I have been told by many people that I am no fun to see a movie with. Something about not wanting to hear the genealogical tree of everyone involved in the movie. *shrug* I just can't imagine why you wouldn't want to know more about the film you're watching. Like Wright and Pegg giving Edward Woodward a role in HOT FUZZ. Means nothing until you realize that the film was heavily influenced by THE WICKER MAN (the original, thank you very much), which starred Woodward. See? Your enjoyment of the film has now grown. If it hasn't, please stop reading this. You and I have nothing in common.
Scare the shit out of me, why don't you?
There are so many things going on in films, even ones not as fanboyish as HOT FUZZ and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, that we just never think about. Case in point: foley work. There is little about a film as interesting as the people who break celery into a microphone to simulate the sound of a breaking bone, or smack the floor with empty tuna cans to make you think you are hearing the clippity-clop of a horse's hoof. But when was the last time you thought, "Man, that's some fabulous foley work?" Foley work is just another aspect of a film that never gets attention unless it is done wrong; conversely, it never gets any credit when done flawlessly. The whole object is for you to not know it has been done at all.
Which brings me to the point I want to discuss today: the man in the rubber suit. Well, in any suit or prosthetic make-up. For instance, no one watches ALIEN and thinks what torture Bolaji Badejo must have gone through in that Giger-designed costume, or how difficult it was for Kevin Peter Hall to project emotions through the PREDATOR suit (and that suit was an alien wearing a mask itself). Hall was also Harry in HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, as well as starring in the highly underrated and dead before its time TV show, Misfits of Science. But he is another column.
The man I really want to talk about this time out is one Mr. Doug Jones. Which is a name I am sure you don't recognize. But that's cool: it's his job to not be recognized. But rest assured, you know who he is.
I first became aware of the actor, and aware that I had been enjoying his work for some time, when I saw HELLBOY. Now, as much as I love the works of Guillermo Del Toro, I really couldn't do much with that film. Except for Abe Sapien. There was just something so intriguing about the character. Even though I recognized the voice as that of the always wonderful David Hyde Pierce, I was pretty sure it wasn't him in the suit. So I looked it up when I got home, and found out it was Doug Jones.
And that wasn't Jones's only collaboration with Del Toro. As it turns out, he played "Long John #2" in MIMIC. That might not sound like an impressive credit, but for anyone that has seen the movie, you know that it was essentially a six foot tall cockroach. It had wings that would fold over itself and mimic its only natural predator: man. You can say whatever you want about the film, and some of it
is true (it was a troubled production – Del Toro's first dealings with American movie-money people) but when Mira Sorvino sees Long John, and its wings break apart and she sees it for what it really is, and then it streaks down the subway platform after her...it's impossible not to get shivers.
Oh Jesus, it wasn't a dream!
But his most magnificent Del Toro collaboration was yet to come. I am speaking, of course, about the incredible, can't say enough good things about it, PAN'S LABYRINTH. Lest I start writing a column on the film itself, I'll contain it to Jones's two roles, as The Faun (who actually is not Pan, nor is ever referred to as such – in fact, Pan is only mentioned in the US title) and The Pale Man. This was certainly not Jones's first time playing multiple creatures in a film (he played three types of Imps in DOOM), but each character on PL has so much personality, and is not just merely a suit, that it really shows the man's versatility and commitment to a project.
The Faun was a three part body suit, complete with servos to make the eyes blink and the ears twitch, which made Jones essentially deaf and blind. He also had four foot leg extensions, and had to deal with it all while reciting lines in Spanish, a language he does not speak and had to learn the lines phonetically.
The Pale Man was a combination of suit and heavy prosthetic makeup, and some minor CGI. The essence of the character was that it was normally hugely fat (by eating children) but hadn't had a meal in so long that it's skin was literally flapping and dripping off. Add to that the fact that the character didn't have eyes on its face (they were in the palms of its hands), so, as a natural extension of that, Jones had no eye holes in the makeup. Talk about flying blind. And like it needed to be any worse, to simulate tearing the head off of a fairy, he had to bite into a condom filled with fake blood while wearing the eyeless getup.
As I assured you earlier, you know who Jones is. Even for the people who have not seen HELLBOY or PAN'S LABYRINTH. You see, since Jones arrived in Tinsel Town way back in 1985, he has not been out of work. That's 22 years of steady gigs. He has done almost 100 commercials, including one where he stuffed himself into a box for a jeans ad. But his big breakthrough came in a series of McDonald's ads, as Mac Tonight (other wise known as the man in the moon). *as a side note, this was a good fact for me to learn – I was young when those commercials aired, and I sometimes would remember them and think that character was a bad dream I used to have – with that huge moon face – yikes*
Mac Tonight was a breakthrough in that over the course of three years, there were many different makeup artists that Jones worked with on the ads. Makeup artists who would go on to work with shops run by heavies like Rick Baker and Stan Winston, and who would remember him, and bring his name up whenever someone was needed to fill out a suit.
One of my very
favorites roles that Jones has essayed was on television and not in a film, but I want to mention it anyway, just in case you still haven't seen any of the things I've mentioned. And that would be his appearance as the lead Gentlemen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Hush. It is one of my all time favorites, as it is with many BTVS fans. In it, the otherworldly Gentlemen, creepy, bald, disfigured dudes who float around everywhere in three piece suits, grinning like idiots, float into town to steal various organs from college students. Their one weakness is noise. They can't stand it. So they steal all the voices from the inhabitants of Sunnydale. Not only is this an episode heavy on horror, and featuring my main man, but it also had the balls to spend almost half the running time completely devoid of dialog.
The man, in the flesh. Actually, still kinda scary.
Of course, we can't forget Jones's turn as the spy Morlock in the under appreciated THE TIME MACHINE (2002) remake. In that one, instead of leg extensions, like the faun, he had arm extensions. He told Fangoria magazine about how the fingers had to be posed specifically before each scene, and he had to be careful not to whack them out of position. And he kept sticking the blowgun into his nose or eye instead of his mouth, because he couldn't see out of the suit.
As one might expect, at this point Jones is hoping to break out into more facially visible roles. He has already done a number of TV shows, including an episode of Law and Order, as a meth-head, and a number of indie films. A few recent ones are CARNIES, which has a subtle horror vibe, about the titular carnival employees, and another remake, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. In that one, he portrays that film's somnambulist, clairvoyant, maybe murderous, Cesare. It is interesting to note that in CALIGARI, Jones is out of makeup, but the film itself was shot entirely greenscreen. The director then superimposed these shots over scenes from the original film. Should be interesting. I believe it will be released later this month on DVD.
But not to worry, Jones won't be abandoning his spirit gum life anytime soon. Face time is good in indies, but silicone is what pays the bills. He is in pre-production for a second run as Abe Sapien in the next HELLBOY movie, this time with the character actually voiced by him, as well as playing The Silver Surfer in the soon to be released FANTASTIC FOUR sequel. See, this column was topical after all. Quite frankly, Doug Jones's involvement is absolutely the only thing putting my ass in a seat for that movie.
So remember, the next time you are watching an action-packed comics adaptation, or a creepy monster movie, give a little credit to the guys sweating their asses off in the rubber suits so you can have something to eat popcorn by. They work hard for the money, so hard for it honey. And the only time we ever think about them is when they do it wrong.
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Eating the flesh of lesser film geeks since '72.
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