Actor Doug Jones
Doug Jones is very likely the most famous actor you’ve never seen. He’s played lead or semi-lead roles in two major summer blockbusters, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” and played arguably the two creepiest roles in Guillermo del Toro’s visionary film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the Faun and the Pale Man.
I recently had a marathon 50-minute interview with Doug by phone while he was driving to Detroit for a fan convention, then back to Indianapolis for the premiere of his newest film “My Name is Jerry,” which was funded by his alma mater, Ball State University.
Doug waxes poetic on playing the lead role with and without heavy makeup, working with Guillermo del Toro in a hemorrhoid commercial, and a silver junkslip.
JS: Can you tell me about the difference in this role? In a lot of your roles you’re under heavy makeup or CG or whatever.
DJ: How does it feel different?
JS: Yes, and also the different responsibilities of being the title character.
DJ: Well, I can tell you that acting is acting. Every actor has to go through hair and makeup. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes because you’re in a t-shirt and shorts on a sitcom, and sometimes it takes 5 hours because you are a fantasy creature that comes from another world. Every character deserves an actor’s attention to discover his needs, his wants, his heart, his soul, his desires. So that covers every character from the t-shirt to the monster. The difference I feel is that the less makeup I wear the more vulnerable I can feel. If you’re behind makeup, it’s easy to say “wow, I AM that person.” Any insecurities I might have about my own personal look don’t matter, because I’m playing a faun, or I’m a fish guy, or an alien from outer space. But in this case it’s my hands, my face, my neck.
It’s kind of the difference between walking out of the house in a sweater, or walking out of the house in a Speedo. That’s the difference. Both are legal, but one you wonder if the neighbors are snickering at you or not. But with time, when you head off to the pool, and realize you don’t look so bad in the Speedo after all, and the comfort level comes with that.
JS: I saw this YouTube video (from “My Name is Jerry”) where some of the guys were rapping for you, and you were dancing…
DJ: (laughs loudly) Oh, I’m glad you saw that!
JS: Did that guy just freestyle that? It sounded like he put some work into it.
DJ: Joe, I’m not lying to you. That was off-the-cuff, spur of the moment. Josh Breit…he plays Zeb in the movie, one of the punk rock kids. Some of those punk rock kids came from the theater, in Chicago. A lot of them do improv, and that’s the kind of young, fertile minds we had to work with. All I had to do was dance.
JS: You were rocking, too. It seemed like you guys you were feeding off of each other…
DJ: Not bad for an old white guy, huh?
JS: Not at all. He wasn’t just finding easy rhymes, either. He was going full bore.
DJ: And he got really personal with it. He knew what he was doing.
JS: It almost feels like, and correct me if I’m wrong, you have the best of both worlds. You’re well known and respected in the fanboy community, you’ve gotten these great, memorable roles…
DJ: Thank you.
JS: Absolutely…but at the same time you can go to Burger King and have a burger without being mobbed.
JS: But it almost seems like you want a little of that.
DJ: You put it best when you said that. I have enjoyed the best of both worlds. If my face had shown a little more in the roles I’m known for, I’d be a little more finger-pointy out in public. But the thing I enjoy, is when I show up at an event. I get to go to conventions, and I’m invited to the premiere of a movie I’m not in, so I get to walk the red carpet, and everyone knows who I am because I get announced, so I get to play celebrity. But the next day I can go to Starbucks and nobody knows who the crap I am. So that is very nice, and no one is hiding in the bushes when I get home professing their love for me.
The thing is, I’m a character actor, not a sex symbol. The sex symbols have fans who go off the charts when there’s a sexual aspect involved. I’m kind of a tall, geeky, harmless guy. But with the age of DVDs and bonus features, and YouTube, there are behind-the-scenes stuff where they follow the make-up process from me bare-faced until the make-up is completed. So my face has gotten out there more than I ever thought it would in roles like that. And it does happen every so often I’ll be at Wendy’s or something and someone will be looming over my shoulder and I’ll look up and they’ll say “Excuse me, are you Doug Jones?” It’s the biggest compliment. It doesn’t happen enough that I can’t leave the house, but it happens just enough that it’s a lovely compliment. I’ve been an actor for 23 years now, and I spent 20 of those years under the radar. So the recent success of the past two years, I went another step up in my 40s. So now that I have a little bit of that, I don’t want to pooh-pooh any of that. Fame is very fickle.
