Momentum Pictures provided ComingSoon.net the chance to talk 1:1 with acting legend Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hand of God) about his new hitman film Asher, as well as a little about Hellboy! Check out the interview below, along with an exclusive clip from Asher!
Asher stars Perlman, Famke Janssen (X-Men, The Blacklist), Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Book Club), Peter Facinelli (Twilight, Nurse Jackie) and Jacqueline Bisset (Bullitt, Murder on the Orient Express). The film was directed by Michael Caton-Jones (Basic Instinct 2, The Jackal) from a script written by Jay Zaretsky.
Asher (Ron Perlman) is a former Mossad agent turned gun for hire, living an austere life in an ever-changing Brooklyn. Approaching the end of his career he breaks the oath he took as a young man when he meets Sophie (Famke Janssen) on a hit gone wrong. In order to have love in his life before it’s too late, he must kill the man he was, for a chance at becoming the man he wants to be.
Momentum Pictures will release the upcoming action film Asher in theaters and On Demand/Digital HD on December 7.
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ComingSoon.net: I heard you on Joe Dante’s The Movies That Made Me podcast the other day, and you were talking about how you read everything that comes through your production company, but only to a point unless it catches your fancy. What caught your fancy about this “Asher” script?
Ron Perlman: Well, this thing opens with this mysterious ritualistic act of shining your shoes, then segues to a dude who’s mysteriously dressed out in the street, stops off and buys a pack of Pall Malls and an umbrella. You spend the first 20 pages wondering what it is he’s going to do. When he finally arrives at his destination, gets the cigarette going, puts up the umbrella because the sprinkler system gets set off because of the smoke he’s created, a door opens and he offs somebody with three shots to the head and the heart you say to yourself, “Holy fuck. What am I watching here?” Through the nuanced genius of our young writer Jay Zaretsky, he never lets up on creating this incredibly nuanced, sophisticated world, where it’s a combination of brute force and elegance and grace and sophistication and civilized behavior, which is what drives you through it. The way he meets this girl that suddenly turns his life around, it’s all incredibly clever and it’s all incredibly minimalized, very minimal, very stylized and very cinematic. So I just couldn’t stop. There was not one page in the script where I felt like, “Okay, you’re losing me.” It was just the opposite.
CS: Like you said, the opening of this film expertly tells you about Asher. You get the sense of the meticulousness, the resourcefulness, how casual and confident he is in his work, how lonely he is. What do you think you brought to defining this character that wasn’t in the script?
Perlman: Not very much. Let me amend that, I was trying to be falsely humble there. What attracted me about the notion of playing Asher is the quietness of his life, the solitude of his life, how that is part and parcel of what he’s doing. He needs to be expert in not being noticed, in slipping in and out of places, almost as if he never was there. So he’s ghost-like, and yet he’s a guy who has this professionalism and this approach to his work that is really interesting, really compelling and really well articulated. So I just knew that in the playing of him, part of the trick was just existing on-screen without doing anything. When he is doing stuff, the stuff is doing him. He’s not doing it because that’s the mastery of this guy’s profession. The gun that he carries is just an extension of his arm. It’s not a gun. It’s part of him, as is everything he does. And that’s what made the playing of him different than any role I’ve ever approached before.How little I felt I needed to do, how much I was willing to trust the quiet moments where he’s just sitting there, waiting for night to fall, waiting for sleep to come up on him, you know? Just waiting to die.
CS: You grew up Jewish in New York, and a lot of this movie takes place in the Jewish community there. What is the biggest thing that’s changed from the New York you knew as a child?
Perlman: Well, the New York I knew as a child had -and I’m not exaggerating- a world-class deli and a world class Chinese restaurant on literally every street. Now I would defy you to find one of those things in the entire borough of Manhattan. So the city was just this very ethnically drawn reflection of all of this melting pot with mom and pop, shoemakers, delis, Chinese restaurants and pizza places, reflective of small business owners that came from Europe or Asia or wherever the hell they came from, to find this promised land in America. And the city was reflective of that. Now the city is just a reflection of the iPhone. Your existence is just one long tweet or one long photograph that you can post on Instagram, or one long sitting there in the fucking Starbucks on your computer with your head buried and not noticing that there’s any other people out there.
CS: You were working with Michael Caton-Jones on this film, who’s no slouch. He’s proven that he can handle action and character work, and there’s a lot of both in this movie. What do you think made him right for this story, specifically?
Perlman: Well, one, his willingness to make a movie that was as low budget as this, and that we gave him as few days to shoot as we did. For somebody who probably had 75 day shoots with tens of millions of dollar budgets come down and shoot “Asher” for what we made it for in 23 days meant that he loved the project enough so that he was willing to reinvent himself as a filmmaker and do what needed to be done to get it done under those conditions. That was huge. The more we started talking about the world of the movie, the more I realized he and I love the same things about this thing. That was huge. The movie that he made, considering all of the things I had listed, which is a 23 day shoot, and I won’t tell you the budget, but it was not big, he ended up making a beautiful neo-noir masterpiece that looks gorgeous, that plays beautifully and that delivers on all the dynamics in the script that we both loved. So my hat’s off to Michael.
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CS: Mike Mignola announced that March 23, 2019 will be Hellboy Day, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the character.
Perlman: It might be Hellboy Day for Mike, but it won’t be for me.
CS: If Big Red was sitting next to you, what would you say to Hellboy on his birthday?
Perlman: Can I have a hit of that cigar, bro?
CS: You’ve done a lot of iconic roles, but those two “Hellboy” movies are such a huge part of your legacy. I was wondering if you could tell me real quick your favorite and least favorite memory of working on those films?
Perlman: I mean, it would be hard to nail down my favorite because every second of both films was my favorite and just knowing that I was going to sit for four hours with Jake Garber and Mike Elizade putting on Rick Baker’s makeup, and then walk out on set and play this deliciously contradicted, reluctant superhero, who really wanted to stay in his room and watch “The Three Stooges” and eat pizza… and do it in front of Guillermo del Toro and his chosen crew, it was all pleasure. The most decadent moment was when Guillermo has me running towards a train that’s coming at me. Usually, you run on a train that’s going away from you. Not Hellboy. He jumps on a train that’s coming at him. And I broke a rib and a toe doing that shot. And so, that’s probably my least favorite moment of “Hellboy”.
CS: Those are souvenirs you don’t want to walk away from the set with.
Perlman: They still hurt.
CS: The two films you made with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“The City of Lost Children” and “Alien: Resurrection”) are still amazing. He’s one of the handful of filmmakers, Guillermo del Toro being another, where you can tell it’s hiss movie just from watching any random 30-second hunk of it.
Perlman: Even a frame of it, you can tell.
CS: Exactly, yeah. So did you and Jean-Pierre ever talk about working together again?
Perlman: Oh yeah. I think we had two experiences and our friendship only grew the more we knew each other. And there was a project that Jean-Pierre did that he asked me to be a part of and it just conflicted with something else I was doing. But yeah, there’s this great articulated enthusiasm to go find something to do again together.