FILMOGRAPHY (Costume Design):MAD MAX: Fury Road,Sherlock Holmes I & II, The King’s Speech, Defiance, Amazing Grace, The Black Dahlia, Casanova, The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, Alexander, Timeline, Possession, Gosford Park, Anna and the King, Tea with Mussolini, Ever After, Lolita, Metroland, Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, Black Beauty, The Bridge, Impromptu, White Fang, The Deceivers, A Summer Story, A Room with a View...
SRM: Jenny, I am absolutely delighted to feature your fantastic work and wealth of expertise, thank you so much for participating in this interview. Costume Design, which is one of the most important aspects of a film, TV or theatre production, and a sure recipe for success or disaster, requires of an incredible amount of work in terms not only of artistic creativity, but also of logistics,research, study, patience and long hours that start almost at the break of dawn; something that the general public, and even seasoned critics, may not always be aware of.
It all starts with analyzing the film or TV script, doesn’t it? What script would you say has been the most successful at igniting your imagination, at provoking you a vivid visualization, in that very first read? Would you be able to pinpoint just one?
JENNY BEAVAN: I think The King’s Speech was one of the most exciting scripts I had ever read as I felt so engaged with the characters and their problems. This engagement with the characters is for me more important than an amazing visual reaction to a project. I am only one of a team of visual collaborators and may have a rather different idea to my colleagues!
SRM: As a multi-award winner (Academy Award, Bafta, Emmy, Saturn, RTS…), what is higher: the pressure to work at one’s best at all times, or the freedom to add a personal touch to the overall artistic recreation?
JENNY BEAVAN: You should never give other than your best work to any project. In fact as a costume designer you should not be concerned with putting any personal stamp onto your work, you should only do whatever is right for the particular project.
SRM:We could say that pioneers in making the general public aware of the importance of Costume Design in film might have been Adrian Greenberg (Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Marie Antoinette, Wizard of Oz…) or Walter Plunkett (Gone with the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Madame Bovary, Little Women…), but, for Master of Costume Design Jenny Beavan who has been the all-time master/s to look up to?
Costumedesign by Jenny Beavan for the Cinderella played by Drew Barrymore in the film Ever After
JENNY BEAVAN: Piero Tosi, Anthony Powell and John Bright.
SRM: Your work for A Room with a Viewresulted in your first win of an Academy Award. How did you live that moment, that first win, do you remember what crossed your mind when your name was called? What had been the most challenging for you in that film?
JENNY BEAVAN: To be honest we had been SO hyped up that we would win I think it felt quite natural!! It WAS an exciting moment and I think the weight of the statuette has been calculated to bring the recipient back down to earth! The challenge was the usual lack of time, money and only having a very small crew but also my lack of experience and I was pregnant!
SRM: Your child certainly arrived with a blessing! Maurice, White Fang, Black Beauty, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, Lolita, EverAfter, Tea with Mussolini, Anna and the King, Alexander, Casanova, Amazing Grace, Sherlock Holmes I & II, The King’s Speech and MAD MAX: Fury Roadare some of the films you have worked for.
I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you… Which do you have the fondest memories from? And what characters have you had the most fun with in creating their costumes, out of those or other titles?
JENNY BEAVAN: So many good memories! in both Anna and the King and Alexander we had to create every piece of clothing seen on the screen. That was exciting if challenging! I love creating the clothes for the world of Sherlock Holmes but it is the variety of the work I am asked to do and the things I learn on each job which give me huge pleasure.
A Room with A View (Directed by: James Ivory; Starring: Helena Bonham Carter, Judi Dench; Costume Design by: Jenny Beavan)
Alexander (Directed by: Oliver Stone ; Starring: Angelina Jolie, Colin Farrell; Costume Design by: Jenny Beavan)
Anna and The King (Directed by: Andy Tennant; Starring: Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-fat; Costume Design by: Jenny Beavan)
SRM:The filmography of your career includes so many different characters, history periods, locations, ambiences, social strata, professions, lifestyles…what is the very first thing that a good costume designer must do right after analyzing a film or TV script?
