Doug Jones has played a number of diverse characters, most of them under such heavy prosthetic make-up you’d never know it was him. He was the zombie Billy Butcherson in the Hallowe’en film Hocus Pocus and Spy Morlock in the 2002 remake of The Time Machine. But it was his performance as Abe Sapien in Hellboy that upped his profile, leading to extraordinary roles in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
In the new supernatural Horror movie Legion, which stars Paul Bettany as the Archangel Michael on a mission to save Humanity, Doug Jones has a cameo as a pleasant ice-cream man who transforms into a hideous lethal creature.
When we see the ice-cream man how much are you contorting your body and how much are they extending it with CGI?
What you see in the film is me getting out of the ice-cream truck looking like Doug Jones, and that was why Scott [Stewart, the director] came looking for me in the first place. He wanted to give the fan boys who know me under rubber a chance to see my face. When I start my transition, and my jaw drops down CG takes it down to my chest, but when we cut angles it’s me wearing a prosthetic lower half of my face. The close-up of my arm growing was the old party gag were you hold your sleeve and pretend your arm is growing, and in the close up it totally works. Then they cut to me wearing are extensions, leg extensions, and my running around on all fours, so I had to work out for this one.
How do you get into the mindset of a character like this?
To get the ecosystem of a new creature, which is something I attack with every film I do, I think what’s the organism, how does he move and how does he work? My first couple of fittings for extensions at the Creator Shop for the ice-cream man, I was really taxed and breathing heavily and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to die.’ So I got into very specific shape for this particular movement.
When your character gets shot, what did you do for the bullet impact?
When you’re not really getting shot with bullets but acting like it, your imagination takes you to the place, ‘What would my body be doing if I was actually being pelted with metal bits?’ I did the usual writhing, but I also had a brilliant stunt double named Dorian Kingi who took a jolt in the air for me.
I tried it myself first, but I had my Fear Itself shoot coming up the next week, I did the Skin and Bones episode, and I thought, ‘If we do multiple takes of my spine getting jolted up in the air and landing on the ground I could be dead before my shoot next week.’ And that’s when Dorian saved my life that night and did that one little moment for me.
When you think of all the characters you’ve played, what gratification does it give you that those performance last with people forever?
That’s something I never expect ahead of time. You go into every project wondering, ‘Are people going to respond to this?’ You never know. I don’t think of that while I’m making the film because I just want to find the character and live in him or let him live in me. Now that I’m looking back at my own credit list I think, ‘It’s sweet that people still remember these projects and these characters.’
You’re the lead in a film where it’s your face, My Name is Jerry.
My Name is Jerry is a sweet little indie film which is a complete departure for me; it has nothing to do with the sci fi genre. It’s a middle-aged white guy going through a midlife crisis and his name is Jerry, hence the title. It’s doing the film festival circuit right now and doing really well; it’s winning awards. It just got Best Picture at the International Filmmakers Festival in London; I was nominated for Best Actor there as well.
I also have a webisode series coming up with DB Sweeney and Gary Graham, who was on Alien Nation, called Universal Dead, about a zombie outbreak. I play a scientist at the head of the research team that’s finding the reasons why, and it’s got a nice twist to it, one of the best explanations for a zombie outbreak I’ve ever seen.
We know Guillermo del Toro has set up shop in New Zealand and is working on The Hobbit, have you visited him?
No, I have not. My radar to Guillermo has been silent, but he’s extremely busy and extremely sought after right now, you can imagine the inundation of people. Whenever we do comic book conventions he announces on a microphone, ‘Here’s my e-mail address,’ and with The Hobbit coming everyone and their grandmother is like, ‘Can you get me on the film?’ He’s not writing back to me, I wish I had news to tell you.
All we hear is, ‘What’s Doug Jones going to play?’
That’s very sweet that people are interested and care enough to ask about this, but for the last year and half, since it was announced that Guillermo was going to be directing the film, I have been asked about it almost every day, because the assumption is after four films with him and the relationship I have with him professionally, people assume. I don’t assume, because I don’t want to cash a check before it’s written to me.
I would love to be a part of such an epic story, absolutely, but I have nothing more to go on than what he said on the red carpet of the Saturn Awards a year and a half ago, which was, ‘If I directed a hemorrhoid commercial, Doug Jones would be in it.’ So, that’s what I have to cling to.