Gavin Schmitt Interviews Doug Jones
Doug Jones is a legend, and even if you do not know the name, I guarantee you have seen him in a half dozen things (or more). He has been called “The Biggest Hollywood Star You Wouldn’t Recognize”, a title that is all too fitting. How is this possible? Simply put, Doug has spent much of his career behind a mask.
Trained as not just an actor, but also a mime and contortionist, Doug has played robots, aliens, and a variety of other creatures. His three best known roles are as Abe Sapien in the “Hellboy” franchise, as both the faun and the pale man in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and as the Silver Surfer in the “Fantastic Four”. Buffy fans will recall his part in the Emmy-nominated episode “Hush”.
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Doug in April 2014 about his latest project, a short film called “Everlast”. While he always has many things going on at once, this is a movie you shouldn’t miss.
Gavin and Doug Jones, 2014
GS: So, Doug, after being blessed with a hug from you at the Sci-Fi Spectacular, I have to know: other than you, who gives the best hugs?
DJ: (laughs) Hmmm… Among people you’ve heard of? I hug a lot of people. The girl who is like a daughter to me here in Los Angeles, Natisha Anderson. Great hugger, which is why she’s like my daughter.
GS: Will you be coming back to Chicago or the Midwest any time soon for more hugging opportunities?
DJ: Yes. My schedule is on my website ) and you’ll see I’ll be at Dashcon in July (2014) in Shaumburg, Illinois. My website looks like a concert tour. Anyone who has followed my career long enough to stand in line to meet me absolutely deserves a hug. If you watched me on TV or in the movies, you helped buy my house for me. So I owe all of you a hug time and time again. And the biggest fans are the horror, sci-fi, fantasy crowd. It’s great and now they’re starting to see me more without rubber on my face.
GS: In other interviews, you’ve mentioned that despite being in many comic book adaptations, you were never much of a comic reader beyond Archie.
DJ: That’s correct. I did “Batman Returns”, among others.
GS: So I have to ask, Betty or Veronica?
DJ: Oh, right, right. Betty all the way. Veronica was a little bit too snooty for my taste.
GS: With such a long list of credits to your name, I only have time to pick two at random… first, you appeared in a music video for Madonna.
DJ: Oh, goodness. I’ve done a few music videos over the years and I did her “Bedtime Story” video from her “Bedtime Stories” album. I was in one little vignette that did not include her. So, actually, I’ve never met her. Working with Madonna remains a mystery to me.
GS: Obviously, one of your biggest hits is “Pan’s Labyrinth”. I know that del Toro was inspired by such films as “Spirit of the Beehive”. Is he the sort of director who has his cast watch or read anything to get the tone?
DJ: I’ve done a few movies with him, and he has never once said “read this” or “watch that” to be inspired. He’s very good about have sit-down talks with us about what he wants to see with his characters. And his scripts are just loaded with so much information. The script for “Crimson Peak”, which won’t even be coming out until October 2015, is just loaded with detail about what the special effects crew will be doing. He uses an awful lot of reference material; he’s read and watched everything. But I’ve never heard him ask anyone else to — he has the references in his head and can explain them to us if need be.
GS: The press release just came out for “Everlast”, so no one knows much about it yet. Your character is called the Stranger or the Suited Man. So who is this man?
DJ: He’s well-named, because when you see him you’ll think “what a strange man”. My character mirrors another character I played in a previous film by this team — director Leo Kei Angelos and producer George Ruiz. I met George a while back. He’s also a talent manager and he handles, among others, Felicia Day. I was in her web series “Dragon Age” where I played Saarebas, I was in “The Guild” and we did a film called “Rock Jocks” where I was an alien.
GS: Smoking Jesus, yeah. It’s a good character.