JENNY BEAVAN: Make lists. While making lists of each character, what clothes they may need, how many doubles and specifics you will have to re-read the script many times and so begin to understand the characters.
SRM: Is there really something to enjoy out of getting up at 5 am? What is the secret to working so effectively with big teams of people in such a fast-paced work environment, like, for example, TV’s?
JENNY BEAVAN: Getting up early is simply part of the job, easier in the summer. I do enjoy driving through “emptyish” London early in the morning! I think the answer to working with large teams of people successfully is to like them, appreciate them and tell them you appreciate them.
SRM: Fair enough. It seems obvious, but not many people take the incredibly small effort of telling others that they are appreciated, and that’s probably why not all teams are successful. Not only your wonderful creative gift, but also your many years of first line of expertise, mean the chance of receiving true golden advice for beginners. What would you say is the first mistake that new working Costume Designers make over and over again?
JENNY BEAVAN: Probably to think they will just do a drawing and the actor will wear it!
SRM:Bet, someone tried… (laughing). A character you’ve always wished to create for, but have never had the chance to, would be…
JENNY BEAVAN: No, I can’t think of one character but I have a friend, Cornelia Funke, who has written a book, Reckless >, that may be made into a film and I would kill to do those costumes!
SRM:Well, that’s now out there. Jenny, have you ever encountered an actress, or an actor, who would just not accept dressing with what had been designed and made for them?
JENNY BEAVAN: If I had I probably wouldn’t name them as I do need to keep working in this industry!!
SRM:I was not really asking you for names… But does that mean that Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t entirely happy with his womanly disguise in Sherlock Holmes II (A Game of Shadows)? Just teasing… (I love you, Robert, a.k.a. Iron Man). I hope you continue working and never tire because, let’s be honest, quite a few of those titles have reaped so many awards thanks to your formidable art and hard work. Is there anything on the pipeline or is it time for a little energy-restoring break?
JENNY BEAVAN: Hopefully a little energy restoring break and then there are a lot of really exciting scripts and ideas I am hearing about so who knows which will be the one?
SRM:I’m excited too and I haven’t even heard about those yet. Thank you again for your participation in this interview, Jenny, it’s been a real pleasure.
Having worked closely with directors such as Carlos Saura and Guillermo del Toro, amongst many others, designing and assisting in the art direction of Oscar and GOYA-winning (also Bafta nominated) films such as ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, we can say that CARLOS ZARAGOZA has, without a doubt, plenty of talent, knowledge and experience to inspire the new generations aiming to work in the fields of Art Direction and Visual Development for the film industry.
His most popular credits include, in chronological order, from oldest to newest:
Buñuel and King Solomon´s Table (2001, directed by Carlos Saura), No Somos Nadie (2002, directed by Jordi Mollà), Mortadelo & Filemón: the Big Adventure (2003, directed by Javier Fesser),Pan´s Labyrinth(2006, directed by Guillermo del Toro), Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008, directed by F.Forestier & T.Langmann), The Tale of Despereaux(2008, directed by Sam Fell, Gary Ross & Robert Stevenhagen), Gnomeo & Juliet(2011, directed by Kelly Asbury), Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012, directed by Eric Darnell), Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014, Directed by Rob Minkoff), and Madagascar 3 (2014, directed by Eric Darnell).
He’s also worked extensively as Visual Development artist for the upcoming Puss in Boots 2: Nine Lives & 40 Thieves, to be released in 2018.
Carlos is currently Production Designer at Sony Animation.
In theatre he was the set designer for The Sound of Music and in commercial art direction he has worked with high profile brands such as Coca-Cola and governmental institutions such as the Ministry of Culture of Spain.
Awarded in Excellence by the ADG (Art Directors Guild) this outstanding professional, who started his career in Spain and has lived and worked in London and Toronto, is now based in Los Angeles, California, from where he responded to this interview.
SRM: Carlos, tell us a bit about your background, where you are from and whether your environment supported you in your pursuit of a career in the arts, please.
