CS Interview: Ron Perlman on Crime Thriller The Big Ugly
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with acting icon Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade II) to discuss his role in the ensemble action crime thriller The Big Ugly, which is now available on digital platforms and VOD! Click here to rent or purchase the film!
Despite his character, Preston, acting as a pseudo-antagonist to the film’s central character, Vinnie Jones’ Neelyn, Perlman found that he “never saw him as a villain” and even opined his feeling that he saw him “as the protagonist of the film.”
“Regardless of how you want to designate his role in the proceedings, I found him to possess a kind of a purity that was what made him more heroic than anything else,” Perlman explained. “I also found him to have a compendium of very virtuous qualities, some of which were at odds with one another, but yet fascinating to realize that they could coexist, and my job as the actor was to find kind of an embodiment of a human where all those incongruities could be side by side. If there’s a villain in the piece, it’s Junior, my son, who throws off everything that’s at stake by his excesses and his intemperate nature.”
When it came to actually discovering his interest in taking on the part of oil baron Preston, Perlman found it to “fascinating” that he was a “an oil man, and yet a conservationist,” especially given the character’s West Virginia roots.
“He was somebody who was surrounded by a kind of a confederate mindset, but who was sort of evolved enough in his thinking to have rejected whatever philosophy that the South was fighting for and revel in the fact that the good guys won,” Perlman described. “You know, so there’s all these inconsistencies in terms of what you might expect from a big oil guy. And for me, that was like, where his uniqueness sprung from and what was going to be a springboard for me to have a really interesting time finding his way for all these things to coexist in one human.”
Getting to the heart of his “incredibly self-confident” and “incredibly brilliant” character proved to be one of the biggest creative challenges for the 70-year-old star, who had to ask himself a number of things while reading the script to properly bring him to life on set.
“Who is he, you know, and what does he look like, how does he move through the universe?” Perlman reflected. “You know, what’s the walk? What’s the talk? He’s a guy who’s incredibly brilliant and bright because he understands his relationship to god and the natural world. So he has the ability to blaze a trail that’s never been blazed before, particularly in the line of work that he’s chosen for himself, which is what puts him at odds with the mainstream society in where he has problems getting his projects financed. And yet, he manages to push on and win at a great personal cost, because his scruples kind of overwhelm all of the obstacles that come with him.”
In addition to working with Jones, with whom he’s known for “about a decade,” Perlman called getting to work with Golden Globe nominee Malcolm McDowell “a dream.”
“I’d been a fan of his as we all are, you know, from the get-go,” Perlman expressed. “You know, what’s it like to work alongside the guy who was in A Clockwork Orange? For me, that was kind of like a kid in a candy shop kind of state of grace. Vinnie Jones is somebody who I’ve known for about a decade. We’ve never worked together, but we admire one another. We’re always looking to find something to do together. But I think Vinnie is a great, great human being. He’s tough as nails with a heart of gold, my favorite combination. And you know, he was the one that brought me this project. And it got my attention in a way that very few do these days because the character of Preston is so iconic and so, like I said, complex and unique and somebody who’s humanity I really had to dig for.”
In looking at the vast range of social messages and entertainment value the film contains, Perlman feels that he “would never try to give advice to an audience” on what they should try and look for in the film but that is hope for it, as with “everything that I’m involved in” is that it compels a viewer from start to finish.
“My hope you start to watch it and it becomes something that you really want to keep watching and you can’t take your eyes off of, and at the end of the day, you really think that was cool,” Perlman opined. “I really dug watching that movie. Those are the reasons why you accept the job to begin with, is because it interests you in a way that keeps you engaged in reading it for the first time, and you hope the audience has the same experience. But I would never tell an audience what they should be looking for. If they can’t find it, then we haven’t done our job.”
Reflecting back on his time on set during production of the film, Perlman recalled his fondest memories came from “working with the guys” and “the whole cast in general,” namely Brandon Sklenar, who portrayed his on-screen son Junior.
“He was a revelation to me and will be to the world,” Perlman stated. “You know, he’s a powerhouse. He’s the guy who plays my son in the film, one of the most well realized performances in the movie, I think. And a young actor who I feel is going to have a really big career.”
Written and directed by Scott Wiper (The Condemned) on a story from Wiper and Paul Tarantino, the film centers on Neeyln (Vinnie Jones), who has always been the loyal enforcer for crime boss Harris (Malcolm McDowell) back in London, taking care of problems and people that disrupt his illicit business. When Harris strikes a deal with an old friend – American oilman Preston (Perlman) – they find themselves in the wild hills of West Virginia. Contracts are signed and the whiskey flows in celebration, but overnight Neelyn’s girlfriend disappears, last seen with Preston’s wayward son Junior. Lines are drawn between family and friends, but nothing will stop Neelyn from getting answers — and retribution.
Alongside Perlman, Jones and McDowell, the cast for the film includes Nicholas Braun (Succession, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Leven Rambin (The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters), Lenora Crichlow (Morbius, Avenue 5), Brandon Sklenar (Vice, Midway) and Bruce McGill (The Best of Enemies, The I-Land).
The Big Ugly is now available on digital platforms and VOD!