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The master of scifi monsters takes off his makeup to play a man of faith in Mutant Chronicles. He talks to AMC about the allure of Hellboy’s brute force and finding humanity in his beastly characters.
Q: In Mutant Chronicles, you play a priest, which is a much more subdued role than some of your others. What was the attraction?
A: I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old and mellowing out a little bit [Laughs]. First and foremost the script was really smart. It passed the big litmus test, which is how much do you like or love this character, how much do you want to play him? And I really admired the character of Brother Samuel. He’s very quietly pious. And his spirituality is not an in-your-face kind of thing. It’s a personal choice, and he treats it as such. And then he makes the choice to throw himself into the midst of something, to sacrifice his comfort and safety with the hope of making a difference for the greater good.
Q: The movie takes place in the future, but has a World War I, steampunk aesthetic to it. Having starred in Hellboy, were you attracted to that aspect of it?
A: Yeah. [Director] Simon [Hunter] wanted the soldiers to have this World War I approach to warfare. And my favorite aspect of Hellboy is how low-tech he is, considering he’s a 21st century superhero. He’s an old-fashioned dude who doesn’t want to muddy it up too much. It’s a question of brute force, ya know? I really thought that was a very interesting and smart way of going. And that was one of the things about Simon’s approach to the material that I admired so much.
Q: This movie was shot on an extremely small budget. Was it the most green-screening work you’ve ever done?
A: Yes, but that was the nature of this exercise — we’re talking about a world that’s 600 years in the future. There is nothing — there are no sets you can build and everything has to be painted in. So this was going to be a green-screen movie even if we had $400 million. But really, when the camera’s rolling, the camera’s rolling. You’re going to always have the same work ethic and approach no matter what. Simon had a very big story to tell with very limited resources. This wasn’t On Golden Pond. This is mutants and the future and spaceships!
Q: Your character keeps reminding people throughout the movie to have faith in a higher power. Are you a man of faith?
A: I think on balance I’m a very optimistic person. There are so many conversations being had right now about how f—ed are we? How f—ed are we with the economy, how f—ed are we with the failure of banks and institutions? I find that I’m always on the optimistic side of that — as long as mankind has a shot at participating in God’s great bounty, there are going to be these highs and lows. I’m sure the dinosaurs thought it was never going to change. It’s hard to get one on the phone now and ask him. But as long as you put your faith in man’s goodness and beauty, you have a lot to be optimistic about. I share that with Brother Samuel.
Q: You’ve played a ton of inhuman creatures in your career. Do you ever have trouble finding their humanity?
A: I think that in most of the movies — especially in Guillermo del Toro’s work — the monsters are far more human than the humans. And that’s what’s beautiful about working with guys who take that point of view. For The Name of the Rose, every actor in the world wanted to play [the hunchback] Salvatore because he had the greatest heart of any character in that whole thing. On the outside he was fucked up, but he had a beauty to him that was very human and precious. You almost wanted to protect him — and that’s how I felt playing him.
Q: Why are you the go to guy for playing monsters?
A: I don’t know. I guess you do one and then they ask you to do another. I’ve never really stopped to analyze it.
Q: Do you have a favorite?
A: That’s like asking me which is my favorite kid. But I will say I have a very special place in my heart for Hellboy.
Q: There’s a rumor you’ll be playing Larson in Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of Mountains of Madness…
A: Yeah I’ve heard that rumor. I’ve also heard another rumor that I’m going to spend five years in New Zealand making two Hobbit movies back to back with him, which chronologically puts me at 64 years old. [Laughs] So we’ll see what we’ll see.Read More