CARLOS ZARAGOZA: I am originally from Madrid, Spain. My family was very supportive when I decided to start my career in arts and began my studies in Fine arts at the University in Madrid. My wife works as a designer too, and that‘s great whenever we need mutual support.
SRM: Support is a key factor in the development of an artist’s career, indeed. At what moment did you decide on your art specialisation and how did you start in the film industry?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA: After I graduated from Fine Arts, I worked on my own projects in painting and photography. I had always been passionate about movies and scenography, and I was looking for a way of conveying my artistic ideas through audio-visual media, but I needed specific training. I studied Art Direction for Film & TV, at ECAM (Madrid Film School) during 3 years. That gave me a great background in filmmaking. Even though I didn’t attend architecture school, studying at ECAM gave me a great base in History of Architecture and a solid training in architectural design and set construction of physical scenery.
When I finished at the Film school, I started arranging interviews with Production designers in Spain, and in a few weeks I was working as assistant art director in the fantasy film ‘Buñuel and King Solomon´s Table’. After that, I have been developing my career in different roles within the art department, like assistant art director, set designer, art director and visual development artist.
I moved from Spain to London to start working in animation movies. I like the set design work; it allows me to be part of interesting animation and live-action projects while combining my traditional and digital design skills, and where my wide background is a great asset.
SRM: It will be very interesting for those readers who do not know much about this field if you could explain what the set designer and art director roles involve…
CARLOS ZARAGOZA:Both are specific roles within the art department.
The Head of the art department is the Production Designer, who creates and develops the overall look of a movie, working closely with the director, cinematographer and visual effects supervisor.
The Art Director coordinates all aspects in the design of a movie. That person has to keep the balance between artistic and creative issues and production facts.This role demands that you have to be very flexible, creative and hardworking, and have social skills. Sometimes, in small projects, the Production Designer assumes the Art direction work (I did it in several movies, like ‘Listening to Gabriel’, ‘Otros días vendrán’…).
The Set Designer works closely with the Production designer and AD, and is responsible for defining in detail and precisely the elements of the scenery, using traditional or digital tools, and for providing all the departments involved in the filmmaking with the information needed to make that scenery work.
You have to render beautiful drawings and models, but keeping in mind that those can change at any time, while the projects are being developed.
This role demands to be a very practical designer and have a wide knowledge of the different construction processes and techniques to build scenery.
SRM: Since you have worked in Animation and in Live-action movies, what are the challenges in each of these types of projects and how do you approach each?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA:Both share the same premise: telling a story. The differences are mostly in the techniques used to tell that story and the characteristics and limitations of each one. Actually, the pre-production and design processes are becoming more and more similar in animation and live-action movies.
In animation, compared with most live-action movies, the greatest challenge is to create entire worlds from scratch, even the characters. And that’s really cool! The characters never complain about the decoration of their houses or costumes.
In live-action, sometimes I had to work in real locations (not in a studio stage) and try to make them work for the film. It means that you could have elements that you cannot control entirely, like the weather conditions, the changing sun light, nasty neighbours who complain while shooting…
SRM:Comes to mind ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. It would be great if you could share about your experience working for this beautiful film, also, what other projects have been the ones you have enjoyed working on the most and why?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA: I am glad you like it. It was a great experience working in that project. Guillermo del Toro is one of the most creative minds in the film industry now, and he was totally involved with the art department – In pre-production, he had his office in the art department space-, so he was aware of our progress at any time, and we had very fresh information from him. I like how Eugenio Caballero, the production designer, developed the look and atmosphere of the film, and how Pilar Revuelta, the set decorator cared for the detail. Compared with most Hollywood productions, it was a small budget project ($19M).
We were three assistant art directors, and with no art directors we assumed many of art direction responsibilities. First I was involved in the location scouting, travelling to different places within Spain. At the same time we were set designing everything: those sets need to be built in a studio and those to need to be shoot on location, adapting the initial designs to the requirements of every specific location. We also overviewed the construction of the physical scenery. I was in charge of the sets located in San Rafael (a mountainous area north of Madrid): the main house, the Mill, the exterior of the Labyrinth, Ofelia’s tree, the train and the forest scenes. Everything was fake, but it looks very real, even to the people from San Rafael, who were shocked when they discovered the sets in the forest.
