Hellboy wouldn’t be Hellboy without Ron Perlman returning in the title role. Fortunately, the actor was up for getting back into the boots of his favorite role, a character he describes as “a complete underachieving, lazy slob…a beer-drinking, football-watching average American guy who has no desire to be a superhero,” explains Perlman. “He just happens to have these abilities commensurate with where he’s from and who he is. His idea of a perfect day is pizza and beer and watching The Three Stooges and Marx Brothers movies. His extraordinary superhuman traits are coincidental and not something he aspires to.”
Perlman also looked forward to working again with his longtime director. Of del Toro, he states, “The depth of his intellect and accumulated knowledge, based on this voracious curiosity to read anything about why people need to tell stories—including all types of mythology from all cultures—is what sets him apart.” Also, he agreed with the filmmaker’s fascination to tell this type of story. “Guillermo is a great storyteller, because he understands the need for people to pass down fables and myths, as well as to look at the huge, errors that are made by humans as a result of their frailties and vulnerabilities.”
Del Toro also knew Hellboy couldn’t return without his sarcastic romantic sidekick, Liz, back for another round of dazzling pyrokinesis. Perlman’s partner in crime fighting would again be actress Selma Blair, the only performer the director and producers felt could do Liz justice. Says del Toro, “In the comic, Liz is always very brooding, very dark, distant; she’s never relaxed. Selma nailed that.”
Blair respected the fact that fans of the comic book and film franchise have a special place in their hearts for Liz. The pyrokinetic remained beautiful, yet untouchable, to anyone for fear that she would accidentally harm them…until she met Hellboy. Blair reflects, “Hellboy has some really die-hard fans, and all of us are grateful that their devotion has given us the chance to tell the story with Guillermo.”
As Liz and Red move into a relationship, they are coping with the same irritations as most couples…plus some unique issues that occur when a recovering demon falls in love with a fire starter. “Petty things are really amplified when you have superpowers,” laughs Blair, whose character has finally come to embrace the pyrokinetic energy that used to threaten everyone who came near. “When Hellboy and Liz have a row, it’s not just, ‘Okay, I’m going for a walk, see you later,’” she explains. “It’s more like, ‘I’m going to blow up this damn kitchen and will see you later.’”
Again cast as the rotten-egg-eating, brilliant aquatic empath Abe Sapien was actor and movement specialist Doug Jones. Of his character, del Toro explains: “Being half fish and half mammal, Abe possesses a unique frontal lobe. Much like a dolphin’s, it can receive and transmit information and images locked in objects or people. Abe is also the egghead of the group in terms of occult knowledge.”
Before and since his first Hellboy film, the longtime del Toro collaborator has carved out a fascinating niche in creature performance. Recently, as both Pale Man and the title character in Pan’s Labyrinth, intergalactic indentured servant Norin Radd in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and a series of irradiated imps battling The Rock in DOOM, the 6’4” Jones had been keeping quite busy.
Foremost, Jones was happy to tackle Abe again as, frankly, “there was much more to do this time.” He reflects, “Abe has so much more decision-making and character development…and he wields a weapon this time.” Jones laughingly adds, “Me with a gun—that’s funny.”
Jones also appreciated the fact that his water-dwelling character would finally get a chance to experience true love, this time with the enchanting Princess Nuala. The only problem is that she’s eternally connected to her evil twin. Jones reflects, “What a first love does to a person and their decision-making powers…it makes us silly in our adolescence. Abe’s going through a certain adolescent period of life, and it’s a nice chance to revisit those teenage years.”
Tasked to not play only Abe, a process that took up to five hours a day in the makeup chair, Jones agreed to portray both the fleshy court Chamberlain, who lives in service to King Balor, as well as the elusive, multiwinged Angel of Death, who offers an unimaginable choice to Liz.
Compliments fellow B.P.R.D. member Perlman of Jones’ flexibility in roles: “Doug truly amazes me. He’s one of these guys that the more you give him to do, the more he’ll amaze you. He’s such a humble, soft-spoken guy who never calls attention to himself. He gives each role major thought and has the ability to execute it every time. If you do 30 takes with Doug, they’re all going to be good.”
To add insult to Hellboy’s injury, the agency’s Washington bosses have saddled the B.P.R.D. with a new leader, one who can contain the damage from Hellboy’s accidental “outing” of the agency to the public. No longer can the team hide in Trenton, New Jersey, under the guise of the Squeaky Clean Management Company. Once a flesh-and-blood human, Dr. Johann Krauss now exists only as ectoplasmic gas inside a containment suit. He’s a by-the-book type, and expects the same from his team, especially the grousing Hellboy. Unfortunately for him, every time he issues an edict in his crisp German accent, Hellboy sees red.
