FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS | BOOTH'S BLOG Exclusive Interview With Pan's Labyrinth Actor Doug Jones
By James Whittington, Sunday 13th April 2014
Horror Channel is proudly showing Guillermo del Toro’s superb masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth on April 19th.
One of its main actors is Doug Jones, a man who takes the roles of two very different but equally important characters, the Faun and the Pale Man (pictured) so we decided to chat to this very talented man about this very special film and what his acting plans are for the future.
HC: Did you know from a young age what you wanted to do in life?
DJ: I did. As an awkward, tall, skinny child, I had to develop a sense of humour for survival. The TV gave me an escape from the cruel world, and it was characters from I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Gomer Pyle, Gilligan’s Island, The Andy Griffith Show, and movie re-runs of anything Danny Kaye or Jerry Lewis did that gave me hope of a goofy kid becoming something entertaining in show-biz one day.
HC: How did you go from being a mime to being an actor?
DJ: A very easy transition, as mime requires acting. I began as a mime at university, but simultaneously did more conventional stage plays as a regular person. When I arrived in Hollywood in 1985, I had no idea the mime training would be the groundwork for what was to become of my career. I sought silly sitcom and TV commercial roles, booked a few, but it was that mime training and my tall, skinny frame that caught the eye of my first agent and the creature effects creators of Hollywood. One of my first advert bookings was for McDonald’s as the singing crescent moon-headed man, Mac Tonight, and my reputation as that tall, skinny guy who moves well and doesn’t complain in make-ups and heavy costumes is what started the referrals for bigger jobs down the road.
HC: You came to prominence with your superb take on Abe Sapien in Hellboy, how did you get that role?
DJ: First of all, thank you for such a lovely compliment! It was a combination of another referral from the team at Spectral Motion creature effects shop, and also having met and worked briefly on director Guillermo del Toro’s first U.S. feature film, Mimic as one of his bug guys. When the Spectral Motion team brought my name up, Guillermo said, “I know Doug Jones!” and pulled my card out of his wallet that I’d given him five years prior while working on Mimic.
HC: Did you have to audition for your roles in Pan’s Labyrinth?
DJ: Thankfully, now that our working relationship was cemented in love after the first Hellboy movie, Guillermo del Toro came looking for me to play the Faun and the Pale Man, no audition required. He sent me an email from Spain, where he was in pre-production for the film, telling me that no one could play the Faun but me. A terrifying statement that came with enormous pressure. And he casually added that there was another character called the Pale Man he also wanted me to do. Little did I know that the Pale Man would become such an iconic moment in scary cinema and land on the cover of multiple magazines that year.
HC: What did you think of the script when you first read it?
DJ: I wiped tears off my cheeks as I closed the last page, saying to myself, “I simply MUST do this movie!!!” It was a glorious read of fantasy, escape, with elements of relationship/family drama, history, horror … it was just the most perfect thing I’d ever read. And knowing that Guillermo would be directing this himself, I knew the vision of what I just read would be made complete.
HC: What was the atmosphere like on set and how did people treat you when you were in those amazing costumes?
DJ: We filmed in Spain, and I was the only American anywhere near the set. The entire crew was so gracious to me, and I had the luxury of not needing to be concerned with anything until I heard someone speaking English. As the Faun, especially, there was an attitude of reverence every time I walked on set. Being seven feet tall on those stilts helped command such moments.
HC: Did it take you long to get into character?
DJ: As with any heavily costumed character, the make-up process is a huge help in finding the character each day, as the process took about 5 hours for both the Faun and the Pale Man. That is, aside from the months of personal preparation ahead of time with movement and the language of the film.
HC: Where did you get your movements from as there’s no way you could find a reference for such fantastical creatures?
DJ: One of the few notes Guillermo had for me regarding the Faun before we began filming was to channel the hind quarter of barn animals, to consider how their hoofs meet the ground, and how they shake off flies. So that was all worked in. As for the Pale Man, he told me to think like a big fat man who hadn’t eaten nor been awake in years, hence the saggy skin and stiffer walk. He mentioned at one point, “More like a George Romero zombie!” Aha. Got it.
HC: Which character was the most difficult to play?
DJ: While the Pale Man was very stylized and I was near blind in the make-up only able to see a little out of the nose holes, it was the Faun that was my bigger task. To find this character both in body and in verbal dialogue was very difficult. I was in a heavy, glued-on make-up with huge ram horns on my head, stilts under my feet, and those crazy leg prosthetics to manipulate. All the while, trying to keep my balance with eye movement motors whizzing loudly in my scull, I also had to deliver mountains of dialogue in Spanish… a language I don’t speak! Learning the dialogue and language of the movie, along with taking on all this physicality, was a nervous five month journey leading up to filming.
HC: You must be rightfully proud of your performances?
DJ: I wouldn’t normally boast about such things, but when this movie finally wrapped, I felt a very proud sense of accomplishment. When I was first offered these two roles, I was sure I was going to ruin this artistic masterpiece, but upon wrap, I actually felt that I had a part in making movie history. And when I had the privilege of attending the 2007 Academy Awards, representing the film with Guillermo del Toro and all of the six nominees from the film, I thought I was dreaming. What I was truly proud of that night was the entire cast, crew, and my dear make-up artists from DDT Efectos Especiales, David Marti and Montse Ribe who went home with the Oscar for Best Make-Up that night.
HC: Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautifully original movie, is it true that it’s your favourite film?
DJ: Yes, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Pan’s Labyrinth is the perfect movie, and is the one that has become my favourite film I’ve ever been in. If there was one film to be played at my funeral, I’d want it to be Pan’s Labyrinth. Okay, that would be a long funeral, but you know what I mean.
HC: So what are working on at the moment?
DJ: I just finished filming season four of Steven Spielberg’s hit TV series, Falling Skies, returning as the helpful leader of the Volm alien race, “Cochise.” I also have completed my two spooky cameo roles in Guillermo del Toro’s new film, Crimson Peak, coming to cinemas in October of 2015. And I’m soon to guest star in the season one finale of Guillermo del Toro’s new vampire TV series, The Strain. One look at all the red bits on my IMDB page, and you’ll see I’m only scratching the surface here, with much to look forward to!
HC: Doug Jones, thank you very much.
DJ: Thank you so much for having me here! Such an honour to have you air my favourite movie, and to speak on its behalf. And anyone who would want to keep up with my tom-foolery may do so by following @actordougjones on Twitter, on Facebook at facebook.com/actordougjones, and on my official site: TheDougJonesExperience.com
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