Exclusive Interview: Ron Perlman on Season of the Witch

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On fighting witches, side by side with Nicolas Cage

An increasingly familiar face to genre fans, Ron Perlman’s on-screen personality has become recognizable both in and out of intense makeup, effortlessly stealing scenes in early films like Cronos and The City of Lost Children as well as defining the monstrous in the Hellboy films and his early television series, “Beauty and the Beast”.

Today, Perlman is busier than ever and can be seen on the big screen in Dominic Sena’s Season of the Witch, appearing opposite Nicolas Cage as a medieval knight charged with delivering a witch (Claire Foy) for her exorcism.

Shock Till You Drop caught up with Perlman at the London junket, where he shared his thoughts on the production and talked a bit about what the future will hold, including Guillermo del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness.

Shock Till You Drop: When did the script for Season of the Witch come your way?

Ron Perlman: I guess one of my managers read it and spoke to the people at Relativity who were producing it. Tucker Tooley. I had met Tucker and we were looking for ways to work together and he loved the idea of me as Felson. It just happened. I was busy shooting a tv series at the time. I’m watching all these emails coming and going and, all of a sudden, I’m on my way to Austria to start filming Season of the Witch.

Shock: This certainly fits with a lot of what you’re really known for. There’s the supernatural element to it. Is that something that you particularly seek out in a role?

Perlman: I basically don’t have any edicts or any kind of profile about what I look for to do. My main thing is that I have to love the writing and I have to feel as though I’m capable of playing the role. There’s a lot of roles where I feel like I don’t understand the guy. You don’t want to take a crack at somebody you don’t understand, because you’re just going to end up with egg on your face, I think. You want to do something you feel you have a grasp of. As I was in reading Felson — and particularly who he was to Behmen — I was thinking that it was almost too good to be true. It was a sidekick, which I love to be. He’s a guy that is a man of action, which I also love to be. Nic’s character does all the thinking and mine is kind of the muscle of the group. I just really, really thought it was too good to be true. It was a part from the heavens because I get to work with Nic Cage, who I so admire and never thought I would get a chance to work with. Dominic Sena, who I so admire. Thank you, Dominic, who I’ve so admired since the moment I saw Kalifornia. I just dove in with both feet.

Shock: Dominic Sena seems like a director who goes after the unconventional story. This could have gone in all sorts of directions, playing up the action instead of the horror or vice versa. Did you work with him to find a specific tone from the get go?

Perlman: I actually think there was a phenomenal level of discourse from the time that we were all in one place and the thinking was that we would just find a reality and play high-stakes poker, forgetting about the supernatural elements. The supernatural elements are kind of leading us. We’re not leading them. We’re just reacting to these forces that are completely incomprehensible, almost until the very end of the film. We need to be very real and very serious about who we are and what our values are and then the supernatural element takes care of itself. Nic was at the forefront of all that discussion about creating the reality of all the characters. About creating the stakes of the clocking ticking and people dying. There’s a plague and nobody understands why. There’s always a great danger of finding a scape goat when you have uncontrollable circumstances that no one can figure out quite how to deal with. You look for someone to blame and Nic’s character really feels like it’s his job to not get sort of swept up into church thinking of the time which is, “find the scapegoat, kill the scapegoat and the world will go back to being a gentle place”.

Shock: Is it a change for you being on the side against the supernatural?

Perlman: Well, every script has its own, unique point of view and it’s more about the storytelling than the reality of the character and the demeanor of the character for me than these other things that are more circumstantial, you know? I never think about genre. I think about whether I’m making a horror movie and how to adjust versus a supernatural thriller or a comedy. The job is always the same. It’s to find the reality of the character and to play him to the best of your ability. Keep it real. The rest of it takes care of itself.

Shock: You seem to be pretty busy these days. You were just in Tangled recently and you’ve got this in addition to full seasons of “Sons of Anarchy”.

