Ron Perlman is proud to hide his face behind the mask of 'Hellboy'

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Ron Perlman has a face made for makeup. But he's OK with that.

He says some of the most comfortable roles of his career have been when he wore lots of makeup. That includes parts from the mane man Vincent in the TV series "Beauty and the Beast" to his title character in "Hellboy."

"I was more comfortable behind the mask than naked like this," Perlman says during an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel. He is spending the day talking about his new film "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," which opens Friday. "The makeup made be freer because it was no longer me. It was a transformed version of me. It made acting more possible."

Perlman, like so many actors, had a lot of insecurities when he started acting. He considers himself lucky to have landed early acting jobs in "Quest for Fire," "The Name of the Rose" and "Beauty and the Beast" where he could hide behind the mask of makeup.

"These days I am comfortable in my own skin. I don't need the mask as much as I used to. I just consider myself to be a working stiff who has just had a lot of great opportunities. I just take every job as it comes. If it happens to require me being transformed into a rather grotesque or abstract or obscure creation, then so be it."

Perlman is back in makeup to play the cigar-chomping, horned spawn of the graphic novel "Hellboy" in this sequel. And what makeup it is. In the movie, his character's skin is the color of a stop light. His right arm is part fist, part planter. And there are two sliced sausage-looking stubs of horns on his head. It takes him five hours just to become the living version of the comic book character.

But it was the face under the makeup that made him the clear pick to play Hellboy back in 2004.

"A friend had suggested Ron to me," says "Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola. "I thought he would be perfect. I just hoped (director) Guillermo (del Toro) thought so."

He did.

Co-star Selma Blair is sad that people don't get to see the Perlman she knew on the set, who sings show tunes and just enjoys being an actor. She says she has never worked with another actor who has shown as much passion for the profession as Perlman.

That passion has helped him pass the long hours in all of those makeup chairs to be able to play the role - a role he did not hesitate to reprise even with all of the makeup.

"Now it becomes how much pleasure am I going to take playing masked characters. And when it is a character like Hellboy, I am sure there are a whole lot of other guys who wish they were me. It is a real honor to play this character because the heart of this character is truly mythic. He is a phenomenal character to spend time with," Perlman says.

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