Pan’s Labyrinth Asterix at the Olympic Games Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
I enjoyed working in ‘Asterix at the Olympic Games’, a French comedy where we recreated Uderzo & Goscinny’s funny world. The plot was located in classic Rome and Greece, and we designed and built huge sets like the Olympic Stadium or the Caesar’s palace in Rome. The production designer was Aline Bonetto (‘Amelie’, ‘Delicatessen’…).
Also the 3D Animated comedy ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’, directed by Kelly Asbury and produced by Disney and Sir Elton John. We developed the project in London, and then moved to Toronto, Canada, for the actual production of the movie.
My trip continued, I moved to California, and joined DreamWorks Animation Studios. I did ‘Madagascar 3’, ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’, ‘Puss in Boots 2’, and collaborated in other projects like ‘Penguins of Madagascar’, and an earlier version of the upcoming ‘Trolls’.
It was an incredible experience to be part of that artistic community, share ideas and learn a lot about the production process. Dreamworks in one of the few Hollywood animation studios that still do the whole production process in-house. After Dreamworks, I partnered with Aurora Jimenez to create Tale Twins Studio, the platform to develop our own ideas and stories, and collaborate with another studios and independent producers to develop the visual aspect of their projects.
I have worked with another studios, like Paramount Animation and, currently, at Sony Animation, where I am production designer in one of their upcoming features.
SRM: Carlos, how has the design process changed, within the film industry, since you started, and where do you see it heading towards?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA:Basically, it’s heading towards being faster and cheaper (!). The designer’s work as storyteller (in all kind of media) remains the same from the baroque – I recommend you to watch ‘Vatel’ a very interesting movie about a “production designer” in the XVII century in France-. They pre-visualise the scenery, building scale models for every opera performance.
What is changing every day are the tools we use to conceptualize and develop any project, not the essence of the job. Digital tools have opened the limits to how and what can be the elements in the scene. Since I started, Visual Effects have become more involved in pre-production, not only in post-production, and designers have to understand and use the language and technique of VFX because they are visual elements that affect the look of a film.
SRM:Handcraft/hand drawing vs. CG tools: Do you see the latter taking completely over the former at some point or the traditional ways will always be desirable and necessary to count on?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA: Both types of tools are necessary. Our work is about communicating ideas through images, from sketches to concept art, scale models or CGI imagery. It depends of the nature of any specific project.
The greatest ideas begin with a pencil and a paper. A strong foundation in traditional arts is key for a good designer.More important than which tool you use is to express your ideas. Computers cannot substitute your imagination and creativity.
Digital tools offer new possibilities to visualize and conceptualize the look of a film. Pre-visualization (previz) allows you to have a very accurate idea of how any scenery will look through the camera with a specific lens and movement, building it with a 3D software before doing it physically.
New technologies give you more versatility in designing, and to make changes easier. Digital data can be accessible to the all the departments within a production.
SRM: You know this question was coming… Your three favourite movies of all time?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA:That is a tough decision, but those could be the films by Terry Gilliam, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Fellini, Pasolini, Willy Wilder or Miyazaki.
SRM: Your array of different artistic skills is impressive. As you have mentioned, you worked as a photographer in the past and as a visual artist your artwork has been exhibited in both collective and solo exhibits. You have designed for theatre and have been art director for events and commercials too.
Theatre and Film are two very different beasts but where would you say their main differences lay from your unique perspective?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA: There are many differences in terms of production, narrative and stylization.
When you are designing for Film you are designing for the camera, which guides the audience through the story. Everything in the scene has to work only for any specific shot, while the camera is on, within the camera frame.
When you are designing for theatre, you have to be aware of the audience because they are the camera. Every performance is unique, and a direct connection with the audience. Is a real-time experience, so the scenography has to work perfectly for the performance.
