Wish You’d Been There… Whedonopolis.com Visits Grand Slam Sci-Fi Summit, Part 2

Doug Jones’ Panel – Sunday Morning

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The panel started after an awesome montage covering pretty much all the creature work Doug had done in the past, including stills from “Hush,” “Hellboy,” “Darkness Falls” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” among other things. Doug said he was still alive, as “after watching that, I feel like I am at my memorial service,” to generalized laughter. He said it was “a very humbling experience” and that he would get to questions as soon as possible, but that first he’d “make a couple of generalized, broad statements about a couple of things, because there are a couple of questions that I can’t answer today, unfortunately. First I’ll say I’ve never worn one of those green leotards with the dots on them for motion capture. That one will come back around later on today. The next broad statement is that I wear lots of makeup, with rubber and glue. I thought when I came to Hollywood that I’d be a sitcom star. A goofy, white guy – great next door neighbor, right? But my first job ever was a commercial for McDonald’s – remember the one with the crescent moon? Yeah, that was me. Three years of that, and that’s what got me started with the creature makeup people, and my name started rolling around and that’s how I got this creature film career.”

At this point, Doug announced he was going to mime for us what the process of makeup to become a creature is like for him and proceeded to do so. I have never seen anything funnier in my life – it’s one of those cases of “you had to be there” to fully understand the concept. Seeing Doug, as tall as he is, miming getting into a latex suit and hood and everything was just hysterical. We were all laughing so hard, tears were rolling down our cheeks. At the end of the mime, he received a thunderous applause. Then he asked someone, anybody to yell “Action!” so he could show us what performing in latex was like. There were about 12 volunteers that yelled it, and Doug then morphed into a certain character that makes particular poses. Judge for yourselves:

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The entire routine was greeted with a thunderous ovation.

He then said, “I think that when I have my funeral… please all come. I hope it’s not soon, by the way, but after that mime, it might be sooner than I’d think. Someone asked me recently what roles I’d likely be most remembered for, and I said Bill Butcherson in “Hocus Pocus,” the beauty zombie guy… the Gentleman from “Buffy” (massive cheers at this point), and of course Abe Sapien from “Hellboy,” whom I adore.” He then proceeded to add to the list his most recent roles, Pan and the Pale Man, from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” again to thunderous applause. He said “Pan’s” is “my favorite piece of art that I’ve ever done, written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro… and then, of course, another movie that I can’t talk about may be there, I don’t know… something that involved metal…”

Doug then made “another broad stroke statement,” with our permission: “Sometimes when I’m talking or reading something, when I don’t really agree with what they’re saying because it’s not how I remember it, I sometimes make a face like this… (makes face distorting his mouth) Okay? Now I’d like to read you a statement from 20th Century Fox…”

People thought he was joking, and laugh, but Doug elaborated – “I can’t really talk about “Silver Surfer” that much. I was talking a lot about it in interviews during the “Pan’s Labyrinth” press, and March 15th I got a phone call saying I shouldn’t do that anymore, so this is what I am allowed to say:

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‘Academy Award winning visual effects house Weta Digital (“Lord of the Rings,” “King Kong”)…” we love them “…is creating… is “creating” a state-of-the-art CGI Silver Surfer, the Marvel Comics character beloved by fans. Weta has developed an advance CG process that will help… that will “help” bring “added dimensionality” to the character. Doug Jones will provide movement and character references for the digital wizards at Weta…’

At this point, Doug resorted again to the gesture he’d shown us earlier – the one he makes when he doesn’t agree with something happening in a way he doesn’t remember, like so:

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He resumed reading, ‘…much like Andy Serkis provided visual reference for the character of Gollum. ‘ Doug paused and the gesture came up again. “The voice of the character Silver Surfer is yet to be determined.” (According to a “Variety” magazine article dated April 18th., Laurence Fishburne has been cast as the voice of Silver Surfer.) The audience at this point groaned loudly. The disappointment was evident, because to the fans, that statement stank of unfairness to a great actor and an overall nice guy. And we don’t like that. Doug then treated us to a challenge – he asked us to close our eyes, then picture our favorite version of “Silver Surfer” in the comic books, and once he was sure we had the picture in our minds, he proceeded to say in a very deep voice, “Noran Radd. I was once called Noran Radd.” He gave us chills and there was yet another ovation. He added that “what happens in post-production in a film like this is none of my business. If they decided to turn it into a more digital character than I remember, that’s their business, not mine. So that’s that.” An announcement was then made that the trailer for “Fantastic Four 2” would play at the end of Doug’s panel.

