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Doug JonesDoug Jones - "Legion" Movie - Ifmagazine.com Interview
Thursday 20 May 2010, by Webmaster
In LEGION, which just hit DVDand Blu-ray, actor Doug Jones appears on screen as the Ice Cream Man for perhaps ninety seconds. However, this is fairly significant for both the movie, as it’s one of the scariest bits in the whole piece, and for Jones’ fans, who have seen much of the actor’s work without seeing much of his face. This is because Jones is famous for playing pivotal characters who are fantastic creations in feature-and-form-concealing guises. One of Guillermo Del Toro’s favorite collaborators, Jones has played Abe Sapien in both HELLBOY films (along with the Angel of Death and an elf in the second movie) and Pan and the Pale Man in PAN’S LABYRINTH. Other significant roles include the Silver Surfer in THE FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER and one of the terrifying Gentlemen in the Emmy-nominated BUFFY episode “Hush.”
LEGION director Scott Stewart really wanted Jones to play the Ice Cream Man, who starts human, but rapidly morphs into a giant-mouthed, long-limbed menace. Jones was flattered by the request, but there was an initial problem. The plot of LEGION deals with angels coming to Earth to destroy humankind, apparently at God’s command, and Jones, who is religious, had some hesitation about aspects of the storyline.
“I’m in ninety seconds of the movie, but they’re a very crucial ninety seconds,” Jones laughs. “I love being that, but when I read the entire script, my name and my face and my Christian background is coming into this film, there’s an audience that knows all that about me – I had some concerns when I read the script, like, ‘Oh, dear, God’s a bad guy and the heroes are these people who are fighting back. So what does that do? My mom is going to crucify me if I do this film.’ So I talked to Scott Stewart, our director, who came looking for me for this cameo. I really was very tickled pink that he wanted me for this, and I posed these questions to him, to find his vision for the film, what was it going to be. And bless his heart, he said he was not in a mood to question anyone’s religion or challenge anyone’s religion or combat anyone’s religion. He comes from a Jewish background himself, so he was kind of taking this story from an Old Testament viewpoint. As a Christian, there’s a New Testament in my Bible as well, but from an Old Testament perspective, we have a wrathful God and a lot of stories in there that were violent and the Flood that Noah and his family endured is one of them. And the way Scott put it – ‘Can you imagine being a villager and you’re not in Noah’s family, how violent your death would have been as those raging waters start to tumble and take your house away and people screaming and gnashing of teeth and the whole thing?’ I was, ‘Oh, true, yes.’ So I think that’s kind of the template that LEGION starts from, as it was explained to me. So the flood being a legion of angels, instead of an actual flood of water, coming to Earth to end humanity. My character, the Ice Cream Man, is one of the first raindrops in that flood. So after the old woman, Jeanette Miller is [the actress] in the diner – that’s the freakiest part of the film for me right there. She is [in reality] a delightful woman. After her, I’m the next raindrop, and then my scene is what then brings on, ‘Uh-oh, here they come.’ And the whole action of the end of the movie is started with my little scene.”
The film’s finale, with its message of forgiveness, makes Jones more comfortable.
“That actually was a lovely, uplifting sort of thing – is God really angry with us, to the point where there’s no hope for us and we’re just going to die?" says Jones. "My entire Bible that sits on the shelf at home has a New Testament with a lot of hope in it, a lot of forgiveness for the sins that I’ve committed in my life – thank Heaven!,” he adds with a laugh, “but the end of the movie now does offer some hope.”
Do LEGION’s winged, muscular angels, especially Paul Bettany’s defender of humans, match up with Jones’ conception of the celestial beings?
“Sure," he adds. "The artwork of angels that all of us have grown up with as kids, a little delicate figure with butterflies around their heads, that’s nice and I imagine that angels come in all forms, there is that kind that will stroke your head and sing you to sleep. I hope so. But if there are demons in your life that need their ass kicked, I hope that there’s a Paul Bettany out there defending me.”
As for how Jones was made to look like his arms, legs and jaws are vastly extending their size, the actor explains, “What you see in the film with me is me getting out of the ice cream truck looking like Doug Jones."
