The Doug Jones Experience on location in Budapest: Part 6 – Goodbye, New York … and Budapest … November 1, 2007Posted by hellmistress in Filming, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Thursday 27th September, 2007
Day 84 of filming (continued)
Wearing prosthetics and makeup in films is an absolute pain in the bahookie. No, really, it is. And I wasn’t even the one wearing it. If I was, I would have given up the job years ago and found a nice comfortable, easy pastime cleaning sewers.
Pat and I sat opposite Doug in his trailer as we ate our hot lunch, once more courtesy of the lovely and considerate Meshi, and as we ate I realised yet again just how inhibiting, uncomfortable and tiring it is wearing all of this stuff for 12 to 18 hours a day, beautiful and well-designed though it is.
Doug was now wearing Abe’s eyes, those gorgeous, dark, gold-flecked orbs that are so much a part of the character. They are also incredibly inhibiting, reducing Doug’s vision down to a tiny triangle in each tear duct. Add the difficulty of avoiding getting food on the makeup around the lips, and the simple process of eating a meal becomes very arduous indeed. Any oil from the food has to be dabbed off his lips after every small mouthful, and the process is a slow one, by necessity. Doug finished his food long after we did, and I’m sure it was cold by that time.
Everything that we take for granted and don’t think about, like eating a meal, becomes a hurdle that has to be overcome … every time you take a drink of water it has to be just enough to keep you hydrated but not enough to put pressure on the bladder, because that is even more hassle if you have to visit the bathroom. Doug told us that he has to know his body and its limitations very well, and every day is a fine balancing act to enable him to be as comfortable as possible and to sustain his energy levels without compromising the prosthetics and the makeup. And he does that for 12 to 18 hours a day, 6 days a week. This is a 120-day shoot. Do the math. And then he has to give an acting performance on top of that. No wonder he says he has to not only think like an actor, but also as an athlete. Daunting, isn’t it?
And this is a situation borne not only by Doug, but by Ron, Anna and Luke, as they are all in makeup for this film. Tough, yet what a magnificent job they do of it.
Anyway, after lunch it was time for our post-grub snooze, and we were just settling down in our respective comfy places when …
We all awoke with a start, and for a moment it sounded as though one of the external generators had exploded.
This time it was closer, and was immediately followed by an ominous rumble, followed instantly by another trailer-shakingly loud crash. Through the skylights of the trailer, brilliant light flashed and cracked as forked lightning arced across a blackened sky. The torrential downpour began seconds later, as the heavens opened. The noise of the rain on the trailer roof was intense, and the storm was right above us, the electrical discharges making lights flicker all around the trailer park and beyond. Water trickled down the inside of the trailer door due to the seal not being flush, but it trickled right back out again, so no damp carpets! But within minutes it stopped, just as suddenly as it had begun, and we settled back down awaiting the call to the set and our now customary snooze. It was about 1am.
We were woken by more banging – this time from someone knocking on the trailer door, and Bart Mixon joined us.
“Thought I’d take you for a look around the other sets,” he said, smiling.
GdT had given us permission to do so earlier in the evening, so grabbing our jackets and leaving Doug to relax, we set off, picking our way over to the huge sound stages, skirting enormous puddles of water as we went.
Korda Studios is state-of-the-art, and very big. The sound stage which houses the Bethmoora set and the lair of the Angel of Death is enormous, and eerily neat. No dings on the door jambs and no scrapes on the floors … it even smells new. It is, by necessity, barn-like, but the design team on Hellboy II had gone to town transforming this huge area into something that even in its unfinished state was deliciously eerie and unnerving.
If you visit the official site for Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and go to the gallery, you’ll see some of the pre-production artwork for Bethmoora, and the set design is phenomenal, although a lot of the scene will be matte work and CG backgrounds – evidenced by the huge green screen around the set.
But the set that truly creeped me out is the lair of the Angel of Death. Yet again the set was at this point still unfinished, but we walked along a pathway surrounded by – well, things (use your imagination), and entered the lair.
“Woah!” sez I.
“Yeah,” says Bart. “Good, huh.”
“It reminds me of H.R. Giger,” I replied, pretty lamely. That was the only answer I could think of that even remotely covered a description of the set.
Bart nodded. “Other people have said that too, and I’d agree, but it’s more organic, I think.”
Pat and I stood for a few minutes and drank in the atmosphere, and then we slowly moved along. Although I did notice a lot of jars with stuff in them. What kind of stuff? Well, Guillermo del Toro kind of stuff – GdT does love weird things in jars. I left the sound stage smiling at that one.
We strolled around more of the site, and met some interesting characters and objects on the way … Fragglewump, another critter played by the versatile Brian Steele (you’re going to love this fella!), a canary cage (Hmmm … curiouser and curiouser …) and … gasp … Doug’s two other characters The Chamberlain and, of course, the much anticipated Angel of Death. Both stunning and original designs, I have to say now that for me, the Angel is going to be the Pale Man (from Pan’s Labyrinth) of this film. Designed by the astonishing Norman Cabrera, she truly is … well … beautiful. I know, I know … that’s a word you wouldn’t expect to be used in this context, but, dagnabbit, she is. As well as being awe-inspiringly intimidating and downright creepifyin.’ She is also presenting her own challenges to both the makeup team (Simon and Thom once again) and to Doug, who has to create yet another haunting and paradoxical character through difficult prosthetics. And I know, because a certain tall, lean actor mentioned it in an interview, that there is in this script, the potential for this special lady to turn up in Hellboy 3. Just sayin’ …
Our tour over, we thanked Bart for his kindness and headed back to the trailer to hang out with Doug until he was called for makeup touch-up at about 3am. Snoozing quietly, we were awoken about thirty minutes later by Doug, returning sans makeup – once again, we were wrapped for the night. But in our case, Pat and I were wrapped for the movie – this was our last time on-set.
We were about to leave, as Gabor would be with us in just a few minutes to pick us up, so all that remained was for us to hand out goodie bags to Guillermo and Ron. GdT already knew he had one waiting for him – we had told him earlier, and his eyes lit up, twinkling with delight.
“You have swag?? For me?? I LOVE swag!” And he does. It doesn’t matter what you give him in a goodie bag, it’s as if you’ve given him the world. This time it was cookies and fudge, gothic literature and messages from members of the deltorofilms.com message board. We handed his bag to Adorable Ben, who, it later transpired, went straight to Guillermo with his swag, where it was duly consumed/read with great gusto, and, I’m delighted to say, with much pleasure.
Ron had wrapped at the same time as Doug, so Pat popped her head out of the trailer to see if she could see any sign of him – and spotted him walking from his makeup trailer. He joined us for a few minutes in Doug’s trailer, and it was the only time during the whole trip we saw him as Ron, and not Hellboy. We chatted for a while, collected the requisite Ron hug, and joked about the shoot. We wished him luck with the rest of the filming, and he gave us that unique Ron grin as he headed back out into the chill night. A great guy and a truly superb actor.
We managed to hug Thom and Simon before we left, and squished the Adorable Ben too, but all too soon everything was over and Gabor collected us and drove us back through dark country roads to the beautiful city of Budapest, twinkling majestically on the banks of the timeless river Danube.
We reached our hotel at 4am, and then came a moment we were dreading – saying goodbye to Gabor, who had taken care of us so well and with such kindness during our visit. There was more hugging, held-back tears and lots of thank you’s for this generous young man. We were going to miss him dreadfully.
Then we hugged Doug, who we would see again before we left, and headed into the hotel to try and get some sleep. But it was a long time before either of us did so. Our minds were full of New York streets and BPRD agents, Fragglewumps and things in jars, ectoplasmic scientists and dark, dark angels … such wonderful things.
But tomorrow was our last day in Hungary, and we had to face the fact that we were going home. We finally slept.
Friday, 28th and Saturday, 29th September, 2007.
Days 85 and 86 of shooting.
Friday was a quiet day. We slept until nearly midday, and even then we were subdued as we wandered around the Emke district looking for odds and ends to take home to family and friends, and in the evening we called in at a delightful restaurant called Mosaik, close to our hotel, where we indulged ourselves with some excellent local dishes and absorbed the quiet, relaxed atmosphere.
Pat had suggested earlier in the day that we visit a museum, something I had been aching to do since we arrived in Budapest. But somehow I just couldn’t stir up the enthusiasm. When I return to Budapest one day I’ll pork out on all of the mouth-watering art galleries and museums this magical city has to offer, but I suppose, in retrospect, I was still trying to absorb the amazing times we had been given during our visit.
Saturday morning came all too soon. We sorted out things, packed, futtered about and finally had to accept the fact we were leaving. At noon we checked out, and after asking the hotel to order us a cab for 2:45, we settled down to wait.
But we had one final warm ‘n’ fuzzy treat before we left. At 1:30, Doug turned up to say goodbye. After not much more than 5 hours sleep, here he was, our surrogate Big Brother, to make sure we were okay and that we had everything in hand to get us home safely. The first thing we did was return his kettle and mugs that he had loaned us at the beginning of the week, because I happened to mention that we didn’t have tea-making facilities in our hotel room. Gabor was picking him up at the Boscolo at 2:45, so after an hour, it was finally time to say goodbye. Doug was given detailed instructions about who to hug for us, and an extra bag of M & Ms to share with Simon and Thom.
And then we hugged the crap out of him.
Our last glimpse of Dougie was of him dancing along the sidewalk waving like a loon at us through the hotel window. Yep. To quote Mister J … it’s all about the love.
A short cab ride to the airport, more hugs, and I said goodbye to my dear mate Pat, my co-conspirator and fellow webmaster. It had been an utter blast.
The flight home was soon over, and at Aberdeen airport there was my dear, patient husband Mark, waving enthusiastically at me from behind the barrier. He was quiet in the jeep on the way home, and when I had said hello to the mutts, he sat me down with a cup of tea, and parked himself opposite me on the sofa.
“Now then …” he said, with a smile. “Tell me all about it.”
So … I did.
So many people to thank, but I know you’ll bear with me, won’t you? Thom Floutz and Simon Webber, whose patience and generosity blew us away. And they are just so danged awesome. Nora – you are beautiful, inside and out. Driver Gabor, who took care of us like we were jewels. John and Angie Alexander, who were our set buddies and kept us straight in the weird and wonderful world of movie sets. Bart Mixon, for showing us around and just letting us be as geeky as all get out. To all of the people who were so kind to us on set … Tim ‘Gore’ Larsen … Mike Elizalde … Mark Setrakian … 2nd AD Ben, who was so good to us – I think I will adopt him … Brian Herring and Jamie Wilson, such charming souls … Nick, who guided us in the right direction and made sure we didn’t get lost … James Dodd, our Johann part 2 … Trusty Russell, Guillermo’s assistant … sweet Meshi, who made sure we were fed … Brian Steele, who made my day and enabled me to brag that I’ve been waved at by a troll … Selma Blair … such a sweetheart … and of course, Mister Ron Perlman who is just … well … Ron. And Hellboy. Wow.
Guillermo del Toro. He is El Maestro. ‘Nuff said.
And Dougie. Mister Doug Jones, gentleman, actor extraordinaire and beloved fishstick, without whom none of this would have been possible. He made this trip for two ol’ fan-girls such an amazing experience. Thanks, Mister J – we owe you one.
So this is Webmaster Helen signing off. Thanks for your patience and forbearance, and for tolerating my unabashed fan-girly drivel. Go see Hellboy II: The Golden Army when it hits cinemas next summer – I can tell you now, you won’t be disappointed.
There’s BIG LOVE!!!!!