SRM:What piece of advice would you give to those readers who are just starting in the industry?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA:I recommend a very strong foundation in visual arts, and training in traditional and digital tools.
Be sure you are passionate about your work, it is very demanding and you need a lot of energy to develop your career. Do not be lazy and update your skills constantly, but don’t forget to nurture your imagination and creativity with real life experiences, not only from visual media.
And let your Ego at home. Listen.
SRM: About‘Puss in Boots 2: Nine Lives & 40 Thieves’, set to be released in 2018. What was your main job in this movie and what can you tell us about it?
CARLOS ZARAGOZA: I did plenty of visual development artwork for that project, and it looks amazing. The film is still in development. I would love to, but cannot give any other detail yet.
SRM: No worries, I get it. Thank you very much again for sharing your expertise and your wonderful art with us, Carlos, I can’t wait to see more of it!
Some of DOUG JONES’ acting credits include:The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak, Falling Skies, Hellboy I & II, John Dies at the End, My Name Is Jerry, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Pan’s Labyrinth, Men in Black II, Mimic, Hocus Pocus, Batman Returns… amongst many others.
A tall actor and I just don’t mean physically, Doug Jones, or “Dougie“, as he’s mostly known for his iconic work under prosthetics, but who has also performed as ‘himself’ in highly-rated films, is one of Guillermo Del Toro’s favourite actors.
A spiritual man and a generous professional, Doug, along with his wife Laurie, mentors young people who wish to work in the medium of film and are beginning their careers in the business.
SRM: Doug, many thanks for participating in this interview, I’m thrilled. I know you pursued a career in Telecommunications, together with Theatre, in your university years.
Telecommunications because communication is what matters, or because deep down you can’t help a geeky curiosity for technology?
DOUG JONES: I loathe technology, largely because I feel stupid using it. I long for the rotary-dial phone! I majored in Telecommunications (Radio & TV Broadcasting) because my parents refused to let me major in Theatre. “You need a field you can actually get a job in, dear,” was their sensible Indiana parental reasoning. So Telecommunications was the closest thing that would satisfy both them and me, while I was able to minor in Theatre.
SRM: Typical parent’s ‘sensible’ advice, and not just in Indiana (laughing). You learned miming at school but you have also worked as a contortionist. Where did you learn this discipline and, is there any specific physical requirement to start learning? Can you remember one anecdote when your contortionist skills came in particularly handy?
DOUG JONES: I think one has to be born a slight freak of nature, like me. I’m not sure you can learn contortionism, as your body will allow being twisted or it won’t. My long, lanky, and I’ll add “sexy” legs lend themselves to bending behind my head, as I found out while trying to gross out my older brothers as a kid. But it was at an early-career, TV commercial audition for Midas Mufflers in 1987 that I found the magic of BOTH legs getting behind my head at the same time. I had no idea I could, as I’d never tried it. The director of the spot was explaining that my character was coming to the gym for a massage from a big Swede named Olie.
This large, blond man was lost in thought while telling me of the bad muffler job he’d just gotten somewhere else, and without knowing it, tied me in a knot. So the director explained, “Then Olie will put your second leg behind your head,” which I’d never done! So what would any young, hungry actor say? “Sure!,” even though I was secretly terrified it wouldn’t go. I remember quietly thinking to myself, “IT WORKS!” when Olie casually yanked my second leg into place.
I booked the job, and from that day forward, I used that trick to get sight gags in many more commercials, and TV sit-com guest roles, including THE WEIRD AL SHOW, UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER, and GET A LIFE.
SRM: One of the first roles you had was in the cult award-winning TV series ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and in fact, your episode, ‘Hush’, got two Emmy nominations.
Was this your very first role in television, Doug? How do you remember the experience working with that team?
DOUG JONES: Ah, my very first television guest role was on a sit-com that I actually was a fan of, IT’S A LIVING, centering around a bunch of sassy waitresses working in a fancy restaurant, high atop a swanky hotel.