"That was why Scott came to me in the first place was, he wanted to give the fanboys who knew me under rubber a chance to see my face in this kind of a genre film," he says. "Again, when I start my little transition and my jaw drops down, CG takes it down to my chest. Then it’s me wearing a prosthetic lower half of my face, so I was actually wearing this big ‘gaaah’ mouth. And then the arm extension and leg extension – first of all, the close-up of my arm growing is the old party gag where you hold your sleeve and do this. ‘My arm’s growing!’ But in a close-up, it totally works. Then they cut to me wearing arm extensions, leg extensions that were actually me manipulating them and me running around on all fours with arm extensions, so I think it worked out for this one.”
Jones has worked with leg and arm extensions before, notably in PAN’S LABYRINTH and THE TIME MACHINE. Running on all fours with them, he says, is something like trying to manipulate two sets of stilts simultaneously.
“To get the ecosystem of this new creature down is something I attack with every [role] I do," he says. "’What’s the organism that I’m becoming here? How does he move and how does he work?’ At first, when I did my first couple fittings in those at the creature shop, I was really taxed and breathing heavily and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to die.’ So that’s why I got in very specific shape for this particular movement, this particular exercise, if you will. And what I was tickled about was, we did a couple takes with me running straight toward the camera, but I think what ended up getting in the film was the sidewinder kind of look, coming at the camera at an angle, which was even more odd, more limbs going all sorts of directions.”
As for what may be coming up, although Jones is one of Del Toro’s go-to guys, the actor says he doesn’t know what his director friend is planning for THE HOBBIT.
“That’s very sweet that people are interested and care enough to ask about this, but for the last year-and-a-half, since [it was] announced that Guillermo is going to be directing the film, I have been asked almost every day, ‘So …?’" says Jones with a smile. "The assumption is, after four films 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 even written to me. I would love to be a part of such an epic story absolutely, but I have nothing more to go on but what he said on the red carpet at the Saturn Awards a year and a half ago, which was,” Jones drops into a growly approximation of Del Toro’s deep tones, “‘If I direct a hemorrhoid commercial, Doug Jones will be in it.’ So that’s what I have to cling to. I wish I had news to tell you.”
Although nothing is firm on Del Toro’s pet project FRANKENSTEIN, Jones gets asked a lot about that one, too.
“The funny thing is, we can be a bit more definite on that than we can on THE HOBBIT, because of Guillermo talking again,” Jones relates. “Again, I have not talked to him directly, but in the press, when he was doing his book tour for THE STRAIN, his vampire book that he co-wrote, while talking to the BBC in England, he [talked] about his plans to make his own Frankenstein film and how he’s already planned me as his Frankenstein monster. We haven’t talked about it face to face, but from what he has said, and I’m paraphrasing, but if you go on deltorofilms.com, there should be a message board where people do know what I’m talking about, what he had to say about it was, Frankenstein the story, Mary Shelley’s book and the Boris Karloff movies, inspired his childhood and inspired him to want to do the movies that he’s doing today. Monsters became a part of his childhood, which have become a part of his life. Affectionately so. So when he does get the chance to make this movie, who knows what’s coming, but it will certainly be a pinnacle for him in his career and in his dream life, because he’s wanted to do this all his life, from childhood on. After watching Boris Karloff when I was a kid in that same movie, and I’m not much of a reader, but I have Mary Shelley’s book at home now, the Bernie Wrightson illustrated version, which is the one that Guillermo is basing the monster on, which is not Boris Karloff. When I first heard this news in the press, I’m like, ‘Well, how can this be? I’m not this big, wide-shouldered …’ But looking at Bernie Wrightson’s artwork, it’s a thinner, more sympathetic, more pathetic at times creature, who has a very intimate relationship with his creator, Dr. Von Frankenstein, and Guillermo, from what he says, would like to explore that relationship more than the movies that have been told already, getting back to Mary Shelley’s book and really exploring the gut-wrenching emotion that goes behind that relationship. So again, dream come true, this could be, so let’s knock on everything and pray that Dougie gets to make this.”
It’s not as though Jones has been sitting around waiting for things to happen. He’s got a slew of projects he’s worked on lately, including some outside the genre.
