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Friday, August 2, 2002

COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: HELLBOY MOVIE PANEL

By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum

SAN DIEGO -- For fans at Comic-Con International, it was Hellboy heaven. After some five years of development of a Hellboy live-action, director Guillermo del Toro, star Ron Perlman and creator Mike Mignola conducted a panel to signal the film going into production.

Set for release in 2004, the film was recently green lit. In addition to the panel, Dark Horse provided 2,004 Mignola-drawn movie posters -- to make the release year -- to fans at its booth.

The panel was fast-paced and spirited as del Toro professed his desire to make the movie and love of Mignola's work, Perlman gave his take on the character and Mignola provided a glimpse into the movie's story.

Following is an edited transcript of the panel, starting with del Toro talking about the posters:

DEL TORO: We wanted to give you something that people would lust after. We wanted to give you something that I felt was a collectible. So we printed 2,004 and that's it. We're not going to reprint it. We're not going to stick in the back of a book or anything. That's going to be the only time it's printed. That's the only time you'll have it.

The other thing we wanted to do was start the dialogue with you. I think that Hellboy is a property that you guys love as much as I do. And I know we are not a majority. Right now it's a very elite group of readers that are into Hellboy. It doesn't have Spawn or Marvel numbers. It's much more of a cult comic.

Therefore, I know it's a comic that demands much more attention in translating it to the screen. It demands the ultimate love and care and with the right people on board to do the translation.

We're going to introduce each other and tell a little bit about what we're doing and then we're completely open to questions. I just want to hear what you have to say. Then I will tell you a couple of casting ideas.

PERLMAN: Hellboy is cast by the way. You're welcome to give your ideas, but it won't do any good.

DEL TORO: I want you guys to know two things. I'm only doing this movie only because I'm desperately in love with the comic, not because I want to change it or make it better. I think when you know of something good, you want to tell the world about it.

And also, that Mike has not only been part of every thing since the beginning, the moment the movie got greenlit, Mike came aboard and he will stay through the process. So we can assure not only hours of fun crushing him against the wall - which I do often - but also that the property gets translated to film the right way.

OK, Ron will say a few words.

PERLMAN: Thank you. I don't have much to say, but I'm thrilled and honored to be the guy that gets to put on the red stuff. I welcome your suggestions about how to go about that the best way possible. This will be my third…

DEL TORO: Listen to that voice…

PERLMAN: This will be my third collaboration with Guillermo. We've done two other films together, so he knows all of my bad habits and will intercede, hopefully. I look forward to having an amazing time on what is a magical property and a fantastic adaptation thereof in terms of its genesis to the screen. I'm thrilled to be here and I'm thrilled to see so many people here to support this wonderful idea.

Mike Mignola…

MIGNOLA: It's taken five years to get here. And I have to say, now that we're here, we're here with all the people we wanted to be here with. The director who wanted to do with and the star we agreed upon the very first time we spoke. The script, which we're thrilled with. We didn't make any gigantic compromises along the way - so far.

For me, it's just a thrill to be here with these guys and it's a hell of a ride.

GIVE'EM A CLICK

DEL TORO: And now we're open for questions.

QUESTION: How will you capture the look of the comic and what story will you be using?

MIGNOLA: Guillermo can handle the film end of that stuff because I don't know how the heck he does that stuff. But the movie is roughly based on the first mini-series. There are a lot of changes in it and there elements from other mini-series tossed in, but the arc of its is roughly the first mini-series, Seed of Destruction mini-series.

DEL TORO: The translation of the film from the comic, the thing is the saturation of the black that Mike does, we basically started experimenting…

I want to clarify one thing. Blade II, which I love as a kick-ass popcorn movie, is not what Hellboy will be. Hellboy is a movie with much deeper character work and so on and so forth. And Blade II, what was great about it, was that we were given the tools to experiment a lot of visual quirks that will be in Hellboy: the blacks, the depth of black and the frame of it, too. Sometimes almost 80 percent of the frame was in black, with very saturated colors, and we learned a lot.

One of the things that we learned on in that was the best way to do it with Hellboy to be to process the entire movie digitally in post. So we can augment the color and the contrast and manipulate the image as we're shooting the negative. That gives us not only a great range to work on the set with great freedom and allows a lot more colors to pop out.

Right now, with the digital process, the most involved thing is to use it to saturate the color, to go to cepia. The black is going to remain as rich and the colors as vibrant as in the comic.