Thursday, 27th September, 2007
Day 84 of filming
That 2:15pm pick-up at the Boscolo couldn’t come quick enough. Pat and I had a bite to eat at lunchtime and napped for a bit, then headed over to the Boscolo. There we were greeted by someone who became a friend during our stay – Musah, the doorman, owner of the whitest, cheekiest smile you could ever wish to see. Whenever we walked past the Boscolo and Musah was on day shift, we went through a ritual:
US: Good morning/afternoon, Musah!
MUSAH: (HUGE grin) Good morning/afternoon, Madams! How are you today?? Are you having fun?
US: We’re just tip-top, Musah, thank you. And how are you?
MUSAH: (an even HUGER grin) I am one hundred and TEN percent!!!
Thus would ensue lots of hugs with Musah’s unquenchable good nature washing over us like summer sunlight.
Today was no different, and after the giving and accepting of hugs, Musah escorted us into the Atrium and made sure we were comfortable. Bless him, he works 12-hour shifts, but no matter how weary he is, Musah always has a big smile and a welcome – a truly lovely soul.
We had a few minutes until Doug joined us, so I took the opportunity for one last photo of the Boscolo – here’s the New York Café.
At 2:15 precisely, Gabor arrived and picked all three of us up, and we headed out on a decidedly cooler September afternoon to Korda Studios, a brand-spanking new facility built near the little town of Etyek about 17 miles out of Budapest. The weather was dull and threatening to rain, so I began to wonder if the scenes would have to be changed to the wet-weather alternatives, but the rain held off as we travelled past fields of what had only weeks earlier been full of sunflowers, but were now ploughed and harrowed, reseeded for the coming spring.
As we drove, Doug stretched out in his customary Travel Mode in the passenger seat, and I got out my journal and read out all of the greetings and messages of love and good wishes for him that had either been sent via email or on message boards on Del Toro Films or hellboy.com. And before anyone asks, yes, I read out every single one. Doug knew so many of the names, and the ones that he didn’t know he asked where they came from and hoped he could meet them at a convention one day so he could hug on them. So be warned – Mister J is a man of his word!
Korda Studios is perched at the top of an incline on a small side road, and as we drove towards it I could see the half-finished entrance to the left – the studios won’t actually be finished until April, 2008 – but we drove around to the side, through a security gate and onto the back lot. There 3rd AD Nick was waiting for us outside the trailer park, set up between the craft service tent, a bunch of generators and cables, and the enormous New York Street set, the back of which dominated the landscape beside the studios, a mass of scaffolding and struts three or four stories high at least.
Doug’s trailer was right next to Ron’s, and we dumped our bags then headed out for the cereal run. Stomachs filled, it was once again into the makeup trailer, to be met by Thom, Simon and the Beautiful Nora, who, as always, gave us her gorgeous smile and welcome.
Once again we were treated to the awesomeness that is the makeup for Abe, but this time it was only Thom as Simon was busy unpacking appliances for, it turned out, another of Doug’s characters in the film – the creepy-as-all-get-out Angel of Death. Thom and I chatted about all sorts of things, and discussed the merits of the Hand of Glory, a fun but gruesome requirement for any self-respecting robber in far earlier, less squeamish times. A Hand of Glory is the desiccated hand of an executed and gibbeted man, which would magically open any lock. If the tallow of the hanged man was made into a candle and inserted between the fingers of the hand, it had the added and welcome benefit of making occupants of the house insensible. Very handy, if you’ll excuse the pun. This all came about because of a deep discussion Simon and I had earlier in the week about a knife made of a Cassowary bone. Cool stuff. Well, you had to be there, if you get my drift.
While we talked, Doug had his customary bowl of fruit salad, and dozed while listening to a mutual favourite – Alan Ritchson, a young actor and singer whose music delights both of us. His ‘Guppy’ is my song of choice on my MySpace page. A wonderful singer, who also played ‘Aquaman’ on Smallville. These fishy guys get everywhere, y’know?
By 6:30pm Doug was finished, Dresser Mike arrived to get him into his Abe gear, and Pat and I headed out for breakfast at craft service. Once again, the place was swarming with cast and crew, but this time there were quite a few dangerous-looking fellows in black suits and overcoats, smart, slick and official-looking. But we had a heap of most excellent food to distract us, and as we cleared our plates and cutlery I noticed a familiar face. I tapped Pat on the shoulder.
“That’s Bart!” I said.
Bart Mixon, with whom I had been corresponding for some weeks and who was keen to see us while we were in Hungary. Bart is another of these amazing people who does makeup – he had been with Rick Baker on the first Hellboy film, working on Ron, and this time he was with Spectral Motion, doing the beautiful makeup on Luke Goss, who plays the villain of the story, Prince Nuada of the Silverlance. Pat was also keen to speak to Bart as he worked with Ron on Primal Force, a fan favourite, and Star Trek: Nemesis in which he did the Reman makeup. We accosted dear Bart, who is just delightful, and we chatted for a wee while before promising to touch base with him on set, as he had a cameo appearance as a mechanic.
Heading out of craft service, we were met with a beautiful sight – the sun setting over the trailer park and the fields beyond. A truly sublime moment, and one I will not forget anytime soon.
As we turned around the corner to the gap between Doug’s and Ron’s trailers, we saw Simon still bringing in boxes. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him.
We settled down in the trailer with Doug, who was ready to go in his BPRD outfit and wearing a warm parka, and he checked the ‘sides’ as usual to see if he had dialogue. Yep – this time he did. He read through it all a couple of times, and then handed the pages to me, who had the daunting task of running his lines with him. Gulp. Oh well – it’s a good job I never had any aspirations to become an actor. Within a couple of minutes Doug was word-perfect, and I could wipe the sweat from my brow.
At 7:15pm, Adorable Ben knocked on the trailer door, saying it was time for Doug to head out to the set. Now here was a dilemma – should we take the little golf-cart thingy to the set, or just walk there? Hmmm … decisions, decisions … but before we could make our collective minds up, we were sidetracked by the arrival of Selma Blair, also heading onto the set. We had met her sweet little one-eyed Wink dog earlier, hanging out with Nigel and his handler. Doug introduced us to Selma, who flung her arms around me for a hug.
“I’ve heard so much about you!” she said, smiling. Oh dear …
Anyway, Selma was just completely gorgeous … a very beautiful young woman with a droll and utterly charming sense of humour. We talked for a few minutes about the success of Hellboy Animated, and the hopes for a third film. She hadn’t known that Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms had been Emmy-nominated, and she even admitted she hadn’t had any chance at all to see either of the films yet due to her hefty work schedules. We reassured her that they were both very good, especially Blood and Iron, and she grinned with relief.
Her look in this film is very different from the Liz Sherman of the first Hellboy movie … sleeker, sharper … different hair (which suits her very well) and a nod to the Liz of the comics with a large crucifix at her throat. This Liz is more self-assured, more comfortable and in control of her powers, although she has a lot to deal with in this film.
The Adorable Ben reminded us gently that we had to be on set, like now, and Doug decided to walk there – so we accompanied him through the increasing darkness. Stepping over cables and wandering between trailers, we made our way towards the huge wall of scaffolding before us. Heading for a gap in that wall, we finally, within a few steps, walked from Eastern Europe to a completely different world … a dingy downtown street in New York, complete with gently steaming manhole covers, yellow cabs and NYPD cruisers.
The whole set is completely, gobsmackingly HUGE.
I managed a quick wander about before rehearsals began, and, as always, marvelled at the detail. Dead plants on run-down balconies … graffiti all over the place … newspaper vending machines complete with headlines of the day. And bang in the foreground was a very large, extremely shiny and officious-looking garbage truck.
GdT and Navarro were already set up and ready to rehearse the scenes, so Pat and I, now being old hands at all this movie-making lark, quickly sussed out where we could stand and stay out of shot and not be in the way of lighting equipment and the like. Our location was also right next door to a convenient bench for sitting on. Egad, we were getting good at all this! There was hot honeyed tea to be had too, and it was much appreciated as the night was turning pretty cool.
We stood about for a few minutes chatting to John Alexander, this time already kitted out as Johann apart from the head (Helmet? Glass bubble?). John grinned at me from beneath his baseball cap.
“Well? What do you think?” he asked, gesturing at the getup.
I stepped back and checked out the suit. Now, if you’re expecting a full and detailed description of Johann Krauss, you can think again – no details, folks. I can’t tell you everything, now can I? However … hmm … let me think … brown heavy canvas, leather, and metal bits and pieces that faintly clicked and clanked when John moved about, valves … I just geeked out on the spot. But I still hadn’t seen the head bit – that was going to be the clincher – or not. Johann’s headpiece in the BPRD comics is a wonderfully blank bowl with a vent as a mouthpiece, so I was curious to see what the design wallahs had come up with – and John told me that they had been very inventive at the start, when he was brought in to see drawings and maquettes of his character. There is also a bonelessness to Johann in the comics that I was pretty sure they couldn’t reproduce in the film, but as far as I was concerned at this point I was happy enough with the translation from page to screen. I would finally see ALL of Johann when the camera rolled on this scene.
Suddenly the set was awash with men in black suits. Ah-hah! It clicked in my teeny-tiny brain who they were – BPRD agents. The guys from the craft service tent. Check.
Bart Mixon joined us, already in his baseball cap and mechanic’s overalls, ready for his scene later on. We chatted for a bit about his work, and he told us about his dad’s FX museum in Texas, where he displays all of the wonderful prosthetic designs that Bart has done through the years. Bart’s twin brother is also in the business, but instead of prosthetics he’s into visual FX – good ol’ CGI. We also talked about his work not only on the Hellboy movies but also on Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, in which he did the makeup on Ben Grimm, The Thing, played by Michael Chiklis. I told him I thought the design was terrific, so incredibly expressive. Lovely stuff. Bart is a HUGE comic book fan, especially of Jack Kirby, and he told me – albeit with a big smile on his face – about his dislike of the fact that the movie Silver Surfer had ears. But despite that, we both geeked away merrily, chatting about Spectral Motion’s gorgeous – gorgeous – suit for Doug as the Surfer, designed by the brilliant Jose Fernandez. Keep your eyes peeled for Bart – and if you look closely, you’ll see a familiar name on his overalls – J. Kirby.
Rehearsals were finally under way, which involved moving stuff out of the garbage truck, with lots of BPRD agents milling about along with Hellboy, Liz, Abe, Johann and Manning. Yes, Jeffrey was on set. To my great regret, time was such that we never got to meet him. Maybe on Hellboy III??? Ah, a gal can dream …
I had seen several large BPRD containers being shunted about in the parking lot, and here they were being unloaded from the truck. All of this involved quite a bit of choreography and practice, and then HB, Abe and Johann had a little scene together. Although I was a wee bit too far away to hear the dialogue clearly, I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it was to see the rapport between the three of them. Truly Big Red and Brother Blue back together again, with a mild-mannered German scientist who just so happens to be ectoplasm in a bag, sandwiched between them. I had to laugh as Ron/Hellboy sauntered away from them making ‘blah-blah-blah’ gestures with his hand. I tell ya, the dialogue in this film is just delicious!
At this point all three actors were working in basic outfits and their parkas, as this was just a rehearsal, but after an hour or so Guillermo was ready to shoot.
Cue lots of activity getting Doug and John especially into the rest of their outfits. For Doug, it was eyes and goggles (I’d seen the eyes close up earlier in the day when Simon let me have a look at them – beautiful, beautiful things!), jacket, belt complete with sidearm, and finally Abe’s respirator. The whole outfit is somewhat different from the first film, but I liked it a lot. Simon stood by with the controls to operate the bubbles in the respirator, and Thom joined us to make sure Doug’s makeup was up to par.