Doug then said it was time for Q&A, and he’d love to answer questions about “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy 1 and 2, as well as the animated series we have now running in the Cartoon Network.”

The first question was about Doug’s role as the Gentleman on “Buffy” (again, massive cheers for that one). The fan mentioned that after the episode had aired, Doug’s character made the opening credits for the all the remaining seasons and that his wife would have to cover her eyes every time when Doug appeared on screen, so the question was if Doug weren’t ashamed of frightening innocent people like that. “Nobody had told me that before, so no. The Buffy Gentleman was another of those pinnacle moments that you just don’t know it was going to be coming. You get a script for a TV shows and all it says about your character is, ‘Creepy guy who smiles a lot and doesn’t talk and tears hearts out,” and you go, “OK!” I never knew it was gonna become such a fan favorite over the years, and that there’d be a 12″ doll of me, and a bust and a 6″ figure. ‘Ok! Go for it!”

The next question was about “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Doug announced some other people involved in the movie would be joining him on stage in a few moments’ time, but mentioned he’d gotten “a chance to play the iconic role of Cesare, the sleepwalker.” “Cabinet” is a classic silent movie from 1919, “from the German expressionistic movement.” It was one of the earliest horror films of that type, with twisted endings, and Doug made Cesare, who is a type of monster, akin to the likes of Frankenstein , Dracula and The Mummy. He admits he found “a bit daunting” to play such an iconic role, but said he’d
elaborate on the challenge once more members of the “Cabinet” cast and production people were on stage with him later. He did stress this new version “pays homage to the original one.”

Next, Doug was told that “Hush” was the only episode of “Buffy” to ever get an Emmy nomination for writing, which he didn’t know. (The show had other Emmy nominations, such as a Musical Direction nod for the musical episode, “Once More, With Feeling”.) The fan asked a two-part question, and the first part was whether it felt odd to him to get a role where he’s not in so much makeup to convey who the character really is. Doug admitted it could be intimidating to play such a character, as it’d look more like who Doug is in real life. He says he now approaches all characters the same way, whether they are a man in a t-shirt and a white face in a sitcom, or one that requires a snout and being on all fours going “grrr!” The second part of the question involved Doug’s work with green screen and special effects, and whether what he imagines in his mind to do the work with something that is not there actually matches the end result, or it makes it go, “Man, my imagination is so much better!” Doug clarified that most of the work he’d done had involved prosthetics on his person, with very little added on later. He mentioned there were a couple of green screen instances in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” with Pan himself and the Pale Man. With Pan it involved the character’s legs and a costume that reached to his knees, the rest being green tights, with his feet resting on a hoof that were 6-8″ off the ground on which he had to walk around. With the Pale Man, with eyes on the palm of his hands, it was a question of having his eyes fully covered and still being able to see “my incredibly muscly legs” through the costume that partially covered them. The process involved more green tights, and when he saw the final result in post-production, “I went, ‘Wow! It really works.”

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The next question was about anything he’d be able to tell us about “Hellboy 2,” and whether he also was under restrictions to talk about it. Doug said the great thing about working in a Guillermo Del Toro movie is “he actually encourages you to talk about it as much as possible.” A thunderous applause greeted this remark. “I’m very excited about ‘Hellboy 2;’ in fact, a month from now (May 17th.) I go ‘buh-bye’ and fly away to Budapest, Hungary for the following six months to make hopefully the best Hellboy movie you’ve ever seen. I will be reprising my role as Abe Sapien, using my voice for the character as well.” Doug then went on to praise David Hyde Pierce, who provided the voice for Abe in the first movie, but that graciously refused to do press about it or get any sort of recognition. Mr. Pierce also declined to do the voice for the animated movie and the cartoon. “So my voice is in the animated movie, and also in the videogame. Abe has a lot more to do in “Hellboy 2,” you see him on screen a lot more… He spends a lot of time with Hellboy, which to me is great because Ron Pearlman and I get along great in real life, and (in a deep, sultry voice) Abe Sapien has a love interest for the first time…” (Major cheering was the answer to this announcement.) “So I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s precious, just precious. Even though Abe Sapien is a very old soul, and he’s as book-smart as book-smart can be, on matters of love and emotions he’s not really tapped in. You get to see a sort of adolescent side of Abe Sapien.” Doug added he’s gonna be able to “play two different characters in the movie as well. One of them is the Angel of Death, and the other one is called The Chamberlain. The Chamberlain is a dorky bad guy, and the Angel of Death is not as bad as you’d think. There’s a really cool moment in the film that makes me think you’ll be seeing the Angel of Death again some day. It’s such a cool moment; when I read the script, I went, “Ooooh!” (gasps and mimics turning the page) “OOOH!” So yeah. The movie comes out August 2008.”