“MY NAME IS JERRY is a sweet little indie film,” Jones says. “It’s a complete departure for me. It’s a middle-aged white guy going through a midlife crisis. His name is Jerry, hence the name of the movie, and it’s doing the film festival circuit right now and doing really well. It got the Best Picture at the International Filmmakers Festival in London – I was nominated for Best Actor there as well, thank you – and it just got Best Picture at the Santa Clarita Valley Film Festival right here in the L.A. area. It got Best Comedy Film at the Route 66 Film Festival in Springfield, Illinois. And we’re playing in Omaha and Denver and various other festivals. From what I’m told by one of our producers, we have distribution coming, there are offers on the table, so it’s one of those indie films that won’t have a big theatrical release, probably – it’s not like a blockbustery feeling. It’s a great DVD rental, a good date-night movie and maybe a cable TV run.”
As to other projects, Jones has a mafia picture called GRAY SCALE on the horizon.
"Mostly what I have coming up is my own face and GRAY SCALE, I play a Mafia hit man," says Jones. "So I got to wear a suit and tie and be kind of slick and wield a gun. I was a ruthless killer with a smarmy sense of humor, so I really loved climbing into that one. I did a horror film called CYRUS, about a horrific person who grinds up people and serves them at a roadside dinner. I play a psychologist in that who you come and visit every so often as an audience member to have me explain the inner workings of a serial killer. And also fun little things with Internet movies, too. I love the Webisode world. I have this Webisode series coming out with D.B. Sweeney and Gary Graham, who did ALIEN NATION, called UNIVERSAL DEAD. A zombie outbreak happens and I play the scientist at the head of the research team that’s finding the reasons why. And it’s got a nice twist to it and it’s one of the best explanations for a zombie outbreak I’ve ever seen , so I think this could be the real one,” he laughs.
The world of voice work has also beckoned to Jones too.
“I just did a a sixty-minute IMAX experience called QUANTUM QUEST [with] a humongous voice cast, including Hayden Christensen, a lot of people from STAR WARS, STAR TREK, anything with a STAR in it, and me," Jones says. "I play two characters. It’s animated and it’s very scientific and educational, but it’s also very entertaining. Hulu.com will be running an animated thing called THE DREAM. It’s a faith-based short that I did the narration of, which I loved, loved doing. Also, I just did a fun little project called THE ALPHABET SONNETS. It’s like Dr. Seuss lyrical songs about the alphabet.”
Jones’ work has brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people, many of whom are very vocal in their enthusiasm for the actor.
“That’s something that I never expect ahead of time,” Jones says. “You go into every project wondering, ‘Is this going to hit? Are people going to respond to this?’ You never know and I can’t think about that while I’m making a film, because I just want to find the character and live in him and let him live in me, but the after-effects have been, ‘Oh, gosh, how pleasant.’ Now that I’m looking back at my own credit list, thinking, ‘Wow, that’s sweet that people still remember these projects and these titles and characters.’ I hear more about this on the convention circuit. I love doing the sci-fi/comic book/horror fan conventions, because that’s when the people who have paid money to see the film or bought the DVD are now coming up to meet you in person, and that’s when I hear stories like, ‘Your movie was our first date.’ They’re showing me a pregnant belly and it’s like, ‘This happened on the night …’ I hear these stories, and it’s really sweet. Or even more touching stories are things after a movie like PAN’S LABYRINTH, when you’ve got a young girl who’s the centerpiece of the film going through this journey of choice-making and life and danger and escaping into a fantasy land, and the whole thing, a lot of kids and teenagers were going through that. On MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, places I’m all present, fifteen-year-old girls, kids in Goth makeup, boys who are living in group homes, get ahold of me and say something they watched me do was inspiring to them, gave them hope to live ‘til tomorrow. Other kids come up to me at conventions with scars on their wrists and a story to tell me that they’re alive because of something I did. That’s a heavy weight to carry around, and I don’t feel worthy of such comments, but that’s the plus side. That’s the payoff for me. Getting my face on film is fantastic. The better part of that, though, is when it affects people’s lives personally.”