When Doug joined us later in the evening, he asked me with a very Abe-ish tilt of his head “Well? I look hot, huh.” I nodded and grinned. “Ohhhh yeah … hottest fishstick I ever saw.”
And John? Well, finally, we got to see all of Johann. John has to have the suit built onto him, in a way, and the head is no exception … lots of fitting and screws being tightened and so on. It is different from the comics, there’s no question about that, but it works – oh yes indeed! I loved it. Considering Johann is just an entity in a suit, it conveys a lot of character, and John’s finely nuanced movements were just the icing on the cake. And there are animatronics involved too, with all of the little quirky fiddly stuff Guillermo likes, so don’t worry – Johann is going to be quite a presence in this film!
Ron slipped into his leather duster and buckled on his belt with the Samaritan already holstered, acquired a tail, added on the Right Hand of Doom and was ready to go.
“BRING ON THE CARS!” hollered Guillermo.
His trusty assistant Russell shooed us all back onto the sidewalk for safety, and everything clicked into action. There were pickups, jeeps, Chevys and yellow cabs, plus an NYPD cruiser for good measure, all slowly creeping onto the set and into position. All of the drivers, as far as I’m aware, were Hungarian, so instructions were translated for them via walkie-talkie.
In fact, as the evening went on, I was continually astonished at what a polyglot environment it was – I heard, in perhaps the space of two minutes, Hungarian, German, Czech, Spanish and so many different voices speaking English, both American and British. Yet at no time did there seem to be a breakdown in communications, whether it was Navarro yelling instructions in Spanish to his Dream Team or a bunch of BPRD agents laughing over cups of honeyed tea, talking in Hungarian and Czech. Sometimes you would hear Ron’s deep, rumbling chuckle and New York-tinged words, or Guillermo’s utterly charming Mexican accent discussing something with Russell … Doug’s infectious laugh would reply to a dry comment from Simon, English through and through … soft-spoken American Thom Floutz talking to Texan Bart Mixon about their time in Vancouver working on Silver Surfer or on Kelsey Grammer’s Beast in X-Men 3… Ron’s photo double Attila Molnar from the Czech Republic chatting to one of his countrymen on the crew … Pat’s soft Welsh accent answering John Alexander’s humour-laced British tones … so many voices.
But I digress.
Guillermo is known for his preference for moving shots, and this film is no exception – there is a crane shot as a small crane carrying camera and operator moves in from the left, so once that is set up, GdT cues the cars via Russell and the translator, and yells … ACTION!!!
Extras swing into motion, cars slowly create the impression of traffic, and a big shiny garbage truck disgorges a bunch of black-coated grim-looking men pushing BIG cases with the BPRD logo on the side, a slender girl in big boots, a tall, officious-looking gentleman in a flat cap, a blue fish-guy, a strange-looking fellow in a baggy canvas suit but minus a face, and last of all, a big, gruff red demon with shaved down horns, a huge stone hand and a tail, griping as only big red demons with shaved-down horns, huge stone hand and a tail can do.
One of the FX team, Tim ‘Gore’ Larsen, who also worked on the Surfer suit for Doug, has a cameo in this scene, so if you see a tough-lookin’ bearded fellow with piercings and tattoos yelling abuse at Hellboy in the movie, that’s Tim – one of the sweetest, nicest guys you could ever wish to meet … and also one of the most talented artists in the business.
For the next hour and more, we watch as GdT tweaks the scene, changing not only Tim’s lines, but also Doug’s. Well, all that acting angst I dredged up back in the trailer running lines was for naught. Sigh. That’s my burgeoning acting career down the proverbial drain. Yeah, right …
We also had the pleasure of Ron’s company during a break between takes, as he wandered over to say Hi. You can read about that meeting over on Pat’s report on The Perlman Pages.
It was between all of these takes as they reset, that I saw Johann walking past. Huh? But … but Johann’s over there … in the scene … with Doug and everyone!!! Isn’t he????
The figure turned around and smiled.
“Hi,” he says from a totally unfamiliar face. “I’m James Dodd.”
“Ahhh,” says I, “that explains it!”
Doug had mentioned Mr. Dodd earlier on in the blog here.
James, a thoroughly charming and handsome young British actor, is sharing the performance of Johann with John Alexander. The reason? John is playing two parts in the film, and scheduling is such that James was asked to fill in the breach. I would have dearly loved to have taken a picture of John and James together in their suits, but sadly … no cameras allowed. Maybe when the film is released we’ll get to see them together. Uncanny stuff. Oh, and the other character John’s playing? You’ll just have to wait and see – he’s quite a fellow, I can tell you!
Finally, the scene was in the can and it was time to break for lunch. It was midnight, and we were getting hungry. So we headed back to Doug’s trailer and prepared to eat a hot meal to warm us up. I’ll break off here for now, and continue the story later – but stay tuned – there is a LOT more to come
BIG LOVE!!! – Webmaster Helen
Days 82 & 83 of filming
We had decided we would take Tuesday off as our only tourist day of the trip as the weather was supposed to turn bad later on in the week, so with Big Brother Dougie’s words ringing in our ears (“Do NOT hail a cab in the street – get your hotel to call one from this company – this is the one I use, and they’re very good, and reasonably priced too! Oh, and watch out for traffic, they drive like mad things here … oh, oh, and watch out for pickpockets on the metro, etc., etc.”) we headed off to do the touristy bit.
Angie Alexander had recommended a boat trip along the Danube to Margaret Island that sounded perfectly relaxing, so that’s what we did, dutifully getting our hotel to call our cab which dropped us off at the Marriott Hotel down by the river, and settling down in a big, airy riverboat that took us on a leisurely – and highly informative – trip along the Danube to the island set in the river between the two cities. On the way we saw the castle (impressive) St. Matthias’s Church (gorgeous) and the Parliament Building (a jumble of soaring neo-gothic spires made of limestone that is constantly falling to pieces – hence the building always has some bit of it or another shrouded in scaffolding as the limestone is replaced).
Margaret Island has been many things in its long and colourful history (including a harem!) but now it is a place of relaxation and leisure for the people of Budapest. There are beautiful formal gardens, fountains that play music, quiet walks among rustling, bird-garlanded trees, and a lovely little medieval church that is balm to a bruised soul. Oh, and ruins of a convent. I took pictures, just to prove to my work colleagues that I hadn’t totally abandoned my mission in life to be geeky about old things. There is even a delightful little petting zoo.
On our way back on the boat we basked in the early evening sunlight while sipping on a fruit cocktail drink. On disembarking we headed back to ‘Spoon,’ our now-favourite riverboat restaurant, and sat on the upper deck consuming disgraceful amounts of food and watching the sun set over the river. Ahhhh … this was the life!!! However, we decided enough was enough, and after dinner we headed back to the hotel (and yes, we asked the restaurant to call us a cab – see? We were very good.) to catch up on our shut-eye, as we were going to be back on set tomorrow, and we were now heading into night-shift mode.
Doug had told us he would telephone as soon as he got back to his hotel and let us know the call time, although he was worried that it would be a late ‘phone call as shoots were ending in the early hours of the morning. We told him not to fret about it – it wouldn’t bother us, no siree. So after an evening stroll to walk off dinner, we hit the sack and wondered what the coming day – or night – would bring …
The sun was shining in through the hotel window and Pat and I were chatting about what the day might hold, when the telephone rang. I checked the time – eight-thirty on this gorgeous Wednesday morning. I lifted the receiver. It was was our Big Brother Dougie. This is how the conversation went.
DOUG: (sleepily) Precious Heeeeleeeen … (For those who haven’t met Doug yet, everyone is precious – and he means it.)
ME: Hey, Doug! My goodness, did you just get in from the shoot??
DOUG: (yawn) Oh, no … I got back (another yawn) at 6:15 …
ME: 6:15??? But … it’s 8:30 (does hefty mental calculation … that’s over 2 hours ago). Did … did you just wake up?
DOUG: Um … yeah … set alarm … too early to call you at 6:15 …
ME: (clarity kicks in like a mule on a bad hair day) You mean you set your alarm and woke up just to phone us? Oh, Dougie! (I have an instant major guilt trip)
DOUG: (blearily) Huh? (HUGE Yawn)
ME: (Overwhelmed by his consideration and kindness.) Never mind. I’ll scold you later. (Which I do … but very nicely.)
It transpired that Adorable 2nd AD Ben had said the call time was 4:00pm, and Doug arranged to meet us in our usual place in the Boscolo Atrium. Ringing off to let poor Doug get back to his much-needed sleep, we began our day.
So, we set about fulfilling one of the most important responsibilities of our whole trip – writing and sending postcards! We set off to find a post office, and on the way we stumble upon one of those things that send me into what almost becomes a geeky nirvana – a whole street of antiquarian bookshops. Within seconds I’m staggering from one book-stuffed window to another … I see beautiful early hand-tinted maps … tiny little psalters in gorgeous (and virtually unreadable) gothic script … a commentary on the Testamentum, an alchemical work by Richard Lull, that makes my teeths water … and an exquisite little missal bound in vellum, the musical notes as bright and as sharp on their pages today as they were 350 years ago … so many magical things. Poor Pat. She never knew what hit her. Yet, bless her, she patiently put up with my pathetic whining about my state of relative penury (I would have had to sell my car to buy even the cheapest of the books I wanted) and made sympathetic noises in all the right places. As I bewailed my poverty-stricken circumstances while perusing a particularly sweet little 19th century book of Hungarian fairy tales, she patted my back and said “Never mind. Maybe one day when you’re rich and famous …” All I could do was whimper.
I finally dragged my carcase out of the shops and the street, and grumbled and moaned all the way back to the hotel. Sigh. Life is so unfair …
Anyway, I finally got over myself and kicked my backside into gear, and we decided to have a bite of lunch and then fall into bed for a couple of hours to get ourselves into night-shoot mode.
At 2:15pm the telephone rang. It was Dougie. This is how the conversation went:
DOUG: (perkily) Hey, Precious Helen!!!
ME: Mpff??? (Yawn) Oh, hey Doug.
DOUG: (sounding disgracefully chipper) I just got a call from Benny (Adorable 2nd AD Ben) – looks like they won’t need me today as Guillermo’s just shooting Selma and Jeffrey in the garbage truck – we have the rest of the day to ourselves! How about we all do some sightseeing and then have dinner?
PAT: Wha …???? (yawn)
ME: (aside) It’s Dougie – no shoot tonight, and we’re going out and about. Sightseeing. Dinner.
PAT: Huh? (removes earplugs) Dinner???
ME: (aside) Tell you later. (Yawn) That sounds wonderful, Doug.
DOUG: (chuckling) You girls were napping, weren’t you???
I just love the way he calls us ‘girls.’ It makes this rotund, middle-aged ol’ Scottish lady’s day.
So, we had a plan. Doug was going to try and sort out transport, and he’d call us in a bit. We stayed slumped on our beds snoozing. At 4pm the telephone rang again, and Doug told us that although he had no luck finding a driver, Gabor had turned up on schedule, as someone had forgot to tell him Doug wasn’t on set today.
“We’ll pick you up in five minutes!” Doug added.
Sweet Gabor’s timekeeping, as always, was impeccable, and we clambered into the MPV (with darkened windows, no less!) and off we went. Gabor had spoken to his boss, who had told him to take Doug wherever he wished to go, and head out to the Korda Studios afterwards. So, Gabor asked with his usual lovely smile, where did Doug want to go?
“I must show you Heroes’ Square!” he said.
Situated at the end of Andrassy Korut, Heroes’ Square was built in 1896 to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the arrival of the seven tribes led by Árpád in the Carpathian Basin, later to become the nation of Hungary.