At this point, Doug announced it was time to roll a clip of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” while other people involved in the film joined him on stage. “You’ll stay with us, won’t you?” (Before that, we were shown the trailer for “Fantastic 4 II: Rise of the Silver Surfer”, which looks great.) After the trailer had finished, Doug quipped, “Wow! That guy in silver looks hot! I wonder who the actor was…”

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Panel – Sunday Afternoon

Doug now switched gears and talked “Caligari.” He mentioned the movie is coming out on DVD June 5th and that “if I’m not mistaken it’s supposed to be packaged with the original silent film.” Doug then introduced the executive producer and president of Highlander Films, Leonard McLeod (no, I’m not kidding – that’s his actual name), one of his co-stars, William Gregory Lee (also of “Dark Angel,” “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Dante’s Peak” fame) who played Joseph in the film, and “last but certainly not least, our beloved director, writer of the script and the technical wizard that made it all happen visually in the film, the amazing, the wonderful, the powerful David Lee Fisher.”

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From left – Leonard McLeod, William Gregory Lee, David Lee Fisher and Doug Jones.

David Lee mentioned he’d always loved the original “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” and the way it’d been shot, and the fact that it was part of the impressionistic movement. He decided to redo it because the script had been written from the point of view of a madman “and I’m insane.” He also mentioned it’s more of a “remix” than a remake and that it would have been very difficult to rebuild all the sets from scratch. Fisher said he comes from the videogame world (Sonix, specifically) and that he’d worked a lot with green screen, so he said, “Why not take the backgrounds out of the original movie, digitally paint them up, shot all the actors on green screen and then superimpose both things as if they were in the original locations?” So they shot the movie like that, “and there was no reference or anything for the actors to do their work, outside of each other.” The actual shooting took three months total.

Justin comments on getting the phone call to audition for the movie. “They’re remaking that? That’s crap! It’s a classic!” But then he realized “it was going to be FUN!” Especially when he realized there was going to be dialogue, as opposed to in the original. He recalled arriving for the first table reading and meeting Doug Jones, who was just great, “and it’s unfortunate that in Hollywood nobody knows who he is when he is like this (=sans makeup and prosthetics).” Justin goes on to say that the entire concept of how the movie was going to be shot was “confusing,” but that David Lee had shown them how they’d be able to walk into the actual sets, and that it just was “awesome, because it’d never been done before. As soon as we saw what his vision was, we felt very secure and very safe about the director that was doing something special, and it’s funny how you go from the initial reaction of “Uh-oh” to “This is going to be cool and so much fun!” And David and Justin kept on praising Doug’s work on set.

The floor was opened to questions, and the first one was what were they doing differently for the movie, since they had to stick fairly close to the original. David said that “there are a couple new shots in the movie, one of them an “intuitive” shot at the end.” He compared the way things were shot in the old days (“overly melodramatic”) and now (“more intuitively”) and how they managed to reach a comfortable medium, “with more naturalistic performances.” Justin pointed that “they hired the perfect peopl
e to work on the project and, with the exception of myself, the perfect cast. Everybody that was there wanted to be there; everybody who was putting on the time to make sure the original version of the movie was not gonna be ruined in any sort of way wanted to do so. The result is brilliant. Doug’s performance in it is absolutely riveting, because even though you can still see it’s him, it’s a completely different person.” At this point, Doug encouraged people to go by the Highlander Films booth, where he’d be doing his official signing for the convention, to see bits and pieces of the movie. David then added, as final part of the answer to the original question, that there’s nothing more terrifying in a horror movie than when things are left to the imagination, like they used to do in earlier times, and that’s the kind of horror film he hoped he could make.

Someone asked if there’d been a trailer for “Cabinet” that had run in theatres, and the answer was no. However, the movie did play in New York and there is a trailer for it on YouTube. The next question the fan asked was about copyright, and how they’d gone about that, as the original movie is almost 100 years old. The answer was there’s a company in Germany that deals with copyright, so they worked with them. There was an acknowledgement to the movie “Shadow of the Vampire,” a take on “Nosferatu” and how it broke away between color and black and white as inspiration. David then mentioned, in connection with Doug’s comment about the monsters in “Cabinet”, that the 1914 silent version of “Frankenstein” immediately came to mind, which was the first movie of its kind.

Jokes ensued regarding the possibility of sequels to the movie, and David quipped, “Yes, we’re bringing everybody back” to which Justin went, ‘Yes!'”

The panel ended on this note.

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