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Interview With Doug Jones Star Of Pan's Labyrinth
By James Whittington, Tuesday 23rd August 2016
The first FrightFest I ever worked on for Horror Channel was back in 2006 when the event was still in the Odeon on Leicester Square. The film crew and I were housed in the top floor trying to conduct our interviews away from the hustle and bustle of the bar area below. It was in this small room we had the pleasure of chatting to Guillermo del Toro before he introduced what would be soon hailed as a masterpiece, Pan's Labyrinth. Myself and the whole crew sat open mouthed as the film played to an audience, in awe of what we were seeing on screen. Scary, dark, fantastical and moving, the film cemented Guillermo del Toro's reputation as a true visionary. The film stars Doug Jones in the pivotal roles of El Fauno and the Pale Man, two incredibly different characters that bring the movie's fantastical elements vividly to life.
As the 10th anniversary of the film's release approaches and its part of our FrightFest season on Thursday, we chat to Doug about this incredible film and his amazing career to date.
HC: How did you come to work on Pan's Labyrinth?
DJ: Writer/director Guillermo del Toro came looking for me, bless his heart! We met on his first American studio film, Mimic, in 1997 when I worked just 3 days on the film as one of his "Long John" bug creatures. But it was the first Hellboy movie that really connected us as a director/actor team who understood each other. So a year after Hellboy released in cinemas, he contacted me to play The Faun and Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth, telling me no one else would do. I was very intimidated with his trust in me, but he sent a script and said, "Get an answer back to me tonight if you can!"
HC: What did you think of the script when you first read it?
DJ: As I closed the final page of this glorious script, I wiped a tear away, and said, "Oh wow... I HAVE to be in this movie!" Reading his magical, brutal tale, and knowing it was to be directed by the master, himself, I knew we could be looking a classic in the face.
HC: You play both El Fauno and the Pale Man, two very iconic characters, how did you approach each one and did Guillermo del Toro give you much direction or back story for them?
DJ: Oddly enough, I don't remember much backstory discussion for either. For El Fauno, he just reminded me of his mythological status, his playful trickery, and that he would be aging backward throughout the film, becoming younger, more fluid and colourful each time you see him, as Ofelia was getting closer to coming home to us in the underworld. The other note was to watch the hind quarter of barn animals to see how their hooves meet the ground and how they shake off flies. For the Pale Man, it was a short discussion about waking up hungry after not eating children for long enough that he has all this sagging skin now. A disgusting beast I was.
HC: Which character did you prefer playing and has anyone come up to you at a convention dressed like them?
DJ: I connect more with El Fauno, as he has an overall sense of good about him. A nurturing side he keeps hidden under the trickery. And yes, El Fauno has been cosplayed by a couple of people at different conventions, which is no easy task! I still have yet to see anyone cosplay The Pale Man in person, although I've seen a few YouTube parodies which were brilliant.
HC: As an artist who regularly wears a costume, how difficult is it to convey emotions etc. through so much make-up and do you have to keep in shape?
DJ: If I want a creature and the performance to look organic and effortless, it is absolutely paramount that I stay in shape for whatever role I'm playing, yes. An acting performance needs to start the same way it would for any actor, in the heart and soul, feeling the character's needs, wants, fears, joys, all that. Then when layers of foam latex are glued onto you, yes, it just becomes a matter of letting that be your character's real second skin, while living and breathing through it. That may require some exaggerated movement and gestures.
HC: What was the atmosphere like on set as it's a dark and serious film?
DJ: There was a certain emotional gravity on this set because of the dark story, but when Guillermo's sense of humour is at the helm of the ship, we can steer into a chuckle or two here and there. When I'm looking at the world on set through the tiny tear ducts of a mask, and everyone is speaking Spanish until they need something from me in English, it's difficult to feel out that atmosphere. Because of my physical demands, "Can I survive these hours?" becomes my atmosphere.
HC: What's your most vivid memory from the making of this classic?
DJ: So many memories from that epic film shoot, but after all the fear I carried into that project regarding the Faun's Spanish dialogue. We were shooting on the final day of principle photography, and I remember tearing up as soon as I saw little Ivana Baquero walk on set in that beautiful, shiny, satin dress with those red shoes. After all her character had been through, and after all we had been through together, to see her all cleaned up and so pretty, it was just such a fitting reward for her right choices that brought her there. As it was finally called, "That's a picture wrap on Doug Jones!" all I could think was, "I did it. I actually got through this shoot alive and delivered all that Spanish dialogue on set like a native speaker" A true sense of accomplishment.
HC: This film is in my Top 5 of all time as it is for many people, why do you think it touched such a chord with so many people?
DJ: I think exercising healthy rebellion when your authority figure has lost his way, or is just evil, is a theme to which so many can relate. Whether it's from abusive or ignorant parenting, an unfair teacher, or a boss at a job who was misguided, there are so many in this hurting world who have felt empowered to go home and wrestle the monsters in their own lives from ingesting the story of this beautiful movie.
HC: How would you catagorise the movie as it straddles many genres?
DJ: I think the quickest way I've heard it is a dark fairy tale for adults. But you are so right, it is history, relationship drama, fantasy, a dash of horror, and fairytale all bundled up together.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
DJ: I don't know the UK dates, but in the USA next up, you can see me returning to Guillermo del Toro's TV show, The Strain season 3 as a recurring Ancient vampire. Then in cinemas October 21st you can see me in a couple of scenes (one human, one not) in Ouija: Origin Of Evil. And I play the title role in the feature film, The Bye Bye Man with Carrie-Anne Moss and Fay Dunaway, in theatres December 9th. I'm also very happy to be currently filming Guillermo del Toro's new movie, The Shape Of Water, releasing later in 2017.
HC: Doug Jones, as always, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.
DJ: And thank you for having me! I'm so proud to celebrate Pan's Labyrinth's 10th anniversary with you all at the Horror Channel!
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