Even if you’re not into statuary, this place is seriously stunning. It is a vast square with a column in the centre towering 36 meters skywards, carrying the statue of the Archangel Gabriel. At its base are the equestrian statues of the leaders of the seven tribes. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, at one end of the square is a monumental split semi-circle of columns inset with statues of famous leaders of the nation of Hungary. On each corner were the symbols of War and Peace, Work and Welfare, Knowledge and Glory. Embellish the square with the gorgeous Gallery of Art on one side and the Museum of Fine Arts on the other, and you have definite cultural overload of the finest kind.
I took pictures.
I couldn’t resist the equestrian statues (my love of militaria combined with images of horses just had me in paroxysms of wonder), and I was fascinated with the armour and horse furnishings – one of the horses had a bridle made of deer antlers, for cryin’ out loud! And that’s historically accurate, by the way. Aren’t they just delectable?
And this is Doug’s favourite of the four symbols – he liked it because of the grace and poise of the figure.
Finally, the requisite tourist shot. Pat, Doug and me. The gentleman on the bicycle to the left was doing astonishing tricks on it until he fell off and ruined the moment, poor soul.
After gawping like toddlers at this amazing place, we walked from the square across the road to Vajdahunyad Castle, built in 1896 (along with Heroes’ Square) to show off all of the architectural styles of Hungary. It’s quite a place, and houses among other things the city’s Agricultural Museum. It is, quite frankly, the most majestic agricultural museum I’ve ever seen – and that’s just from the outside. And I can say that with authority, because, geeky person that I am, I’ve seen quite a few agricultural museums. But never one like this. Still, time was a-wastin’ and we headed back to the car. But as we walked along I spotted this among the trees – and stopped dead in my tracks.
This is the statue of Anonymous, by Miklós Ligeti, created to remember the work of the unidentified chronicler of the history of the early Magyar peoples.
Of all of the wonderful statues and monuments in Budapest, this was the One. You know what I mean … this hooded, haunting figure just reached out and touched something within me, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I sensed someone standing beside me. It was Doug. He looked down at me thoughtfully, and said “Yeah … the first time I saw it, it ‘spoke’ to me, too.” We all stood and gazed at this mysterious and captivating figure for a while, until time became tight and we had to reluctantly move on. But when I return to Budapest one day (note I said ‘when,’ and not ‘if’) the first place I will return to is here … to see Anonymous.
A quick drive across the river then up a winding road to the top of Gellért Hill brought us to the Citadel, a fortress built by the Hapsburgs in 1851. Here we walked from the car park to the Liberation Monument, where there were absolutely breathtaking views of the City and the Danube spread out before us.
As we walked, we passed a little group of mannequins set on the sidewalk. Doug couldn’t resist.
The monument itself soars into the sky … a young woman proffers an olive branch, a symbol of peace, to the city and its people lying before her. She was put there in 1947, both as a celebration of freedom and as a remembrance to those who fought for liberty during the Second World War. It is simple, almost plain in execution … and incredibly moving.
But Gabor had to get back to Korda Studios, so we piled into the car and drove back down to the city, where Doug took us to a restaurant that has become a favourite – we did learn the name of it, but it is now known simply as Ivan’s Restaurant. There we sat for several hours and Doug had his comfort food – Gnocchi and Gorgonzola. Although I love Gorgonzola it doesn’t agree with me, but Doug encouraged me to snaffle a piece off his plate for a taste – and yes, it was to die for.
As we ate, we talked of many things – and we also talked of Ivan … young Ivan Ricci, who in his 28 years touched and charmed the lives of so many people, including Doug and Laurie. Pat and I so wished we could have met him – we would have adored him instantly. He is deeply and sorely missed.
After a delicious and memorable dinner, Doug walked us back to our hotel and hung out with us for a while. Pat had given him a book of Oscar Wilde quotes as part of his goody bag, and he had us in stitches reading from it. It was during one of the more hysterical moments that Doug’s cell phone rang – it was the Adorable Ben. The call time for tomorrow was 2:15pm (for a night shoot??), and we would be heading out to Korda Studios to film on the huge New York street set. So we called it a night, and hit the sack.
It was an extraordinary day – maybe we didn’t get to see any filming or any of the ‘exciting’ stuff, but for me, to hang out with friends like Pat, Dougie and Gabor … to see wonderful things and places and laugh and be awestruck by moments that were in turn beautiful, funny, haunting and so tremendously inspiring … that for me was so very special. Today had been a good day. And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
There’s Love!!! – Webmaster Helen
Monday, 24th September, 2007
Day 81 of filming – our first day on set – continued …
THE TROLL MARKET
After a refreshing fifteen minute nap, Pat and I leave Doug in his trailer to settle down in his Happy Place and catch up on his sleep while he waits for his call, and we grab our jackets and sneak off to explore the set and its environs. Luckily we have our passes with us as the place is crawling with security.
The location, it turns out, is perfect. Well, nearly. More on that later. A short walk along a gravelled road and we head steeply downwards into what is in fact the entrance to caves – man-made caves, formerly a limestone quarry now used for growing mushrooms – when it isn’t moonlighting as a Troll Market. The wide entrance is alive with activity … crew, lighting equipment, extras clad in the strangest of garb, craft service (there are hundreds of mouths to feed), FX trailers with tantalising glimpses of creatures that could only come from the fertile mind of Guillermo del Toro … I feel like Howard Carter must have done on that day in 1922 when he broke through the wall of Tutankhamun’s ante-chamber and shone a light through the hole … yes indeed, ‘wonderful things’ … Hmmm. I’m beginning to sound geeky now, aren’t I? Well, get used to it, because it’s going to get a whole lot geekier from now on.
The first people we run into are familiar faces – the delightful John Alexander (Johann Krauss) and his lovely wife Angie, who immediately take us under their wing and become our set-buddies for the rest of the day. John is still in civvies as he is awaiting his call on set and it only takes about 30 minutes to get into costume, but he has to wait around until he’s needed.
As we chatter, we realise we’re being watched. A pair of boot-black eyes in an inquisitive whiskered face peer up at us – a small, wire-haired Jack Russell Terrier sitting on a young woman’s lap is checking us out. John gives us his trademark wide grin.
“That’s Ron’s dog, Nigel.”
Ah, the infamous Nigel! He deigns to allow us to fuss over him, and he gives Pat a bit of a kiss and his bob-tail wags in deference to his adoring fans. A fine figure of a terrier indeed, and one who no doubt marches very much to the beat of his own drum, much like his master, thank goodness!
Leaving Nigel to bask, we follow John and Angie into the caverns below … and enter what is truly a magical place.
The Troll Market.
Wow. I mean … like … wow. We are now talking serious geekage.
John leads us through a side cavern into sheer wonder. I can only describe it as truly the Bazaar of the Bizarre, to use the title of my most favourite Fritz Leiber story. It’s the only way I can begin to describe it.
The first place we enter is the Map Seller’s Shop, and this where I almost begin to gibber. As an archivist by trade (that’s the Day Job) I’m just stunned by the detail … strange, arcane maps whipped onto bamboo frames … mystic books and tomes peopled by otherworldly creatures, and everywhere the twisting hieroglyphs of the ancient troll language. Stacks and stacks of baton’d maps, each neatly rolled and labelled, a sight dear to my detailist’s eye, and tottering piles of ancient manuscripts, reaching to the ceiling in a curlicue of parchment.
This part of the set had already done its bit and was now silent and empty of people, and I found myself wandering there many times through the day as it drew me back constantly. I had to admit at one point to Pat that I was a wee bit teary-eyed. And yes, you’ll get to see it in the film.
John and Angie lead us around the HUGE set – and it goes on from cave, to cave, to cave … everywhere we turn there is more – glimpses of mummy baskets and roasted cats, rats-on-a-stick and human skins, doddering, ancient wooden stairs leading to bizarre little balconies … I don’t think we ever did see all of it. The set design is such that they can be very daring with the lighting, with odd oriental lamps and firefly cages everywhere. That and Guillermo Navarro’s genius eye will make for something very special on screen. And, dern it, all that detail …
We emerge into frenzied activity. Crew and extras are milling around at one end of the set, and someone walks by carrying a head. Yes, you heard me – a head. A head from someone’s fever dreams at that.
Rounding a corner (the rat-merchant’s stand) we see something grey, leathery and big lumbering about, and lots of lighting on stands being shifted around. The chaos is, however, somehow synchronised – these guys know what they’re doing without much of a word from anyone, and the huge grey thing turns and growls. There is a lot of discussion, and then emerging from the pile of people is El Maestro himself, Guillermo del Toro, heading back to his chair before the playback monitor. He glances over, recognises us and gives a big grin, a wave and a “Hola!” He heads over to us, hugs on us (and you ain’t been hugged until you’ve been Guillermo’d) and says with that twinkle of mischief in his eye “Have you met Wink?”
In an instant we are face to face with the grey leathery thing, which is nigh on eight feet tall I reckon, and it turns to look at us, teeth bared, eye blinking, and it’s drooling, for goodness sake. As always with GdT, there is lots of goop. This fella isn’t someone I’d like to meet on a dark night, I tell ya. Wink the Troll studies us for a second … then gives a cheery wave.
“Hi Brian!” I say. Dear Brian Steele, once more the bad guy.
For the next few minutes we watch rehearsals of a small section of the battle between Hellboy, at this point played by Ron’s stunt double Max White who walks and carries himself uncannily like Ron, and Wink. We step back and let the professionals do their work, and for the next few hours we have the time of our lives watching the fight incrementally work around the Troll Market, bit by bit, with the crew knowing exactly how to set up each shot. We help ourselves to the cast chairs (naughty us!) alongside John and Angie, who help us understand what is happening and why with such unflagging patience, bless their hearts.
Here are some random snippets of a truly amazing day.
-watching Pat’s face as Ron wanders over to say Hi, and then he later shares his bar of chocolate with us. Ron joshes me about my job, and I get a trademark deadpan Perlman wink. The makeup close-up is flawless – it is quite extraordinary, and Ron’s formidable presence sends me into serious Geek Mode – dagnabbit, I’m standing next to Hellboy.
-watching the animatronics guys anticipate Ron’s gestures and movement as they control the Right Hand of Doom. Genius.
-meeting young Jamie Wilson who plays the Cat Vendor, and hearing his tales of escaping kittens and the problems of balancing on leg extensions. Jamie was a Reaper in GdT’s 2001 film Blade II, and he’s back working with Guillermo again – and loving every minute of it. He’s a thoroughly delightful young man with a charming smile, and was tickled to hear he had a lot of fans on the IMDb boards.
-another actor under prosthetics is Brit Brian Herring, who is playing the Silkard, or Fish Vendor, and we chat while watching playbacks of a scene on GdT’s monitor. He has quite a resume, and has done ace work on the UK satirical comedy puppet series Spitting Image. I ask him how he’s enjoying working on this film, and I get a huge grin – “I’m having the time of my life!”
-watching GdT do take after take after take of a scene for over an hour, with Ron patiently fine-tuning actions and gestures, and after each shot striding forward to see the playback and confer with GdT. We stand a few feet behind GdT, Navarro (everyone calls him Navarro – two Guillermos on the set would be too confusing) and producer Lloyd Levin, watching the playbacks too – I know which one I preferred, but I would have LOVED to have asked GdT about what he was looking for and why he chose the version he did. He watched them all intently time after time after time, and finally we heard the yell ‘Check the gate!’ meaning he’s ready to move on to the next shot. It’s a fascinating process to watch.