DJ: Oh, thank you. Well, George was on all those sets, so we struck up a friendship at that time. When he and Leo teamed up last year for the short film “First Impressions”, I jumped at the chance to play a mysterious man in a dark suit and dark tie. He looks sort of like a crime boss or maybe he knows a little more than he’s letting on. “First Impressions” has a couple on a first date and they get attacked in an alleyway. But she ends up kicking ass all over the place, leaving everyone on the pavement… including me. It had great action, and Leo’s directing sensibilities come from a very action-oriented, Hong Kong sort of base. He gets stunt people to do great things.
So when they came back this year with a script for “Everlast”, I was immediately like “yes” and knew I was on board. They wanted me to reprise that dark suit, dark tie role… I look exactly the same. But I’m playing different characters, this time being something sort of parallel to the devil.
Our lead actor, Kevin McNamara, is hilarious. If you find him on Vine you’ll be entertained for hours. The funniest 6-second videos I’ve ever seen. Kevin plays a down on his luck MMA fighter. He’s in a league that is sort of back door, underground… he’s winning, but no longer on the main circuit. His behavior and his attitude got him thrown out. So he’s goo, but in the wrong venue. I come along and entice him, offer him a chance to fight a MMA champion who has been dead a few years. Everybody compares Kevin to this dead character. They tell him he’s good but he’ll never be as good as the old champ. So I show up and offer him that chance. It’s that age-old scenario where the devil offers you what you want, but you only realize what you’ve done later.
The MMA champion from the past is played by Frank Shamrock, who is a champion in real life. And such a success story. My scenes were all with Kevin McNamara, but I met Frank and he’s such a delightful guy. I met him, Josie Loren, and everyone at the table reading. Everyone is top drawer and serious about what they do. It’s a great story with great choreography… but I’m the evil guy.
GS: As you said, Frank was a champion for a while and had the belt. Kevin McNamara is not a professional fighter. Was there a sort of preparation he had to go through to look like he was fighting on Shamrock’s level?
DJ: Kevin is actually a trained mixed martial arts fighter, so he didn’t have to train as hard as you might think. He’s still an amateur, but he knows what he’s doing. At the table read, he just suggested that if Frank was going to throw a lot of kicks that he should tone those down because kicking was not his strong point. But he followed the choreography easily, and he’s like 6’3″ and broad shouldered, so he looks the part.
GS: This a short film, so how quick are we talking? Five minutes? A half hour?
DJ: It’s meant for viewing on YouTube, and you want to keep your time down on YouTube for the short attention span audience. So it’s short. That’s what I liked about “First Impressions”. It was under ten minutes, and that helped it pack a punch. You get sucked in, involved, with a payoff that comes rather quickly. This is the same thing, gets you involved, has you fighting along with Kevin, maybe using your elbows. By the end, you’re like, “I see what he signed up for.”
GS: Gotta have that twist in there.
DJ: Yeah. And the devil’s got new technology. You used to have to sign on the dotted line with a scroll and a fingernail dipped in blood. This time I have an iPad, which I think is great.
GS: What was your first time shooting at YouTube Space LA like?
DJ: We shot this at YouTube Space LA, which I had never heard of. George, the producer, told me that’s where we were going and I said, “There’s a YouTube Space LA?” He said, “Oh gosh, yeah.” It looks like a TV network. There are huge studios, offices, sound stages. There’s security to get in just like NBC or CBS. I was very impressed with the facility. It’s a space available to any YouTube contributor who has a certain number of subscribers. You take a course to know how to use the place. But after that, you can use the space for free. YouTube wants the content out there because everyone benefits, so they have this space available to keep everything looking professional. That includes all the equipment. The gaffers can come in and use equipment you usually have to rent… for free. It’s well worth the time investment to use the facility.
GS: It’s the next generation of entertainment.
DJ: Absolutely it is. And the BlackBox channel on YouTube is great, with an audience that rivals TV ratings. And in doing short films, I get to show my face a bit more so people make that connection when they see me at conventions or film festivals outside of the Silver Surfer costume.
GS: You have to get that face recognition.
DJ: Yeah. Thanks to my webmaster, I’m known as the most famous actor you’ve never seen. And people have been quoting it ever since.
GS: We’re working on changing that. Thanks, Doug!
DJ: Thank you.