Another thing that I can tell you is that the color palette that is used in the comics, we're translating that exactly into the film. The color palette that is used in the comics goes from almost gray-blues to gray-greens to moss greens. All the cool colors - Hellboy is essentially the only red on the page - we're going with that.

So we have the mindset with going with the exact colors that are in the comics.

QUESTION: How focused are you in doing something that would set up a franchise?

DEL TORO: The good thing about this project and this character is that Mike set it up as a franchise. He's the one that's on the fifth mini-series. I think that what is interesting is that the continuing adventures of Hellboy will probably be something that won't be in my hands - at all. Mike and I have talked about it very, very carefully and we always come to the same conclusion. We say that all we need to do is make the movie that we love, that we say is fantastic.

For instance, the designs that Mike does with the characters, translating them into three dimensions as you have seen with the toys and the PVCs, sometimes it's really hard. It is a very delicate process. You're not going to see any brutal changes. Abe Sapien is going to be Abe Sapien. And he's going to be there. And he's going to be as perfect and as beautiful as the comics. Same with Hellboy.

I think the worse thing that can happen with a movie is when you get a producer or director who says, "Well, it's a comic and I'll make it better." Or, "I'll make it work." That's really the screwed way to approach a project. So we're approaching it carefully. All the gothic surrounding and the dripping sewers and the dripping subterranean chambers, all of that will be there. And he will battle huge Lovecraft monsters.

It's not a gory film, but it's full of Jack Kirby/Mike Migola-esque big action and fights with creatures.

QUESTION: There's some stuff in the Hellboy comics I just don't get, with legends and myths. Have you thought about how that will translate to the screen?

MIGNOLA: I don't think that there's that much obscure reference in the film. There's enough to give it the feel of Hellboy. People reference certain occult things. But you don't need a working knowledge of that. You just need to know that when he's talking about that stuff, it's like, "Whoa, he knows what he's talking about." Which is why I throw that stuff in the comics. It sounds like I know what I'm talking about.

DEL TORO: It's like when you watch ER. "Give me 50 ccs of megadogabin." You don't get it, but it goes in the tale. As long as the guy doing the tale did his homework and didn't just write it.

Sometimes, it's just there for the flow and to give you a sense of reality. We did the homework. You don't need to do it. We're not going to do anything incorrect. We're not going to accidentally evoke the wrong demons.

MIGNOLA: You don't need to understand all the terms to understand what's going on.

GIVE'EM A CLICK

QUESTION: What will the movie be rated?

MIGNOLA: It will not be R-rated. The comics is not gory. It's violent, but no gory. We will have all the tentacles you can choke on.

The comic has a lot of action, but it is not gory. When the movie is done, when we think it is ready, that's the movie that we're going to fight to put out in front of you. We're not going to go around crying, "They made us cut that."

I think the DVD is great for extra stuff. But if you want it in the movie, you should have put it in the movie. If it needs to be in the movie, and they don't want it, you squeal real loud.

QUESTION: One of the things I love about the comics is its sense of silence and stillness. Will you be able translate it?

MIGNOLA: I don't know how many of you saw these movies, but Chronos, even Mimic and certainly Devil's Backbone were quiet horror films. … I love quiet movie.

Hellboy is like all those movies put together. Hellboy has the quiet, gothic horror, the great characters, great action. But you will get great atmosphere. You will get a little bit of all those worlds.

There is something that I saw in Blade II, too. It's very hard to carry atmospheric terror with someone who is as self-sufficient as Hellboy or Blade. If you put a normal person or a kid alone in a room or a cellar, it's like, "Oh, my God!" But when it's someone with eight guns and a blade, it's like, "I want to see him kill whatever's in the dark." But you don't get afraid. It's impossible. The same is true with Hellboy.

The great thing about Hellboy, though, is he can get punched a lot. He gets punched a lot.

QUESTION: What kind of creatures will you have and what creature shop are you going to use?

MIGNOLA: The film is based on the first mini-series, so there's a lot of Catholic ….

DEL TORO: …guilt.

MIGNOLA: Guilt. Guillermo brought extra of that to the project. There's a little bit of demonology. But it's a monster movie. It's not Alistair Crowley. It's not hardcore mythology or hardcore religious. But it's a monster movie.

DEL TORO: The great thing about Hellboy, listen to the names. Hell and boy. It's not Hellspawn or Hellchild. It's self-effacing in a way. In the comic the beauty of it, it has the whole the Catholic mythology or idea of Hell. But, it has also a sci-fi, multi-dimensional element. Remember those Jack Kirby aliens? This is another dimension. These creatures are bigger than mankind.

