Everyone knows who Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man are, but unless you’re an ardent comic book fan, you’d probably never heard of ”Hellboy”. The titular chap is an imp, rescued from the Nazis, who is bought up under the unswerving supervision of the government and raised as a protector of the city.
Since its inception, the comic series has won a legion of fans – including one illustrious film director.
Quite a few years back, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (”The Devils Backbone”, ”Blade 2”, ”Cronos”) proposed a film version of the comic, the upshot of a time-honoured love for the comic.
“I was very familiar with the comic books already. I’d known the work of [artist] Mike [Mignola] for nearly a decade before getting involved in Hellboy. Mike seldom did his own stories and wasn’t known for his own stories, but with Hellboy I thought he came on his own.
“The interest in doing a film version streams from my long standing admiration for the work of Mignola,” says the Mexican native, on the line from America.
“I also liked the idea of doing a movie that wasn’t necessarily about a perfect superhero. I didn’t want to do a movie about some lean, smiling, good-looking superhero. I wanted a guy we could identify with and Hellboy is a guy that I have a lot of love for.”
Much like the character itself, the guy under all that make-up is far from a genre A-lister. “From the very start I went into the producer’s office and one of the first things I said was ‘I want Ron Perlman to be Hellboy’. And the fact that I got the job was testament to a momentary lapse of reason by (Producer) Larry Gordon I guess,” says del Toro.
And though they signed off on that eventually, the studio never did agree with Del Toro’s decision to use Perlman, who had previously worked with the director on such films as ”Cronos” and ”Blade 2”. “For six and a half years I tried to convince them. Everyone in the Hollywood studio system kept saying ‘anyone but him’, because they wanted a star that would be a sure-fire thing. I just wanted the right actor and the right actor was Ron Perlman.”
Also in the cast was the gorgeous Selma Blair, veteran actor John Hurt, Jeffrey Tambor, Karl Roden and Frasier favourite, David Hyde-Pierce, who provides the voice of Abe-Sapien. “I always imagined two possible voices for the character of Abe Sapien, one was David Hyde-Pierce and the other was Steve Buscemi.
“I knew we would decide who when we got a look at how the character turns out. When I locked the look of the character away I thought David Hyde-Pierce was the way to go. He was very kind to do it. I enjoyed the hell out of his performance.”
Del Toro is ecstatic with the finished result – but stresses if he had more bank he might’ve been able to jazz it up a little more. “If you ask me more favourite scene, I’d have to tell you the three parts of the movie that I enjoy the most.
“One is the opening with the 1940’s and the other is the rooftop sequence with the child and finally, the fight, the Hellboy fight at the end. But I think we were given a very tight budget, somewhere around the $66 million dollar mark, most of the other summer superhero movies are costing upwards of 200.
“If I had a bigger budget there, I would’ve added a couple of more monsters. I’m extremely happy though, this is one of my two favourite movies. I’ve made five. I love this one and Devils backbone the most.”
Even though it hasn’t been quite as popular as some of the other superhero/comic movies? “I don’t see Hellboy as a superhero movie, though it does come from comics. Hellboy has such an outlandish nature and persona. It’s completely in its own category.
“It’s a much darker movie, it’s a far more sarcastic movie, and it’s a highly melodramatic and emotional movie for me. There’s a sorrow for being seen as the some brother, because if you go to Hellboy expecting to see another Batman or another Spider-Man you might be disappointed.”