Perlman: Insanely busy. I’m in the best period of my career. I say that because I’m loving all the projects I’m involved in. A lot of great things are coming my way. I love the challenge of it all. I love being busy. I love being on a movie set or a tv set or wherever the material is, really engaging. This is a really, really satiating point in my career.

Shock: Can you talk about what you have coming up?

Perlman: There’s this. Then there’s Conan, which comes out in the summer. There’s another movies called Bunraku, which played in Toronto and is looking for distribution. That’s got Josh Hartnett and Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd, Gackt, from Japan. That’s a really interesting, very stylized film. Almost like a dance. I also just did a movie for Nicolas Winding Refn, the guy who did Bronson. His first American film, called Drive with Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks and, of course, myself. That’s probably going to be at the Cannes film festival and open sometime in August. Then I did a comedy where I play a transsexual called Frankie Go Boom.

Shock: Are you gearing up for At the Mountains of Madness?

Perlman: We’re hoping to hear an announcement anytime now that all systems are go. Guillermo is working towards making that happens and rumor has it that I’ll be in that. Nicest guy in the world. This would be our fifth film together. He wrote a role for me in it and it’s a phenomenal role.

Shock: Is there a dream role that you’ve never gotten the chance to play?

Perlman: The roles that I’m getting the chance to play right now far exceed anything I could have hoped for when I was younger. It took awhile for people to figure out what kind of roles to let me play. There was such a disparity in the beginning about what I did. The first movie I was in was Quest for Fire. The second was In the Name of the Rose. They were both very abstract. I was very much covered up by special effects makeup. Then came “Beauty and the Beast” and there was no indication of “who is Ron Perlman and what does he do? What does he give off? How do we think of him and what roles do we consider him for?” It was only because of Jean Pierre Jeunet and working with him and then with Guillermo del Toro, who both seemed to get me in a way that nobody else did. The roles that they gave me to do were very colorful. Very showy. Very interesting. And played to, I feel, my strengths if I have any. So there’s a body of work. Finally Hellboy 2, I believe, which was the first film that Guillermo did after Pan’s Labyrinth, was the thing that set this current period of mine in motion. I have not stopped since Hellboy 2 came out. I guess there’s more people who have since figured out, “Who the fuck is Ron Perlman and what is he good at?”

Shock: There’s something very interesting, as you say, about beginning your career under makeup and eventually getting to Hellboy where, even to a broad audience, you show through completely despite the heavy prosthetics.

Perlman: Well Guillermo needed a personality to write the character around because the comic book character speaks in one-word sentences. There’s not much revealed as to what he’d be like sitting around at a bar drinking. Guillermo had to figure that out to make a movie character. He claims that he based the movie character on mine, so it was probably the easiest role I’ve ever had to play. Aside from four hours of makeup, I could have rolled out of bed and just started speaking. That was a gift. The greatest gift I’ve ever received in a lifetime of really beautiful gifts that keep on giving.

Shock: I remember reading an interview not longer after you were cast where somebody asked you what music Hellboy listened to and you replied, “Tom Waits” and just just getting really excited that you were going to nail it from that.

Perlman: That was actually one of those serendipitous things where both Guillermo and I agreed on that. If you had asked both of to name, on the count of three, who Hellboy listened to, it would have been, “Three: Tom Waits” in unison. I hope Tom kind of appreciated that as much as we appreciate him. I mean, there’s no way he could appreciate that as much as we appreciate him. He’s just a genius on and on and on and on on a level all his own.

Shock: Like you said, you’ve often been under heavy prosthetics, but in this it’s Christopher Lee who wears a lot of makeup.

Perlman:Yeah, I worked with Chris on something about 15 years ago that shall remain nameless for both our sakes. For our grandchildren’s sakes. But we’re old pals. He’s just a beautiful soul to be around. Not only for what we know about him, but for the things he’s done in his lifetime that nobody ever really knows. He was a hero in World War II. He’s quite an interesting fellow and I feel blessed that our paths crossed twice.

Season of the Witch is now in theaters.

Source: Silas Lesnick