-asking GdT what we can write about publicly, and he tells us anything as long as it’s not about the plot, and all the while he’s sketching what looks like storyboards in a notepad. He is a true multi-tasker as his attention never wavers from us and we carry on our conversation, yet some part of his brain is busy elsewhere formulating ideas and putting them on paper. It takes me all my time to walk and chew gum.
-being led over to a trolley on which rests a pile of canvas, glass, metal and weird-looking valves. We finally meet BPRD Agent Johann Krauss. Well, Johann’s ecto-containment suit minus Johann. I’ll say no more on the design per se, but as John explains some of the workings of the suit, my eyebrows raise. I’m very familiar with Mike Mignola’s original design, and suffice to say, this is familiar yet … different. So I tell John I’ll wait and see what it looks like when he’s wearing it to make up my mind. He grins and says “I think you’ll like it.”
-as the day goes on, we notice how dank and humid the caves are. This has led to an outbreak of what has been labelled ‘cave cough,’ or more picturesquely, ‘Troll Flu,’ and we frequently see cast and crew munching on decongestants and aspirin-type pills and hear lots of hacking coughs, sneezing and various wheezes and rattles of lungs. As filming progresses through the day it gets even danker and more humid, to the point where it is a good idea to head out of the caves into the fresh evening air now and again just to clear one’s lungs. I get the feeling everyone, no matter how much they love the set, will be happy to get away from the caves and their bug-ridden environment.
6:30pm – Back to Base Camp for lunch. We meet sweet Meshi, the absolutely adorable set runner, who very kindly brings us a menu and in a few minutes our hot lunch appears, and we sit down with Doug in his trailer to eat. I can assure you that eating your dinner with Abe Sapien as company is delightful but somewhat surreal – and no, we didn’t have fish.
7:00pm – We leave Doug to continue to await his call and we head back to the set, where we spend yet more enthralling time watching the ongoing battle between Hellboy and Wink. Time after time we see Ron and Brian work through a scene, and time after time we hear ‘CUT!’ and see a crew member rush forward with a seat for Brian and another fellow begin to blow cold air with a fan through Wink’s mouth, just to try and keep Brian a little cooler. And this goes on for hours. Yet never does Brian get tetchy or unhappy, and neither does Ron, working under heavy prosthetics of his own.
Oh, another major Geek Moment – standing next to a trolley when Ron’s dresser dumps Hellboy’s belt on it, complete with rosary and … gasp … The Samaritan.
As the evening draws on, we check the time – 11pm. Good grief! We’ve been on set for 14 hours! Heading back up to the trailer to check on Doug, we talk to 2nd AD Ben (another adorable young man) who reckons filming will go on to 2am at the earliest. Wow. We grab a hot tea and a sandwich from craft service, and find Doug awake from his snooze. We sit for 10 minutes and chat with him, and then Doug is called through for a touch up to the makeup before his call to the set. Pat and I have a post-sandwich snooze of our own, but less than 30 minutes later Doug is back and bereft of makeup. He won’t be needed tonight. We’re wrapped. Oh. Righto.
11:45pm – Dear Gabor arrives with the car, packs us in it and drives us all home – he’s had a long day too, and we’re all ready for a sleep.
1:04am – I’m lying awake in my hard single bed, staring at the ceiling. There’s not a sound from Pat, also lying awake in her hard single bed, and also staring at the ceiling.
ME: Pat … you awake?
ME: Good, wasn’t it?
ME: Yeah … amazing.
PAT: Ron …
ME: Yeah … he’s amazing too.
PAT: And Dougie …
ME: What a sweetheart.
PAT: The set …
PAT: And isn’t Nigel –
ME: Oh, cute … very cute.
ME: G’night Pat.
PAT: Goodnight, Helen. (beat) Did you enjoy your day?
ME: Not bad. Not bad at all … Yeah. Awesome …
To be continued …
(I’d also highly recommend reading Pat’s fantastic report of our adventures on the Hellboy II set, which you can check out over on The Perlman Pages)
Day 81 of filming – our first day on set
05:57 – Wide awake. Probably excitement. Alarm set for 06:00, but that was a waste of time. Sheesh. Must go to the bathroom again. Yep. Excitement.
06:50 – Ready to go, and have been for an hour. Another hour to wait until we wander over to the Boscolo to meet Dougie and his driver, Gabor, for the drive to the location shoot. Awake waaaaaay too early. Darn. Fidget. Maybe another trip to the bathroom .
07:50 – About to head out the door wearing my scruffies, carrying a backpack and a fleece jacket with my silly hat in the pocket. Journal … check. Goodie bags with swag … check. Camera … check. Pen … oops – where the heck …??? Ah – found it. Phew. Now that could have been a disaster. Perhaps I should make a last trip to the bathroom before we go .
07:57 – Sitting in the atrium of the Boscolo, awaiting Doug and Driver Gabor. Dang, this place is gorgeous.
08:00 – Dougie joins us, hugs all around, and he’s wearing his work clothes – a couple of old tees, his old jogging pants, his Silver Surfer hoodie and a comfy pair of slippers. He introduces us to more of the staff, including gorgeous Musah, the doorman, whose huge smile just charms us to pieces. More on Musah later.
08:03 – Here we go. Now this is when I introduce someone who becomes very special to us over the next few days – Doug’s amazing driver Gabor. I don’t think we ever saw this young man without a smile on his face, and when Gabor smiles, he lights up the world and everyone around him. His quiet yet astute humour, his care of Doug, Pat and me, and his calm, generous nature endears him to us within minutes. Nothing is ever too much trouble for him, even though – like Doug – he works horrendous hours. His patience and good humour is the same even after a 19-hour work day.
So, Gabor loads us up, and we head out of Budapest in the morning rush hour. Oh, just a little aside about Hungarian drivers. They patently frighten the crap out of me. However, what makes them unique is that they are so goldarned polite about it. Crossing a road – even a wee side-street – means taking your life in your hands as a car appears out of absolutely nowhere and comes within nanometers of taking the skin off your bum as the vehicle screams to a halt. As you stand there, heart almost giving out with major palpitations and your hair turning white at a rate of knots, you look at the driver, who smiles, waves graciously and politely waits for you to gather what wits you have left and get out of his way. Not a horn-honk to be heard, and certainly no bad language. It’s all so … so … civilised.
But … Gabor is different, as he smoothly wends his way through the heavy traffic and heads over the bridge to Buda – and gives us not one grey hair. From there we emerge into lovely countryside and neat little villages. Hungary really is a beautiful country.
As soon as Doug is in the front passenger seat, he checks that I have plenty of knee room, then he reclines the seat back, his socked feet come out of the slippers and impossibly long legs fold up so that he can tuck his feet into the corner where dashboard and windscreen meet. Dougie is now in Travel Mode. This way he garners what rest he can while chatting quietly and enjoying the drive. When I suggest he puts the seat back further, he declines with a chuckle, saying he’ll fall asleep, and if that happens we’ll have to use an electric cattle prod to wake him up. This is the first inkling we get about how very, very tired the cast and crew are this far into the shoot.
08:45 – we turn off onto a rough side road and trundle uphill amid fields of vines and odd-looking little caves sunk into the ground with steps leading down to wooden doors. The consensus is that they are wine stores, and in fact September in this part of Hungary signals many local wine festivals held to celebrate the harvest. I meant to walk back down the road to take a photograph of one of these little caverns – alas and alack, my memory failed me and I forgot. Dern it.
We enter a level area peopled with countless trailers, and a BIG tent off to the left. We’re met with a warm smile by 3rd AD Nick, who walks us to Doug’s trailer, and we say goodbye for now to Gabor, who will be around the set doing all sorts of stuff. He has a long day ahead of him before he drives us back to the hotel.
Doug’s trailer and makeup trailer are tucked behind Guillermo’s, and I just couldn’t resist taking this picture.
Anyway, Doug says to set up base camp in his home from home, and we take him at his word. Bags dumped, jackets stowed, and we read the call sheet for the day. Ron … Doug … Brian … John Alexander … Cat Vendor … Silkard … about 150 extras … well, you get the drift. A LOT of people. Doug checks the ‘sides’ to see what scenes are scheduled and to see if he has any dialogue, and then we do the next important thing on the schedule – cereal!
We tootle around the trailer to the Big Tent, which, it turns out, is craft service. Grabbing a big bowl and filling it with cereal, Doug looks around.
“Tej,” he mutters, “Need tej …”.
Tej, it turns out, is Hungarian for ‘milk.’ Oh, if only we’d known that word yesterday!
Back in the trailer, cereal is eaten (breakfast is later in the day) and then on to … makeup.
09:00 – Well, if you think I’ve been disgracefully fan-girly so far, I’ll warn you it is seriously going to get a whole lot worse from now on. Here’s why.
When you are the webmaster for an actor like Doug Jones, whose major film roles so far are mostly under beautiful and innovative prosthetic makeup, you get to know about the incredible people who create and apply these wondrous designs. Two of them are working with Doug on this film, and I know their work well – I am seriously overawed.
Thom Floutz and Simon Webber were two of the three-man team for Abe in the first film (the other is Nigel Booth, who is also working on Hellboy II but in another capacity), and they are back again turning Doug into everyone’s favourite fishstick, as well as the Chamberlain and the much-anticipated Angel of Death.
And so, for the next three hours or so, we get the awesome privilege of watching Doug being transformed into Abe Sapien by two masters of the art. Did I already say it was awesome? Well it was.
Today Doug is just wearing the head makeup and the collar base for Abe’s respirator, as his costume for the day is Abe’s new BPRD uniform – full jacket, long pants and boots, belt with gun and ‘stuff,’ plus respirator and goggles, most of which will be added when he gets called to the set and is ready to shoot a scene. Therefore the makeup time is shorter … just over three hours. This is Thom airbrushing around the mouth and lips.
During the procedure we talk of many things … reality shows and bezoars (google them) … clowns and sausage-shooting machines (don’t ask) … music, and how to pronounce words like Auchtermuchty. Pat, being Welsh, astounds us with her beautiful pronunciation of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the Welsh village with the longest name in the world. There is silence for a moment. Then –
“Say it again!” says Simon.
So she does. Awed hilarity ensues.
I also crease up watching Dougie/Abe hand-bopping and singing along to Des’ree’s ‘Life.’ Great fun.
We chatter away to the Beautiful Nora, Thom and Simon’s assistant, who is dreading the shoot finishing as she’s having the time of her life. Every time we show up in the makeup trailer, Nora greets us with her gorgeous smile and a word of welcome. She is a real sweetheart.
During the hours Thom and Simon are working on Doug, they patiently answer questions from both Pat and I and from Katy, a student of Dick Smith’s (makeup genius) who sent me some questions for her idols, and they also put up with two extra bodies cluttering up an already cramped trailer. Bless ‘em, they are amazing.
12 Noon – BREAKFAST!!!
Yes, it’s food time! Doug’s dresser Mike has turned up to get him into the first bits of his BPRD uniform, and we get out of everyone’s way and head for craft service. When we arrive it is already swarming with crew, all topping up for a long day ahead. The reason for the later times is that this is supposed to be the last day in the Troll Market, and from now on everyone is going onto night shoots – so call times are getting incrementally later and later, allowing everyone as much leeway as possible to get adjusted to the schedules.
We tuck into a good fried breakfast (scrambled egg to die for!), fruit juice and pastries, and then head back to Base Camp (Dougie’s trailer) to await the call to the set. Doug is curled up on one chair with his legs stretched out on another, the air conditioning on full blast to keep the makeup from deteriorating in the heat, and he’s tucked under his parka. Although he has a sofa bed he can’t lie flat on it wearing makeup because of pressure on his throat due to Abe’s collar, so Pat takes the sofa and I take the driver’s chair. We chatter for a while, talking about things Doug would like to do in future on the site. But the food and the comfort begin to take effect … getting … getting sleepy … yawn … talk later … zzzzzzzz ..zzz ….
