Hellboy 2,” what's up for Abe?

DJ: I am very excited about what's up for Abe. I'm currently in negotiations now with my own personal contract so I can't say it's a done deal yet but I'm very hopeful that we'll come to terms. When that happens, I'm told that- - I have a script waiting for me at home right now.

I've been up in Vancouver. I just got home this morning. I did a night shoot last night, I was wrapped for the picture, good night, bye, that's it for Doug and I got on a plane to come talk to y'all. I haven't been to bed yet. That's why I'm talking crazy talk. But I'm told that Abe is on a more equal playing level of “Hellboy” this time. He's got way more storyline, he has his hands on the bad guys, and he might have a love interest. Not sure, but he might. So there's a lot to look forward to.

Q: What was in Vancouver?

DJ: That was “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” It just wrapped this morning, like hours ago.

Q: Don't you wish he got his own movie?

DJ: I sure do and if all goes well with this one, that could be in the works, coming down the pipe. Let's hope.

Q: Any temptation to sleep in the whole costume to try to get more sleep?

DJ: I wore a lot of Abe home too. I wore some Abe home too for the exact same reason. It was just easier and saved a lot of time for all of us.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” opens in theaters on December 29th.

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