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SYFY WIRE Interviews

The Hellboy cast explains why having real makeup and not CGI was so important

By Yolanda Machado
Hellboy (2019)

Taking over a franchise with a loyal fan base can’t be easy, but David Harbour and his co-stars Daniel Dae Kim, Ian McShane, and Milla Jovovich are ready to face the challenge head-on in director Neil Marshall’s take on Hellboy.

The reboot brings to life three specific collections from the comic itself: Darkness Falls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury, which means we’re not only getting Hellboy (Harbour) and his papa (McShane), and the rest of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, but also Nimue, the “Queen of Blood” herself (played by Jovovich), Ben Daimo, a former U.S. Marine who turns into a jaguar-like creature (played by Kim), as well as fairies, witches, mediums, and more.

The film stays true to the collections, mainly following Nimue’s story throughout each. It opens with Nimue in a time of King Arthur, just as she has gone so mad, that her coven kills her, cuts her into several pieces, places the pieces in wooden boxes to be scattered all over the world to prevent them from joining so that Nimue may never rise again. Centuries later, Nimue’s army is gathering her body parts, and Hellboy must choose between being a monster among humans or to fulfill his evil destiny.

SYFY WIRE sat down with Harbour, Kim, and Jovovich recently to talk working with David in costume, becoming a part of modern mythology, and more.

How was it working against David in his full Hellboy costume?

Harbour: Yes, I’m curious. That first time you saw it, what was it like?

Kim: I think I told you, it was so jarring to me because nowadays you do films where you're acting to a tennis ball, and it's part of our job as actors to use our imagination. But it informs the scene so much when you see a dude who is already big, but comes in wearing this costume where he's like seven feet tall and he's got horns coming out of his [head]... and he's jacked.

It just really added something to working together. I mean, that's why there's no substitute for practical makeup, and costumes, and wardrobe. I thought Joel Harlow did such a great job because not only was it the body that works so well, but David could actually express things through the makeup, and that's no small feat. It really made it like I was working with an actor and not a creature.

Jovovich: The funniest thing was seeing you and your stunt double together.

For you and Daniel, there was a sense of camaraderie that shone through, even when your characters were adversaries. Was there some behind the scenes bonding time?

Harbour: I found that the shooting itself was so immersive and intense that I had very little free time to actually hang out and do anything outside. I would literally be in the makeup chair at like 4 in the morning, get out at like 10, go to sleep for five hours, and then get up and do it again. So we didn't really hang out. We had dinner and talked a little bit, but it was mainly like... I think that you really showed up very ready to work, and having this idea of the character, and just the dynamic between us was very easy. I found all my stuff with you very easy. You're just a pro, it's easy to show up and work with you.

Kim: I would say the same thing as David, he had so much work to do, and to his credit, he went through a lot of exploration on this character, and he didn't just kind of think, "Well, he's a comic book character, and so, I'm just gonna phone it in." He was really trying to find out who Hellboy was. And I was watching him go through this process and it was one that he had to do on his own a lot of the time. In a way, his journey was reflected in the way we were off-screen together. 'Cause he needed his time to figure some things out, and we respected that.

I think an interesting thing about the era we're in, comic books and comic book heroes are kind of like our modern myths, our modern legendary heroes. Hellboy is one of the more recent additions to this genre. How does it feel to be, essentially, enveloping a sort of mythology for new, sometimes younger, audiences?

Jovovich: I think it's amazing. I mean, when I think about, especially on my end, from the Resident Evil, I've had young women from all over the world, and I'm talking like, Iraq and other crazy places. I had a girl come up to me, she had these tears in her eyes, she had this big diary with photo collages and writing, and she was showing it to me and she goes, "I ran away from my country. My father wouldn't let me go to school, and I saw Resident Evil through a friend, and you inspired me to take control of my life and run away." 

She ended up moving to England or somewhere and going to art school, like crazy! I was crying. I couldn't believe it. You think about that, like how your characters affect young people. I mean, it's so true.

Hellboy David Harbour

Harbour: It is an incredible opportunity to reach an incredibly wide audience. I sort of have that with Stranger Things in a way, where there's already this mythos being created in that world, and there is a passionate fanbase around that, and it's worldwide. But to step into this, it's like this bigger sort of supernatural level of monsters, and sort of archetypes.

That was one of the things that was really important to me, that we take a stab at something a little unique around... first of all, around the darkness and the horror concept of it, but also even around the identity of a superhero in general. One of the things that I love about the movie is the fact that you take characters even like me and Daniel, who are monsters in a certain way, and who are outcasts of society, but still fight to defend society, have this very complex relationship with human beings. And then, the fact that your main protagonist in the middle of the film, basically says like, "Why am I on this side? Why should I be?" Simple paradoxes, which I think are so beautiful in the film.

Kim: Comic books are the mythology of our time. I think there are certain messages, and I think it's important to kind of, as actors in these kinds of projects, to think through those messages, and not just look at it as pulp or something that we're just doing as mindless entertainment. Of course, it is meant to be entertaining, but we need to mine it for the things that we're actually saying and what the message is that we're communicating to the audience. Especially, younger viewers.

Jovovich: Young people today, in a way it's like they're able to look at these superheroes and model themselves in a way ... in the same way that Greeks needed their gods to be very human, too, so that they could understand how to relate to life, to different scenarios, how to inspire themselves to be better because a lot of kids aren't drawing inspiration from the Bible anymore to be better people. They're drawing inspiration from comics or movies.

Hellboy hits theaters on Apr. 12.