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Perlman Done Hiding Behind the Mask

Hellboy 2 actor, Ron Perlman says now that he is in 50s and “quite comfortable in his own skin” he “no longer” needs the mask as much as he used to. Read on:

For much of his career, Ron Perlman has been an actor in hiding.

And for a long time, that was how he wanted it. Masks and heavy makeup were his defences.

“When I first started out in this business, I was really quite uncomfortable in my own skin,” admits the star of the upcoming Hellboy II: The Golden Army. So for him, transforming himself into something else in the makeup chair was a form of release.

Go back to Perlman’s film debut and his Genie-nominated performance in 1981 as the caveman Amoukar in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Quest For Fire and you find an actor covered in makeup. Five years later Annaud cast him as a hunchback in The Name Of The Rose – and then came his award-winning turn as Vincent the lion man in television’s Beauty And The Beast. He continued to be an actor behind the mask playing a vampire in Blade 2, and a Reman viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis.

“Luckily, the good lord provided these roles,” Perlman says. Playing a grotesque on screen was an escape from his own perceived reality.

“All this happened during a period of my life when I was more comfortable behind a mask than I would have been naked . . . and it freed me up. It made me freer because it was no longer me. It was a transforming version of me which was very abstract in relation to my own persona. So it made acting more possible and more freeing.”

There’s quiet self-assurance mingled with humility as Perlman faces reporters this morning – a distinguished-looking middle-aged man with a military bearing, trim pepper-and-salt mustache and sunglasses casually pushed up over his greying hair. Not someone, you would think, who needed to assume an alien exterior to deal with feelings of inferiority.

Yet this award-winning, classically-trained actor, whose stage credits range from Shakespeare and Moliere to Beckett and Pinter, once famously observed he always believed he possessed monstrous aspects he must learn to live with.

“I was not dealt the best physical hand in the world,” he commented a few years ago. “My nose didn’t fit my mouth, My forehead didn’t fit my cheeks. . . . So, consequently, I suffered from very low self-esteem. In a sense I had a beast inside me.”

But much has changed since then – even though Perlman has once again donned the horns, tail, over-muscled torso, red-leather visage and bad-ass attitude of the cigar-chomping, kitten-loving Hellboy for a new Hollywood instalment in the chaotic life of this unique comic-book hero.

“These days, I’m in my 50s and I’m quite comfortable in my own skin and I no longer need the mask as much as I used to. So now it becomes: how much pleasure am I going to take in playing a masked character?”

When it comes to the engaging blue-collar monster that he first brought to the screen in 2004, Perlman doesn’t even need to ask himself the question. Besides, he wanted to work again with Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, one of the screen’s great visual stylists.

Del Toro has said that Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which opens July 11, is the movie he wanted to make the first time around, but only now has he been given the budget to enable him to fulfil his vision. Four years ago, Del Toro and producer Mike Mignola, the creator of the cult Hellboy comic, had to fight to cast Perlman over the studio’s choice of Vin Diesel. So Perlman feels he owes his rotund director an enormous debt for giving him the role.

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