The voice of Krauss is provided by Seth MacFarlane, and the movements are shared by John Alexander (who also plays the Bethmoora Goblin) and James Dodd. Dodd explains the look of his character: “Johann’s in a containment suit, which looks like one of those old-fashioned deep-sea diving suits, and he’s got a head with a glass bubble on it. Years ago, he went from a human form into ectoplasm and created this containment suit, so—in a more humanoid form—he’d be more readily accepted by people. He has special powers and can reanimate objects by flipping open a finger cap on his gloves, releasing ectoplasmic smoke into the dead and ask questions of it.” Curiously, Dodd had to navigate this world while gazing through a glass pane that would occasionally fog up on him.
Also returning to the series as B.P.R.D. agent Tom Manning, the bureaucrat whose sole purpose is to keep Hellboy in check, is Jeffrey Tambor. Tambor, who wasn’t allowed to read comics as a child, has had a chance to catch up on his youth after these outings with del Toro. He offers an astute theory about the appeal of the property to fans: “What I like about all these creatures is that I think we all think we’re ugly and we all think we’re monsters…yet we have great love in us. That’s the thing that we overcome the most, and it’s a hard thing to do. So, I don’t think there’s anybody who cannot relate to Hellboy. We’re all Hellboy, Liz and Abe. A few of us are Tom Manning. Thankfully.”
Everything shifts for the B.P.R.D. after it responds to an emergency at an Upper East Side auction house in Manhattan. Each team member is stretched to the limit by the chain of cataclysmic events unleashed on that rainy September night by one very ticked-off son of the earth: Prince Nuada Silverlance, exile of the Bethmoora Kingdom. The self-appointed revolutionary of the elves, fairiefolk and creatures of the shadows has been subsiding on the crumbs of the industrialized world, while his beloved planet withers under human masters. It was not always so, and the prince is determined to change the balance of power, even if it means defying his father and endangering his beloved twin sister.
“The Prince is a great villain because he is very dangerous and a great fighter, but he also happens to have a strong moral stand on what he does and why he does it,” explains del Toro. “I wrote the part with Luke Goss in mind, and he delivered all the way.”
Goss, who portrayed the vampire Nomak for del Toro in Blade II, sympathized with the Prince and trained hard to make him a worthy adversary. “He aims to balance the scales by the most succinct means possible,” says Goss. “I can see his point. He wants to enjoy and not destroy the planet. When he walks into Blackwood’s auction house, he sees people sitting there with no idea about what they’re trying to buy. They’re selling his history, and it outrages him.”
The prince hasn’t surfaced with the intention of taking on Hellboy, but no matter. He’s ready to engage him physically and psychologically. Nuada also knows how to reach the secret places in Hellboy’s soul. At a crucial moment, he calls him out and forces him to face who is he is and where his loyalties lie. “Guillermo has upped the ante of what Hellboy’s going through in this movie,” says Perlman. “Eventually, Hellboy has to ask himself why he’s working for a bureau dedicated to neutralizing creatures who are really his own kind.”
British actress Anna Walton was cast as Princess Nuala. Walton was drawn to the part by the chance to play a character divided by her own conscience. She offers, “Everyone has a sort of evil person in one ear and a little angel in the other ear. Nuala’s brother is the heart and the passion of her. She admires it in one respect, but knows that she has to quash it, because it can’t be. It’s very hard for her, but, ultimately, she won’t let him win.”
Commends producer Levin of the team’s Nuala: “Anna does a phenomenal job, because Nuala’s this very ethereal character and, in the wrong hands, could just float away. But she does a great job grounding Nuala and making it seem possible that she would have a romantic relationship with a fish…I mean Abe Sapien.”Performer John Hurt was brought back for a key flashback sequence as Hellboy’s father, Professor Trevor Broom, while Roy Dotrice was tasked to portray the wizened ruler of Bethmoora, King Balor. Brian Steele joined the cast to serve in four roles: as Prince Nuada’s troll henchman, Wink, as well as the aptly named Cathedral Head (a scroll vendor who provides Princess Nuala with an invaluable gift from her father), bag-lady troll Fragglewump and Cronie Troll. A host of movement actors joined in to play creatures, from limb, tadpole and fish vendors to organ grinders and butcher guards. Of note, the butchers were originally intended as background creatures, but evolved into necessary guards for King Balor.