Guillermo del Toro’s new cinematic opus The Shape of Water is described as an other-worldly fairytale set in 1962 Cold War America featuring a young mute woman, played by Sally Hawkins (Godzilla), and a mysterious aquatic creature played by the one and only Doug Jones — a longtime del Toro collaborator.
SYFY WIRE sat down with Jones (who is currently playing Kelpian Starfleet officer Commander Saru on Star Trek: Discovery) and co-star Richard Jenkins (Berlin Station) where the two actors talked about the new movie (which is currently sitting at 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing) and working with the Hellboy director on the fantasy movie.
When he was asked if he called his character something other than “The Creature,” Jones had a charming anecdote to tell. “When we were working on set,” Jones began, “the script did not call me … no character calls me by name, ever. I’m maybe ‘the asset,’ but while we were working, the name on my trailer door and the name on my set chair was Charlie. So I ask Guillermo, ‘Oh, hey, is that a name that I didn’t know of, is that a name that’ll be in the official credit?’ and he said, ‘Oh no, that’s just Charlie Tuna.’ So that was an inside joke so the crew had something to call me on set.”
Fun fact: Charlie the Tuna was a cartoon mascot created in 1961 who was the “spokes-tuna” for the StarKist brand.
When asked if there was a mountain for them to climb as an actor to go through a certain scene in the movie, Jenkins first mentioned the scene where Elisa (Hawkins) signs to him to ask for help and he flat-out refuses, which was a scene he loved. Moreover there was another sequence that stood out for him: “The scene where I first saw Doug. I just said, ‘Okay we’ll see what happens, 'cause my first line about him is ‘he’s so beautiful,’ and I think of him as a fish in a Chinese restaurant before, and when I see him everything changes.”
Jones also opened up about one of the scenes he found a bit of a challenge to play in the movie (especially since he’s covered from head to toe in a suit, and you'll understand why I point that out below).
‘Trying to find the romantic love connection and making that work somehow,” Jones told SYFY WIRE. “Once I get rescued and the heist is on, the chase is on, and Elisa is keeping me in her bathtub in her apartment. When she comes back in the bathroom that one night and takes her bathrobe off, we have to do something that a creature and a human in a movie have maybe never done before, [but] it works. Guillermo loves his monster movies from the classics, and they always have a love … romantic notion to them without completing it ever somehow, because it can never really work. This time it had to work. 'Cause it worked, dammit, and so playing that scene was ‘Can I do this? Can I be believable?’”
Additional material by Nathalie Caron.