To be continued …
The Doug Jones Experience on location in Budapest – Part 2 October 2, 2007Posted by hellmistress in Filming, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Tags: Abe Sapien, Brian Steele, Budapest, Doug Jones, Guillermo del Toro, Hellboy 2, Johann Krauss, John Alexander
Sunday, 23rd September, 2007
Day 80 of filming.
Budapest on a Sunday morning is quiet, like a dozing bear enjoying the warm sunshine but ready to rumble to life at the drop of a hat. Pat and I walked along Ertszebet Korut looking for coffee and a light breakfast, enjoying the tall, elegant buildings and intriguing carved doorways leading to small flagged courtyards, they in turn shadowed by shabby-genteel 19th century balconies and wrought-iron-clad elevators straight out of The Third Man. I half expected to see Orson Welles peeking from a darkened doorway. Even the battered stairways were marble with carved statuary for railing, worn from generations of hands smoothing them in passing.
Our breakfast came by way of a small café where we ordered coffee and baklava, a relic from Hungary’s days under Turkish rule. We soon discovered the coffee was from the same source – small cups filled with hot, rich, black and very strong liquid, accompanied by the traditional glass of water. Milk. We needed milk. Unfortunately neither Pat nor I are much good at miming, but we managed to convince the charming young lady behind the counter that we were foreigners who had absolutely no style whatsoever and took milk in our coffee. Bless her heart, she thought we were nuts but sweetly brought us some in a mug. Ahhhh … that’s better. That and the sweet honeyed richness of the baklava fortified us, and we spent a wee while exploring our environs before facing brunch in the early afternoon. Well, it’s tough, but someone has to do it, huh.
Doug had a telephone interview at 1pm, and we were to set off as soon as that was finished – which turned out to be about 2:30. We walked a couple of blocks from the Boscolo to the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal, where they do a fabulous Sunday brunch, very popular with both visitors and local families alike.
The first person we run into is big, handsome Brian Steele, all six-feet-seven of him, who plays four characters in the film. For those of you not familiar with Brian’s formidable resume, he specializes in acting under prosthetics – often heavy suits and/or substantial makeup, some of his most recent projects being Blade Trinity (Drake Beast and Were-creature), Doom (The Hellknight) and, of course, ‘Sammael’ in Hellboy. Brian and Doug have worked many times together and are old comrades-in-arms, and it was a huge privilege to finally be able to say hello. I get a wicked grin, a big handshake and a “I’ve heard so much about you!!” Uh-oh.
Another familiar face is Mark Setrakian, the animatronics genius behind Abe’s gills for a start. He’s also big in Battlebots, and he does things in movies with electronics and a remote control that would knock your socks off. I remember seeing the first Hellboy movie and being intrigued with ‘Ivan the Corpse’s’ hands, with fingers that have the ability to curve sideways, like a human’s. I had no idea how Mark did that with metal and pulleys – but he pulled it off. And what that man can do with tentacles has to be seen to be believed – just go and look at the promo reel on the Spectral Motion site to see Mark at work, bringing life and expression to some amazing characters. Wonderful stuff. Dang – you can tell I’m a fan, huh.
Then Doug introduces us to John Alexander and his sweet wife Angie. John has been charged with the task of bringing to life one of Mike Mignola’s most beloved characters in the Hellboy/BPRD universe – Agent Johann Krauss, the psychic who due to unfortunate circumstances was left an ectoplasmic entity that has to inhabit an ecto-containment suit. He is, basically, ectoplasm in a bag. Johann is genteel, intelligent and innovative, and also has the capability of inhabiting other bodies for a short time, usually dead ones. Hmmmm. Anyway, John and Angie sit with us for brunch (Oh, pasta to die for!) and we chat. For hours. When brunch is over, we move to the coffee house next door and continue to chat – for hours.
John is a fascinating fellow. He’s been in the industry for a number of years, and has carved out quite a niche as a specialist in the portrayal of primates. My jaw dropped lower and lower as he reeled off his credits – all in films I loved and playing major characters that he has portrayed with incredible skill and sensitivity. Remember mad ‘White Eyes,’ the primate leader in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes? Well, that was John. He was also Mighty Joe Young (and no, the character was NOT all CG) and Diane Fossey’s ‘Digit’ in Gorillas in the Mist. He also worked with Rick Baker in Men in Black, and we also talked of his role as the choreographer of the beast ‘Kothoga’ in The Relic, a character played by Brian Steele. He explained how he spent endless hours studying in detail the movement and behaviour of both insects and big cats, and developed the movement and presence of Kothoga mostly from the latter. I just love all of this geeky information – so sue me.
He’s keen to know what we think of both Johann’s design and presence in the film, and as the evening draws to a close we find out that John is on set tomorrow, so we will finally – we hope – get to meet Agent Krauss. We call it a night, because from now on the holiday is over and things get serious. Tomorrow is our first time on set, and it’s going to be a long day. Doug’s pick-up call is at 8am, and we are to meet him at the hotel and then head out to the location shoot deep in the countryside outside Budapest. Tomorrow we get to hopefully see Hellboy, Abe and Johann in action in one of the big scenes in the film. The TROLL MARKET.
‘Till tomorrow, this is Webmaster Helen signing off.
The Doug Jones Experience on location in Budapest – Part I September 30, 2007Posted by hellmistress in Filming, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Saturday, 22nd September, 2007 – Day 79 of filming.
It’s not easy being a webmaster, I can tell you. Especially when the subject of that very website, Mister Doug Jones, actor, singer and all-round nice guy, gets enthusiastic about something.
“Come to Budapest and spend a day or two on the Hellboy II set as my special guest,” Dougie had said. “Oh, and while you’re at it, you could guest-blog, couldn’t you? Now there’s an idea! And we could do pictures!!! Oh, oh, and I could introduce you to everyone!! (And so on and so forth …)”
See what I mean? Work, work, work …
And so it was that I found myself heading out of Budapest Airport into gorgeous September sunshine to discover what Doug had described in a voicemail message on my cell-phone as a ‘tall, funny-looking fellow’ standing waiting for me with my co-conspirator and set-visitor Pat Paone, webmaster of The Perlman Pages. Dougie had come to meet us, bless him, armed with a lovely handwritten sign with ‘Pat (little red heart) Helen’ on it and a beautiful sunflower each. Thus ensued some disgracefully serious Dougie-huggage, and then we headed into the beautiful city (cities?) of Budapest.
Ahhhh … Budapest. The two ancient cities of Buda and Pest, joined at the hip by the endless flow of the great river Danube and garlanded with majestic bridges and grand buildings. And one of the grandest is the Boscolo New York Palace Hotel, not far from Ertszebet Bridge and the river itself and a temporary home for Doug as he films Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
After Doug got us settled in our hotel close by, he whirled us off to the Boscolo for lunch in the New York Café restaurant. Now this place is seriously awesome. Built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1894, it is all pure opulence – gold leaf, carved plasterwork and painted ceilings, and as we went in through the elegant doors my eyes were drawn to this fellow at the entrance.
There are, in fact, sixteen of them – the Ashmodai. Considering Doug’s role as ‘El Fauno’ in Pan’s Labyrinth, I had to chortle to myself. There just has to be a reason for it – perhaps Guillermo del Toro’s idea of fun? There’s a terrific bronze statue of a faun across the road, too. Hmmm … curiouser and curiouser …
After lunch (Prawn Caesar Salad to die for!) Doug gave us the tour and introduced us to some of the wonderful staff who make his stay so far away from home a bit easier. So many lovely young people with such charming smiles, and Doug is welcomed with hugs wherever he goes. The hotel itself is positively decadent in the best possible way – Doug’s suite is bigger than my house, for goodness sake, and he’s right – the bathroom is big enough to bowl in.
After repairing to our hotel for an afternoon snooze, Pat and I joined Doug later for dinner at a superb river-boat restaurant down on the Danube, ‘Spoon,’ where we sat and gorged ourselves (and yes, tomato salad to die for!), gazed out at the beautiful castle over the river, now lit up like a Christmas tree in the clear night, and chatted about how things are going on the set of the film.
Dougie gave us a wry grin and rubbed his fingers over his very short-cropped hair – short, because it helps him stay cool and a little more comfortable under the makeup.
“It’s long, it’s tough, I’m exhausted, and I’ve never worked so hard in my life … and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he added with a chuckle. Six-day weeks, regular 15 to 16 hour days and difficult working conditions, especially earlier on in the summer with temperatures hitting 42 degrees Celsius (That’s apparently 108 Fahrenheit). Brutal stuff. But everyone is in good spirits and the script is delicious – Dougie’s words.
By the time we head home to our hotel for the evening, plans are made for our first day on set the following Monday. “Wrap up warm,” Doug warns. “You’ll need your hat and gloves.” Then he gives a conspiratorial wink and grin. “You’re going to love the set!”
But that’s another story. Tomorrow, it’s brunch at the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal. See? I told you it was a hard life, didn’t I?
So, it’s Webmaster Helen signing off until tomorrow. Toodle Pip and Cheery Bye for now, dear hearts!
Ivan’s Rainbow August 30, 2007Posted by Dougie in Filming.
Wow. Over a month of silence from Dougie. Six day work weeks, and a three week visit from Mrs. Laurie has left me unable to sneak to this smelly internet cafe and share the stories that are piling up.
But those stories have to wait for just a moment. I can’t even think of telling funny quips until I can release my joys and sorrows regarding one young person who has left a deep impression on me here in Budapest.
It was mid-June, just after the production started filming. Driver Joey was dropping me at my hotel entrance after another long day at the studio. As I was saying goodnight to him, climbing out of the car, a deep voice speaking English but laced with Italian enthusiasm came from behind me on the sidewalk.
“What time will your wake up call be for tomorrow?” he asked.
I whirled around wondering who in tarnashions would be asking me that here on the street. And there stood a tall, smiley, angular, 28 year old Italian fellow wearing a silver choker, t-shirt with jeans that were barely clinging to his little hips, and a white baseball hat. Never saw him in my life before this, so you can feel my curiosity as to why he was asking me this question. So, I told him “3 in the morning, why do you ask?”
“Ah” he said with a big smile, “That is a little better than your 2:15 wake up call from today!”
Not sure who or how, all I could say was, “Yes … wait … how did you know that?”
“I am the hotel night auditor who took your wake up call last night … Hello”, he replied.
“OH, yes, OK, now I see. Hi, I’m Doug Jones,” as I shook his hand.
With grinning pride, he said, “Yes, I know.”
Which left another question … “Wait … How did you know that was me getting out of the car?”
“Simple”, he said, not losing an ounce of his posture, “I recognized your voice from the phone.”
Amazed by this boy, I had to flashback to the night before: It was around 10:30pm and I called down to the front desk for my insane wake up call. I remembered the receptionist being a very animated and jovial voice I had never talked with before, as I told him that I wasn’t kidding, I honestly need to wake up at 2:15am to get outside to my driver by 2:30am. He chuckled with me, and wished me a good few hours of sleep. When 2:15 came, the phone rang with the automated computer voice telling me to have a nice day. Ugh, the drudgery at this hour! I hung up the phone and lay there in the darkness for a couple of dangerous better-not-drift-off-again minutes. That’s when the phone rang again. Again? The system never calls twice. When I picked up, I heard that jovial voice from the night before, asking if I got my wake up call, and am I going to be OK. Something no one has ever done at any hotel I have ever stayed at.