In terms of translating this, just was we were concerned with casting the right actor, we wanted to cast the right shop for doing Hellboy. We couldn't just go and grab any effects shop to do Hellboy. So, we knew from the start we wanted Rick Baker, and that's what we got. They're doing Hellboy only.

And what we did was one of the guys I worked with on Blade II was a real smart, great engineer with mechanical effects. He said, "I want to the chance to prove I can have my own shop and that I can do a great job." So we gave him the chance of doing his own shop. It's a new shop called Spectral Motion. So far, they have been fantastic.

If you know the makeup effects work and you like, a lot of the great guys are under contract at certain shops, like Baker's, Stan Winston's and so forth. Those are theirs. You can't touch 'em. But there are a lot of free-lancers that are really great. And we have been recruiting them to do this.

Same is true with some of the design and storyboards. Every movie I do, and I'm open to be tortured, two of the kids that are doing storyboard for the movie are guys that approached me at conventions or DVD shops and said, "Hey, I do storyboards." I look at their portfolio, and if they're good, I call them and they work in the movie.

The designers for the creatures we have Wayne Barlow and we have Mike and we have three Japanese artists.

QUESTION: Will the BPRD be in the movie and can we hear Ron give us an "Oh, crap?"

PERLMAN: Oh, crap.

MIGNOLA: The BPRD is in there - quite a bit, actually.

DEL TORO: Abe Sapien is in there. Abe is my favorite character from Hellboy. Abe is in there for three-quarters of the movie. The second movie will be Abe Sapien's love life - with large mammals maybe.

We wanted to expand it, but already the movie has many characters, so there are members we could cram in. So not all of them are there.

QUESTION: Ron, what is your take on the character?

PERLMAN: Hellboy is in my mind, in a nutshell, summoned to Earth for the purposes of serving evil and creating a Hellish world on Earth to be used in someone else's quest of power. He, through a skirmish at that moment in time, is adopted and raised an socialized to use his supernatural ability for good.

So he's kind of betwixt and between. He a pronounced sense of both poles - he a little bit bipolar. The way it manifests itself in his personality is the way he's come to find a comfort zone on Earth is that he's an underachiever, basically. He's the world's biggest and most epic underachiever. He has this incredible physical presence and ability. He has this huge heart which can be molded for the use of either good or evil. He also has this mischievous, devilish kind of circuitry which undermines all of this.

The fun is going to be in finding the balance and finding out where it is he truly is. Everything he does is epic.

My favorite thing that has been invented for purposes of the film is Hellboy's bachelor pad, for lack of a better word. It's kind of like what my room would like if I weren't married and had kids. It's a lot of empty pizza boxes and magazines and dirty socks.

He's kind of fun to be around because he's kind of devilish and cognizant of his power - but reticent to use it or misuse it.

DEL TORO: What's great about the character of Hellboy is the reluctant. He is a regular guy who's faced with extraordinary circumstances and extraordinary foes, and he's a blue-collar guy. He's like, "Oh, do I have to? Do I really have to beat the crap out of this 10-foot tall creature with tentacles? Oh, all right." It's an attitude that Mike has made very clear from the start.

He was born to do one thing, but was raised to do something different. In the movie, Hellboy is learning which way he's leaning toward.

PERLMAN: He has epic appetites, as well, which he and I share in common, almost to the point where he's willing to destroy himself to get that last piece of cake. His epic appetites are his defining characteristics and, in many case, his undoing.

He's a terrible romantic. So when he decides to fall in love, he would destroy himself. He's somebody all kind of feel for because we all know that feeling when you want something so bad, but you're not quite sure how far you'll go to get it. He screws himself up time and time again trying to satiate himself.

DEL TORO: The title of the comic is the World's Greatest Paranormal Detective, right? He detects very little. The Greatest Paranormal Detective investigates the following: he opens the door, there's a monster there and he beats the crap out of him. That's the extent of his investigation. It's not like in the comics where he goes, "Well, this leads to that…"

MIGNOLA: I put that on there as a joke. It's not like I wanted to write any bad detective stories.

DEL TORO: That's his title, right? Did he earn it? No. But who is going to tell him? Who's going to say, "You're not that great."

PERLMAN: His sense of detective work is, "Well what do you think?" And then, "OK, let's go get 'em."

QUESTION: How will the movie affect the comic?