Sheryl Lee Ralph’s character had been talking through the episode about how she had a blind date coming to work to pick her up that night, and she was so excited because on the phone, he had a deep, sexy voice. Then when tall, skinny, fuzzy-haired me walks in and asks for her, she turns to her co-workers and says, “Ew, he’s a dweeb,” then quickly pushes Crystal Bernard (later of WINGS fame) in my face, saying, “This is her!”. And the young, innocent Crystal was stuck with me. I could have easily grown a complex over this, couldn’t I! But I have to say these beautiful ladies were so sweet to me, constantly telling me the entire time off camera, “You’re way too cute to be a dweeb!” Which coming from hot actresses I had been watching on my TV, was music to the ears of a young upstart who did indeed feel like a dweeb. Unfortunately, after a 9 year run, the show was cancelled the week before this episode was to air, and all I have is the rough cut of my scene on a VHS tape. Cue the sad music.
SRM: What a waste, indeed. What do you think has been the single most important advancement in traditional effects, such as prosthetics, from ‘Buffy’ times to the last ‘Hellboy’? Has there been any major advancement in that department like, for example, in the digital area, which might have made the actor’s experience a bit easier?
DOUG JONES: Here’s where I don’t hate technology. What I’ve seen in more recent years is the happy marriage of practical, prosthetic make-up on an actor, coupled with digital enhancements that make a look or certain movements possible that wouldn’t have been possible when I started back in the 80’s.
A perfect example is the subtle eye blinks that were added to Abe Sapien after the HELLBOY movies were filmed. Another perfect example is the digital sheen coating that was put over my SILVER SURFER prosthetic make up when I was at full power, then taken away to reveal the latex foam rubber costume and make-up when I lost my surf board, getting weaker and tarnished.
There’s also the brilliant leg designs on the Faun and the Pale Man make-ups I wore in PAN’S LABYRINTH, with parts of my own legs wrapped in green screen color to be wiped away in post production, allowing the prosthetic parts of my legs to move on their own as I manipulated them on camera.
I wish we had some CGI technology when I had to spit dust and moths out of my mouth as ‘Billy the zombie’ in 1993’s HOCUS POCUS, but there was also something real and gritty about all that really flying out of my mouth as I opened it for the first time in three hundred years. You can imagine the smell.
SRM: Dust and moths… mmm… sound delicious (laughing). Also, and as I commented earlier, you have performed as ‘yourself’ in box hits such as Adaptation (with Nicholas Cage), Mystery Men (with Ben Stiller), Batman Returns (with Danny DeVito), and indie projects such as Stefan Haves’ Stalled or Phil Donlon’s A Series of Small Things.
Which role outside prosthetics have you found the most challenging thus far and why?
DOUG JONES: I think the most challenged, and scared, I’ve ever been in my “human” roles was when I played ‘Grady Edlund’ in the Skin & Bones episode of NBC’s FEAR ITSELF (formerly MASTERS OF HORROR on Showtime).
My character had been possessed by a Wendigo spirit and came home from the mountains having lost sixty pounds, with a hunger to eat the wife and kids. When doing this kind of role in a full creature make-up, it’s easier for me to find the extreme moments.
Doug as Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Doug as the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth Doug is Abe Sapien in HELLBOY I and II
But just as a regular guy on camera, it felt dangerous and vulnerable going to this possessed state with my own face available for ridicule. There is a fine line between horror and unintentional comedy in a case like this. But our director Larry Fessenden had a brilliant way with actors, and we safely got me there with rave reviews from the critics and fans of the show, thankfully. You could see the sweat on my brow while waiting for that one to air!
SRM: But you had nothing to worry about. In fact, you became Guillermo Del Toro’s choice to perform the role of “Abe Sapien” in Hellboy. What can you tell us of the process that you internally undertook for the embodiment of this character and how was working with Del Toro that first time?