JS: So Guillermo del Toro…is he just a mad scientist?
DJ: (laughs) He’s…about 40% mad scientist, and 60% geeky fanboy.
JS: It’s mind-boggling to see the stuff he does.
DJ: Yeah, it is.
JS: Stuff like “Hellboy II” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” is incredibly intricate stuff. “Hellboy II” that scene in the market thing…
DJ: The Troll Market, yes.
JS: It was like the scene at the beginning of Star Wars, but 5 times as detailed. There weren’t just random things,…I’ll put a horn here on this guy. The characters seemed like they belonged there. How much of that stuff was Guillermo?
DJ: Things like the troll market or “Pan’s Labyrinth”…Guillermo is one of the most involved directors I’ve worked with. He pays attention to the actors and the technical side and artistic side. He’s very hands-on. He has a notebook with him always that he doodles in, and his drawings become what he presents to the art department, the production designer, the makeup people. His sketches become the concept art for what those departments create for the world he wants us to live in.
JS: Great…I know that it’s been long rumored that they’re doing a “Silver Surfer” movie, but do you know the status of that?
DJ: As is very standard for a franchise potential character like the Silver Surfer, I signed a three-picture deal, so I’m locked in there. Now, whether they choose to exercise that option or not, I do not know. And they’re not obligated to, but I’m obligated if they come calling. That rumored “Silver Surfer” movie has been on my imdb page for over a year now and I’ve yet to get a phone call from them. The plan was always to spin off the Silver Surfer into his own franchise, yes, but 20<sup>th</sup> Century Fox and Marvel, I don’t know if they’re going to go forward with it or not. That’s up to the powers-that-be.
JS: When the first trailer came out for “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” there was a screen cap from the trailer of the Surfer where he’s naked…
DJ: Oh! You mean the freeze screen of genitalia.
DJ: Yes, I was in a rubberized costume that was like a muscle suit, but it did not include genitalia. Of course nobody’s admitting it, but somebody was sabotaging the special effects department. But it was a fun little freeze frame moment, wasn’t it?
JS: Yes it was.
DJ: Let me say this: if my junk had slipped out one day, I would have felt it and it wouldn’t have been silver.
JS: So it happened, and they said “let’s make it silver and match it.”
DJ: (laughs) Yeah.
JS: So what else do you have coming out?
DJ: Yeah, I have a lot of stuff…a superhero spoof movie called “Super Capers.” I played a knock-off of Agent Smith from “The Matrix.” It’s a family-friendly movie, rated PG, something your kids will enjoy. DVD July 21. There’s “Angel of Death,” starring Zoe Bell. This one is not for the kids. It’s a mafia crime drama, in a film noir style that is really yummy. I have an indy horror film called “Cyrus,”, and another movie called “Greyscale,” another mafia crime drama. In 2010 will be the release of “Legion,” starring Paul Bettany and Tyrese Gibson.
JS: I do see your name next to “The Hobbit,”…
DJ: Yes, that has been rumored, and Guillermo del Toro spread those rumors himself, bless his heart.
JS: Not a bad place to hear a rumor from…
DJ: Yeah, that’s kind of the horse, and it’s from his mouth. We were at a red-carpet function last year, and the news had just came out that he was doing “The Hobbit,” and we were being interviewed by the same person at the same time, and the TV journalist said “So Guillermo, what do you have for Doug Jones in “The Hobbit?” Now mind you we hadn’t talked about this yet, so I was curious to hear about it myself, so Guillermo said “well, I’m sure you’ll see Doug in some kind of pain and torture,” and I said “yeah, par for the course.” So he said “well, of course there’s nothing official, but let me say if I direct a hemmorhoid commercial, Doug Jones will be in it.
DJ: So there we have it. I’ll be playing a hemorrhoid in his commercial. And that’s the thing about Guillermo. If he asks me to play a hemorrhoid, or if he asks me to take a dump on film, I’ll take that dump, because he’ll turn it into something beautiful that will be winning awards next year. He’s one of those directors I’ll follow blindly, because I really do trust his artistic vision that much.