Now let’s jump ahead to the following night again at the hotel entrance. “Oh! So that was YOU who called me this morning to make sure I was OK! Do you do that for all your wake-up calls?”
“No,” he replied, “I just couldn’t imagine why anyone would have to get up that early, and I knew the temptation to fall back asleep would be too great, so I had to call.” Yes. THIS was Ivan Ricci.
Ivan walked with me up to the door of my suite, and in that short time I learned that he was from Italy, but living and working at this Italian-owned hotel while in Hungary to fulfill a life-long dream of recording his first music CD at a studio here in Budapest. Also in that short walk, he asked all about me, and clutched his heart when he heard that I was here in Budapest as Abe Sapien working on “Hellboy 2″. Turns out he was also a huge fan of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and couldn’t wait for the Silver Surfer, as well. Before he walked away from my door, he informed me that he just lived one floor up, and that if I need anything, or if I have free time when he does, all that.
I have always said that angels come in two forms. The actual wing-flapping kind sent from Heaven who protect us, and the people God places in our lives at the right place and time. Ivan didn’t know it, but he was an answer to prayer. I had been quite lonely in my first few weeks here, not knowing where to go, or how to get there, and feeling very out of sorts with the language barrier. And here in a matter of minutes … plop … I’m blessed with a local friend.
Over the next two months, it’s hard to recount how much Ivan was in my life. Some snapshot memories would include:
- Ivan grabbing me from the lobby as I limped in from another long day, dragging me behind the front desk, and insisting that I sit with him, David (another night auditor), and Gyorgy (Night Manager) whom I have also grown to know and adore. Ivan would have room service bring me a milkshake right there at the desk, and look up songs on YouTube that we could sing together. If I didn’t have to work the next day, this could go on until the sun came up.
-Ivan making me get down on one knee in front of Night Manager Gyorgy and him as they did a comical knighting ceremony and presented me with my very own hotel employee badge with DOUG on it.
- Ivan continued phoning minutes after my wake-up calls any night that he was on duty. One wee-hour morning, he wouldn’t hang up until he talked me through all this … “It’s a beautiful day. Sit up now. Smile because you are alive. Put your foot on the floor. Now the other one. Turn on a light. It’s going to be a great day on the movie. OK? OK. Now come downstairs and hug us before you go.”
- Ivan showing me where to buy tickets for the city trams and metros, then taking me for a test ride to a mall where I needed to buy a tea pot for my room.
- Ivan taking Selma Blair and me to an Italian restaurant for his favorite dish there, Gnocchi with Gorgonzola. Heavenly comfort food. He and I re-visited this place many more times, and always got the same thing. A creature of habit, just like me. We would sit in there and talk for hours about his dreams, his wishes, his passions. A young life with so much potential and creative energy.
- Ivan talking about his parents back home in Milano, and how his one top goal was to make them proud of him by fulfilling their wish for him to own his own house one day. As he spoke, he needed to take a pause as his eyes filled with tears. He told me he hadn’t cried in front of anyone in years, but how comfortable he was in front of me. Such an enormous compliment from such an enormous heart.
- Spending an evening with Ivan and his gorgeous Hungarian girlfriend Adrienn. Watching him point out her cute little nose and stunning green eyes was adorable. Later he told me that getting her to smile or laugh is one of life’s biggest pleasures. I learned that brightening anyone’s day is what that boy lived for.
- Running my lines for a scene with Liz Sherman with the deep-voiced, Italian-accented Ivan. He insisted that we keep going over the scene again and again until he was satisfied that I knew it well enough. I can still hear his charming voice doing Liz’s line “Shut up Abe” as “Shut-a Hup Habe”.
- Seeing his face as I gave him signed glossies of Abe, The Faun, and Silver Surfer. You would have thought I just gave him 3 gold bricks. Best of all, was knowing that he would have been the same Ivan with me if I was a bus driver.
- Ivan telling me one of the things he loved most about me … that even though I could wear any designer label I wanted, I was most comfortable that day in my cut-off jeans, t-shirt with a stain on it, a tourist fanny pack, and a filthy ball cap that I pulled out of my friend’s salvage yard in Texas. Yep, he fully “got” me.
- Wherever we would be with piped-in music, Ivan stops everything, points to the ceiling and says, “I love this song”, followed by his fearless singing out loud to it. Of course I always joined him.
- Hearing him go on about style, colognes, food, and romance, starting every thought with “Please … I’m Italian!”, which totally justified all his opinions and tastes to the point where I wanted to get a pen and jot down notes.
- Watching him listen intently with a tilted head after he asked me to share why I believe there really is a God.
- Seeing his face so proud of himself when he put one of his numerous pairs of designer sunglasses on me. He stepped back, told me they were better on me than him, and sent me back to my room with them.
- Watching any store clerk or food server’s barriers break down as Ivan’s charm would get them all to giggle within minutes.
- Having Ivan take me to his music producer’s (the delightful Achilla Sparta) radio show on a whim, and ending up staying and chatting on the air with Achilla and Ivan for 2 hours between songs about the Hungarian opening of “F4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer”.
- Ivan telling me that when he got a call from the daytime desk manager asking him to cover a day shift right after one of his night shifts, he understandably wanted to cuss. But instead, he said that he heard my voice in his ear, and even affected my sing-songie tone to tell her, “Why yes, I would LOVE to.”
- Singing with Ivan, then him looking at me in all sincerity to say, “You should do a song with me on my CD.”
- Watching Ivan charm the socks off of Mrs. Laurie the day after she arrived here. Over our usual Gnocchi with Gorgonzola, he told Laurie that he has never known anyone like me, that he never thought he would meet someone 20 years older that would be this much like him, and then playfully pondered the possibilities of moving in with us in Los Angeles. By then, Laurie wanted to know how soon he could get there.
- Ivan telling me that even on his worst days, getting to see me somehow made all his troubles dissolve away, and how talking with me always made him feel that anything was possible. I had no idea.
So many moments to savor with this exuberant young man in the short span of only two months.
It was Sunday morning August 12th, just a couple of weeks ago, when my phone started ringing. I got out of bed to find three missed calls. Upon returning these calls, I spoke with girlfriend Adrienn and Linda, a long time friend of Ivan’s family. What they told me left me in a heap on the floor staring at the carpet.
Ivan was in a coma. That Friday night, he and four friends were driving on the highway to the beautiful Lake Balaton. He left his job and living arrangement at the hotel a couple of weeks before this, and told me that he had accomplished more with his song writing and vocal recording in those two weeks than he had in the entire last year that he has lived here. But now without a day job, he wasn’t sure if he could afford to stay. Ivan had told Laurie and me how his time at the Lake inspired him and gave him hope to continue his dream of finishing this CD album of his. So it was no surprise that he took his friends up on an offer to return to the lake for this weekend. Little did any of them know what was about to happen. While at top speed on the highway, and attempting to pass another vehicle, the car rolled, throwing Ivan from the back seat, and leaving him with many injuries to his head, neck, stomach, and one lung. Enough so, that the prognosis after surgery was “Hopeless.”
Now it was almost two days after the accident, and Ivan’s friends and family found my number in his cell phone. I was so humbled to hear friend Linda say that since the first day Ivan met me, every time they spoke, he would spend half the time talking about this Dougie guy. She told me what a huge impact I had on Ivan, and said she simply had to contact me. Again, how very humbling to hear. I don’t think any of us will ever fully know what effect we leave on others.
All I could think to tell Linda was to please kiss Ivan on the forehead for me, whisper that Dougie loves him, and that God’s angels are all around. Holding him. Holding all of them.
By 10:30 that night, the call came telling me that Ivan had indeed passed away.
I was a mess.
How could a 28 year old with such promise, such energy, such passion for life, such passion for people … how could his young life be over? So hard to wrap my head around. At my age, having people in my life for 20, 30, 40 years, how did this boy make it so far into my heart in only 2 months.
Let me share one last snapshot with you.
One morning at around 3am, I was leaving the hotel for work as Ivan was heading back into the hotel after a party night off from work. He figured out what day it was and excitedly said, “I don’t have to work tonight either … may I come to the set with you?!” So, he got in the Mercedes with Driver Joey and me, and off we went.
Thus began a day that he referred to as a dream come true. Not only had he finally gotten onto the set of a big Hollywood production, but he also got to witness the filming of that scene with Selma that he helped me rehearse, and sat in my make-up trailer watching the whole Abe getting ready process. When our Hungarian assistant Nora stepped out for a cigarette, Ivan joined her, leaving me alone for a minute with my make up artists Thom Floutz and Simon Webber. That’s when Thom said, “I can see why you two get along so well … he’s a younger Italian version of … well … YOU.”
Just then Ivan came bursting back into the trailer with a child-like excitement telling us we HAD to come outside to see this!!! So, make-up half done and feet in slippers, I went outside with all of them to witness the most beautiful double rainbow. By now it was around 6am, and the sun was just rising in the east with a gray cloud cover over us that created the most beautifully serene lighting over the sunflower fields that surround Korda Studios out in the country. And that rainbow … like I’d never seen. As I stood there taking it all in, Ivan came up behind me, put his arm around my shoulder, and spoke with all the Italian charm he had in him, “See what happens when you bring me to work with you.”
I did see.
To me, rainbows have always meant a sign of God’s promises. And as I look at the attached picture taken that morning by make-up artist Simon, I feel joy in the midst of all the sorrow.
All that hope that Ivan spoke of. So happy that he got to record 5 songs before he left us, that producer Achilla will finish mixing and have available on MySpace soon. So happy that I had the chance to know this remarkable young man, who was an angel to me. So satisfied that even though he never got to show his own house deed to his parents, he did own so much real estate in people’s hearts like mine. So happy that he got to see a double rainbow, marking God’s promises to him so close to his own going home to Heaven.
Please enjoy this beautiful photo with me.
And if you get the chance, you may click on this link to see Ivan in a music video he made on a shoestring budget here in Budapest about 2 years ago. Goran MC … That’s him.
Thank you for indulging me in this very long catharsis. And I’ll check in again soon to continue more stories from “Hellboy 2″, I promise.
There’s Love!!! — Dougie
I think I’m still alive … July 8, 2007Posted by Dougie in Filming.
Budapest Hungary, Written between Wed. July 4 – Sunday July 8, 2007
After a long block of working, I finally have more than one day off in a row, so I checked in with my e-mail accounts, MySpace messages, blog responses, and website guest book entries to find literally HUNDREDS of messages. So much love pouring in, and with so little internet time here, I feel absolutely guilty with my inability to respond to each one personally. Thank you for your patience and forgiveness.
Last week was nothing short of brutal. 18 to 20 hour days with an average of 4 hours of sleep each night. For instance, Thursday was a 21 hour day, followed by 2 1/2 hours sleep, followed by a 19 hour Friday. I finally woke up Saturday at 7pm wondering what my name was.
So with a few days off, I’m out walking about the city like a zombie one afternoon. Catching a glimpse of myself in the reflection of a store window I was shocked at how unkempt I looked and thought to myself, “Thank goodness I’m in a city half way around the globe where no one would ever know me.” I kid you not, four minutes later, as I’m approaching the front entrance of my hotel, three Hungarian fan boys point at me on the sidewalk … “That’s HIM”. Yes, they had been waiting there for who knows how long, and all three of them whipped out 8×10 glossies and DVD covers from the first HELLBOY, BATMAN RETURNS, PAN’S LABYRINTH, and RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER for me to sign. Anyone who knows me, also knows how much I did not hate this. Adorable.