DOUG JONES: Abe is my favorite costumed character I’ve ever played. I just adore his clairvoyant abilities, his intellect, and his childlike lack of street smarts. Finding his internal workings was a combo platter for me. While I have no supernatural powers in my own real hands, I do use them to see better. You’ll usually find me touching whatever I see, or petting the people I’m talking to, as my hands need to complete that interaction for me. So that lent itself well to Abe’s signature hands that could see beyond the present when he touched something or someone. As for the intellect, this is where I wasn’t as well equipped. But I have some great character study in my three older, very smart brothers, Bobby, Tommy, and Richie, who all have masters degrees in various fields, with Bobby also holding a PHD in Molecular Biology. In those moments when I felt out of my intellectual realm, I channeled a little of Bobby, who is a college professor and is happy to lecture confidently in any of the sciences. I also needed to brush up a little on classical music, art, and literature, as Abe absorbs all forms of culture. All this, while snacking on rotten eggs, bless Abe’s little heart.
The first HELLBOY was actually my second film with Guillermo del Toro, as we met when I was one of his Long John cockroach guys in MIMIC five years earlier. Working with Guillermo, it doesn’t take long to realize you are in the presence of pure genius. He is one of the smartest, most well-read, well-watched people I’ve ever known, and at the same time, he’s an 8 year old fan boy who loves creepy, crawly monsters. When a writer/director “gets” the genre like he does as a fan, the outcome is a movie that will titillate fans just like him.
SRM: In Pan’s Labyrinth your role is no other than that of the “Pan”, for which you had to learn Archaic Spanish (and you nailed it) and in the French Serge Gainsbourg: Vie Heroique you did Gainsbourg’s strange alter-ego “La Gueule”. Do you know a second language or have interest in learning from other cultures, Doug, which might have helped you interpret so well these roles? Also, how important as an actor is to be open to all types of scripts and other countries’ cinema?
DOUG JONES: I had two years of Spanish in high school, but that was almost 30 years before filming PAN’S LABYRINTH. Thankfully, Spanish is a language where every letter makes a sound, and it’s consistent, so I was able to get through that script without a coach. Speaking French in GAINSBOURG was a different matter, with a language that loves using silent letters, making no sense to my American eyes. So a dialogue coach was imperative to get a phonetic version written down that I could make sense of. I love languages and other cultures, and do find inspiration from them, especially when filming a movie on their soil. Having filmed PAN in Spain, and GAINSBOURG in France, I was fully immersed in their languages, traditions, lore, food, humor, and social ways that could only help me bring a little new flavor to the screen. I can’t tell other actors they must try this, but if I let my fears tell me that I couldn’t have pulled this international thing off, I would have missed out on two experiences that completely changed my life for the better.
SRM: Well, that’s a fantastic, even if ‘reluctantly’ given, advice (laughing). Also, and as mentioned earlier, you’re also very well known for your role as “Silver Surfer” in the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. You love rollerblading, don’t you? Did this passion help you to portray the natural moves and posture that a character like this would have, you think? What other type of personal skills did you put at the service of this character and did you do any other research apart from its story in the comic books?
DOUG JONES: I do love rollerblading, and even though I’m a tad clumsy at it, this does help with finding an athletic posture that requires balance. The one obvious thing I did not do, was actually learn to surf in the ocean. I guess I wanted the Silver Surfer to move with a grace that comes from another world, not from Newport Beach. It was all about finding balletic poses with the strength and confidence of one who holds the power cosmic. This inspiration came directly from my review of the early comic books with Jack Kirby’s beautiful drawings and Stan Lee’s (or as I like to call him, “Dad’s”) poetic writing with a gentlemanly use of proper grammar. I also drew from the Christ-like imagery of this character, who sacrificed himself to save his own home planet. Now that’s the stuff of a true hero to me.
SRM: The independent film My Name is Jerry, allowed you to perform what you’ve considered to be your ‘dream role’ and in fact you hold this movie very dear to your heart. Would you please share with us a bit about the character, the movie and what else makes it so special to you?