MIGNOLA: I don't look at it as affecting the comic. When the film is over and done with, the comic will be what it was. It's not like when the film is done, I suddenly start drawing the film version of BRPD headquarters or designs changes of Abe Sapien to be closer to the film. It's a parallel universe. In a lot of ways, Guillermo has come up with me a script that is a little different than the original mini-series and in a lot of ways better than what I came up with.

It's a parallel universe of that original mini-series. Yeah, there are things that are different because there are things that work in film that don't work in comics and visa versa. So I look at them as things that stand right next to each other. I don't look at the film as being in the line of those comics. It's just off to one side. So I'm very comfortable with it.

QUESTION: Were there any concepts that you left off from the comics?

MIGNOLA: Yeah, there's a whole backstory. I had created a whole mythology, some of it surfaces in the film. Some of it is exactly what I had in mind. There are things in the film I haven't had a chance to put in the comic. And around the time the film comes out, I'll be doing a mini-series. Because the film deals with certain things I haven't had in the comic, I'm going to do a comic that has exactly what I had in mind for a lot of that stuff. So there's a lot of backstory I have to plot out for that mini-series.

QUESTION: What do the others on the panel bring to this project?

MIGNOLA: The first time I met Guillermo, the first question he asked me was who should play Hellboy. Someone had suggested Ron to me, and that was perfect. Once I knew that, I couldn't imagine anybody else. And when Guillermo met me and he asked me, and he knew and I knew and were kind of sizing each other up to see who would say it first. And, of course, we said it at the same time.

And then Guillermo said, "I want to make this The Last Emperor of cheesy monster movies. And I wasn't aware until that time that I have a formula for what I do, but that was certainly it.

Over the years of comparing notes, we like the same stuff. We've reference the same material. I can't imagine there's another filmmaker out there, certainly not of Guillermo's quality, that has got a feeling for this material. So it couldn't be in better hands.

PERLMAN: I first worked for Guillermo in 1992 and we've just become hard and fast friends and we've occasionally worked together since that point. So I'm along for the ride. I have no idea what these guys see in me. But I feel very blessed and grateful, I get to share in their most twisted imaginations.

Being in Chronos was cool. Being in Blade was super cool. But I have a feeling this project will be on my gravestone: "And he was Hellboy."

DEL TORO: I'll tell you two short things. When we started Hellboy, we had one of our first meetings with the studio and I got the stupid questions as I always do.

Like, "Couldn't it be a guy who is normal and when he gets angry he turns into Hellboy?"

"No, he couldn't do that."

"Well, does he have to be red all the time?"

"Yes, he has to be red."

"Does he have to be called Hellboy?"

"Yes, he does."

And after all that, they say, "Go write the script." And I go write the script. And they say, "We love the script and the idea. Can the Rock be Hellboy?"

"No. Will Stone Cold Steve Austin direct?"

Then they say, "Well, who could it be?" And they start dancing with this or that.

And I say, "It's Ron Perlman."

I just believe Ron is the guy to do it. No. 1, a guy who can do Vincent in Beauty and the Beast and Name of the Rose's Salvatore and a Neanderthal in Quest for Fire, that's a range. Those three categories are all parts of Hellboy. Hellboy can be a Neanderthal, he can be Salvatore or Vincent.

The other thing is with many actors, you put a mask on them and they die. The effect dies or it becomes prosthetics or dead flesh. This is a guy who makes it come alive.

And besides the fact that they have a lot in common and I admire Ron and like to work with him, but the last thing and the most important thing is that voice. That voice.

When I was shooting a movie in 1997 and having a really hard time doing it, I would have one single thing to look forward to and that was every single issue of Hellboy. I love Mike. I remember the period when Mike became Mike when he went from Rocket Raccoon to all of a sudden in Cosmic Odyssey and there was those weird figures with huge torsos and tiny legs, and that guy with the huge hole in his chest. And there were all those crazy things and little by little, Mike was becoming more his own creature. The way he evolved and all of a sudden: Hellboy. And when Hellboy happened I knew I was looking at a universe that was so unique.

I don't know if it happens to you but very seldom a comic book would make me recede back in years and become regress to a 10-year-old kid. When that happens at the ripe old age of 38 and 500 pounds on each cheek of my ass, that's magic. That is something that is not often seen. And you go, "If this is that good why am I not dedicating several years of my life to making it happen?" So that's why I'm working with them.

(Look for more from the panel, including Guillermo del Toro's involvement in The Coffin movie, soon here in The Continuum.)

E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com



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