Yes, the famous writer of such books as STARDUST (coming to theaters this summer as a movie!), AMERICAN GODS, THE SANDMAN, and soooo many more, including comic books and the animated film BEOWULF (in theaters November 2007). So why do I mention him here? Because he has been here visiting our set to shadow our director Guillermo del Toro. His amazingly sweet and intelligent 12 year old daughter Maddy is with him and has been taking over his blog while here. She is such an adorably funny young thing. On this blog of theirs, the first images of me as Abe Sapien from HELLBOY 2 were captured in Neil’s camera. Have a look at the June 27th entry:
Neil had also been reading my little blog, so when we wrapped filming on Friday, Neil kindly informed me that he and Maddy were going to take me on a walk about the city on Sunday, because he knew if someone didn’t make plans for me, I would never leave my room. What a fantastic day Sunday was. Maddy and I giggled a lot together, as though we were BOTH 12 year old girls, and I have decided that Neil Gaiman is the most fascinating human being I have met in the past year. He is a wealth of knowledge with an enormous heart at the same time. I never thought I would be so captured by someone pointing out different tree types, or explaining the rush of air caused by a big fountain, or why a Buzzard was happy with a piece of raw meat covered with flies in it’s zoo cage … and all with the most eloquent language. He could make a grocery list sound like poetry when he speaks. He also gave me such a calming perspective on balancing fame in a normal lifestyle. From his work, you can tell he is deliciously imaginative, which comes out in his sense of humor as you walk with him. So, by the end of the day, I felt like I had earned another university degree, but also had my hair tossled from the thrill ride that is Neil Gaiman.
JUST A COUPLE MOMENTS ON THE SET
“ROLL CAMERA”, and just before Guillermo yelled action, Jeffrey Tambor made a grimacing face, saying, “I have the worst gas … it’s ridiculous”, leaving Ron, Selma and me worthless for that take.
Out on the hillside set in heat of 90-some degrees, Ron, James Dodd (the other fellow sharing the role of Johann Kraus with John Alexander), and I were sweltering in our make-ups and suits. That’s when my lovely and sarcastic Selma Blair started fanning herself in front of all of us proclaiming, “Ugh! I can’t believe how hot I am with this extra tank top on! But I can’t expect you guys to understand.” As I laughed and told her I don’t know HOW she does it, she continued, “These socks are a really thick cotton too, you know that, right?”
Since Jeffrey and Selma are the only two NOT in some layered make-up, they are both so aware of the rest of us, bless their hearts. By the end of last week, Selma tilted her head and asked me, “How are you today, sweetie?” She quickly interrupted herself by saying, “You know what, never mind. I don’t even want you to have to go there. Stay in your happy place.” Jeffrey simply put his hand on my shoulder and said, “There is a place for you in Heaven.”
We had only minutes for lunch one day when filming outdoors because of our failing sunlight. Ron Perlman sat with me, and we had barely put a fork to our plates before they were calling for us to go back to the set.
DOUG: Oh, OK, be right there.
RON: We just got our food. I’ll come when Dougie’s eaten enough. (Then privately to me) Dougie, you’re too nice, you make me look like an ass.
DOUG: I’m sorry. I don’t have this movie star thing down yet, do I.
RON: You’re the Silver Surfer, man. (which he refuses to let me forget, bless his heart).
But my honor right now is being Brother Blue to my Brother Red. Ronny was telling me one day that he sees our characters kind of as parallels to the real Ron & Doug. He even went so far as to compliment me by wishing there was a place in this movie for Hellboy to look at Abe and say, “I will never know what it’s like to be as good as you are.” I have no idea where he got such an impression of me, but I adore this man beyond belief.
THE SANDBAG DANCE
Great, it happened again. “CUT” yelled Guillermo, and the entire crew broke out in laughter. Ron, Selma, and I were doing a scene in Hellboy’s room at the BPRD, and as often is the case for the partially blind Abe, they had to put a sandbag on the floor to mark my stopping point when I walk out into the room. It takes just a couple of practice runs for me to get my flight pattern down before I can do the move as someone with full vision would. But then there was this one take. As the camera rolled, I hit the sandbag earlier than it should have been, and as I tried to keep the scene going, I felt around with my foot to find that sandbag again to get my end look at the right angle … but the bag had disappeared. Leg extension this way. Leg extension that way. Using both feet now. Thank goodness he yelled cut before my Rockettes kick line routine went any further. “Where did my sandbag go!?!?”, I chuckled. That’s when Selma collected herself enough to tell me that I never hit the sandbag, but I DID kick one of Hellboy’s kittens! If you saw the first “Hellboy”, you’ll remember that Hellboy has a thing for kittens and his room is crawling with cats. About 50 of them to be exact … well … 49 now, as one has been sent off to therapy.
Alright, I’ll let you rest your eyes now. Thank you again for all the love, and I’ll be missing you, my cherished family and friends, when I am picked up tomorrow morning at 3:30am to start another 6 day week.
There’s Love!! — Dougie
Sunday, June 10th: EVERYONE IS BACK June 12, 2007Posted by Dougie in Filming.
So great to finally have everyone here. Old buddies Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Jeffrey Tambor (Agent Manning), and Brian Steele (a few of our bad guy creatures) all arrived for a final week of rehearsals, meeting up with us, who were here a tad earlier, Luke Goss (the haunting Prince Nuada), Anna Walton (the enchanting Princess Nuala), John Alexander (Johann Krauss), and myself (that yummy fish filet).
Oh my word, how I love this man! 2 days before filming began, we had an on-camera make-up film test. During filming, we have seperate make-up trailers, but for this day, we were in chairs next to each other. I don’t think I can adequately express how it felt to watch Hellboy and Abe come together, piece by piece in the mirrors. It was like finally getting back to that fun summer camp to see all the friends you missed during the year … only it’s been 4 years. Brothers Red and Blue are back, and it just feels right.
It is so good to have another actor going through the kind of make-up application that I am. At the end of that make-up test day, with Ron getting pulled out of his 5 hours of demon bits, and me getting pulled out of my 6 hours of fish bits, we were both in our own worlds of clean up. When all our prosthetic rubber bits had been removed and unglued, that’s when I hear a deep voice say, “Hey Dougie”. I reply, “Yes, Ronny?” I turn to Ron, who is looking at me with glue streaks, sweat, and red smears on his face, as I look at him with glue streaks, sweat, and blue smears on my face. He locks eyes with me dead-pan for a beat. Then in his good-natured sarcasm … “There has to be an easier way to make a living.” I just smiled at him, knowing he loves being Hellboy. He smiled back, knowing I love being Abe. No words necessary.
This may sound redundant, but oh my word, how I love this woman! Selma had me doubled over laughing one day as we were being driven to a rehearsal together, telling about the paparazzi guys on bikes that spotted her on the streets of Budapest just that morning. Imagine what YOU might look like while out walking your dog before the day has actually started, and then picture your feelings as 3 different bikes stop with professional cameras snapping at you with zoom lenses.
THE STUDIO PARTY
We are the first film ever to shoot in brand new studio facilities just outside Budapest. So, the Hungarian studio hosted a little welcome party in our honor, a little over a week ago. While taking a big bite of my “typically Hungarian fish stew”, a nice local man from the studio asked me how I liked the food. What an unfortunate moment to have a mouth FULL of fish fat. Doing the gentlemanly nodding of the head with my eyebrows up, trying to be gracious, Selma sees into my eyes and said in front of everyone, “You hate it, don’t you.” Dear me, I love this girl. She says whatever we are all thinking, but would never say out loud.
Yep, you guessed it … oh my word, how I love this man! Jeffrey is possibly the funniest man ever. Everything he says is done with this serious face and such conviction, but when you listen to how ludicrous his words are, well, he is just delicious. One day as we were finishing up a rehearsal of the last scene in the movie, Jeffrey has a troubled look on his face, walks over to Ron, Selma, and me, and says, “Ok, so, what are the early signs of depression again?” We all cackle laugh, but without skipping a beat, Ron pulls his sun glasses down, points to his eyes, and says, “this is one.”
Then Jeffrey informed us how much he’d love to stay and chat, but he had an audition in 20 minutes for a Hungarian porno flick about a middle aged Jewish fellow.
THE CAMERAS ROLLED, FRIDAY, JUNE 8TH
Well, a new personal record has been set. My pick up time at the hotel for our first filming day was (drum roll) … 1:15am!!!!! That really isn’t even today yet … that’s still yesterday, right??? My last record early call time was 2am. What job was that on, you ask? Why “Hellboy 1″, of course.
What an exciting day for all. Guillermo del Toro was his usual little boy self, with the film set seeming like his big sand box full of toys that he had invited us all to play in. Truly a gifted man with a knack for growing the ultimate creative environment. The gifted Guillermo Navarro is also back as our Director of Photography with his talented team of usual suspects … yep, the dream team that brought you the Best Cinematography Oscar for “Pan’s Labyrinth”. I’m not sure if we are making a movie here or having a lovely family reunion. Both, I’d say.
The first set-ups were all in the hallways of the BPRD Headquarters, our home. Jeffrey and I started the day with a very long walk & talk down a long hallway, negotiating 3 turns and 4 steps … and yes, I’m partially blind. Came off without a hitch, thankfully, and we moved on to a more complicated set-up with 40 BPRD agents running around the hallways, and Ron, Selma, and I had to round a corner, come up those 4 steps, and end up on certain marks. That’s when it happened. I now have the honor of “Hellboy 2′s” first blooper. Right on Selma’s heels, my feet got tangled in hers, I missed one of those 4 steps, and performed a most uncoordinated ker-plunk to the floor … yeah, something like a fish flopping around on the dock just after being pulled from the water. So here’s my question: Is it really a compliment when the DVD editors come up to you smiling to congratulate you on being the first piece of footage for the bonus features?
Another highlight of the day was sitting in my set chair between scenes. I had my eyes closed, finding my happy place, when I heard Jeffrey’s voice. He knows what a day like this is on me, so as I open my eyes and come to, I see his hand in my face with a wet, white wad on his fingers. In his distinctively dry humored voice, he asks, “There you are. Would you hold my gum?”
By the time I had wrapped for the day, been cleaned up, and driven back to the hotel, it was now over 19 hours later. Delirious, but happily content from the day, and knowing I didn’t have anything to do until the next night’s party, I closed the blackout curtains in my room, put the Do Not Disturb sign on my door, and fell into the most satisfying slumber at 9pm … and when did I finally wake up? At the crack of 1pm the next day … 16 hours later!! “Oh Dear Me,” thinks Dougie, “This could be one long shoot.”
THE KICK OFF PARTY, SATURDAY, JUNE 9TH
Our entire production company took over a swanky restaurant and courtyard for a wonderful night of frolick. Dougie ate lots of odd food, drank some cola and orange juice (not together, silly), and danced until glistening … that sounds better than a sweaty mess, right? It was on the dance floor that a lovely British woman from our production office approached me and said, “Please forgive me, but I have to do this” … oh dear, what on earth was this woman about to do? Something unseemly? Then I became very complimented as she incorporated a “Pale Man” pose from “Pan’s Labyrinth” into her dance, open palms on forehead and all. “I’m so sorry, but I just loved you in that movie,” she continued. And now I love her too.
Two other highlights from the night include the on-set sound mixer, Mac Ruth, coming up to me and telling the very insecure Dougie how much he likes my voice as Abe already. A sweetheart of a guy who did not have to say that, as it’s his job to listen to voices … and I dedicate this blog installment to the two lovely fellows from our visual effects company, Double Negative, who took turns asking, “So when are you going to update your blog?”
Well ….. tomorrow’s pick up time is 3:15am (yeah, still feels like tonight, doesn’t it), so Dougie is off … but just a little! (That joke never gets old, I tell ya).
There’s Love!!!! —- Dougie