DOUG JONES: As I clutch my heart and tilt my head, I fondly remember this whole experience. Jerry is my favorite “human” character I’ve ever played. He was written specifically for me originally by our young director Morgan Mead and Andy Janoch, with re-writes by David Hamilton. I find Jerry to be so endearing as he’s stuck in a sad little life he created for himself and is now entering a full-blown mid-life crisis. I’ve been through this in my real life, and if handled well, we can come out of it with a healthy re-invention of careers, priorities, and relationships.
This period of life can be familiar to us when it hits, because we tend to go through something similar in our 20’s when we’re trying to find our place in the world. The 20-something story is also told here, as Jerry befriends a group of younger punk rockers and forms a special friendship with a girl about the same age as his own estranged daughter … another topic that resonates as we are surrounded by broken families in our world.
MY NAME IS JERRY offers some hope of this all coming right, while exploring an emotional range that goes from laughter to tears. I felt Morgan Mead’s direction with me was flawless, as he inspired such well thought-out beats on the tightest film schedule I’ve ever had, filming up to 13 pages a day. Another selling point is that this was all filmed in my home state of Indiana with my alma mater Ball State University acting as our studio by financing the film. Kind of ground-breaking for a university to back a commercially viable movie headed for the real marketplace.
And what this also did, was create a work/study program for film and theatre students who staffed up our crew under the department heads from Hollywood. A learning experience you can’t get in the classroom. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by this much enthusiasm as these puppies would all be so happy to come to work, reminding me why I got started in the business, myself.
And in the end, we have countless festival awards (including my first acting award outside of make-up), with the film currently on DVD, Netfilx instant view, and recently added on Hulu. Not too bad for a little indie, eh?
SRM: Definetely worth watching, more than once. I know that apart from your performing abilities, in which singing is yet another one, there’s something you like doing and do very well behind the scenes… who would you give a haircut?
DOUG JONES: EEK, someone’s been reading up on me! Some people go to their garages to throw paint on a canvas or sculpt a lump of clay to relieve artistic stress. My lump of clay is a head of hair. I’ve been cutting my own since I was in 7th grade. Whether it’s a buzz cut or something longer, if you’ve seen me on camera as a human, that haircut was created by me at home. I’m not licensed as a barber, but I’ve created haircuts on friends and family, for decades, including the current look on my lovely Mrs. Laurie’s cute little head.
SRM: I’m so glad we can enjoy of your art in the sci-fi TV series Falling Skies, and in films like the beautiful The Shape of Water; what else is out there with Dougie’s stamp all over it?
DOUG JONES: My very silly, but beautifully photographed coffee table book comes to bookstores, MIME VERY OWN BOOK, making fun of all pop culture, famous works of art, famous movie posters, historic photos, social commentary, and of course mimes. I started as a mime many years ago, so re-joining my beginnings with all this “punny” humor was nothing short of magical for me. Things you’ll see in the book: “A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” “Once Upon a Mime,” “Venus DeMimelo”, “Frank-n-Mime”, “The Little MerMime,” “MimeHammed Ali,” and on and on. It’s available at Amazon.
SRM: Yes!! So many ‘pressies’ to look forward to, thank you! Now, let’s also talk about your mentoring work. You mentor, alongside your wife Laurie, young people that wish to have a career in film, which is very laudable! How does the Puppies-Moniker process/relationship work?
DOUG JONES: Awwww… “The Puppies”!!! Mrs. Laurie and I were never able to have kids of our own in our 27 years together, a doctor even said so. Through this, we learned that we may have been placed here for a different reason. 20-somethings (and some have grown into 30-somethings), young enough to be our children, have made their way into our lives and formed a special connection with us, like family over the past 10 years.
So many young people in Los Angeles are here either from families that they love and miss, or from situations they don’t miss. Either way, it can feel nice to have a mom & dad figure close by.
It’s not at all show-biz related, and is not a get started program for that. But because I am in entertainment, naturally a lot of our “Puppies” are pursuing their dreams in show-biz.
SRM: Doug, it’s been a honour and a pleasure. All the very best in all of your endeavours!
DOUG JONES: Thank YOU for having me! This has been one of the most creative interviews, covering things no one else has asked before. It always humbles me that anyone would want to hear from me, so seriously, thank you.