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The Doug Jones Experience on location in Budapest Part 3 – the other bit October 10, 2007

Posted by hellmistress in Filming, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Monday, 24th September, 2007 

Day 81 of filming – our first day on set – continued …




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?

PAT: Yep.

ME: Good, wasn’t it?

PAT: Amazing.

ME: Yeah … amazing.

PAT: Ron …

ME: Yeah … he’s amazing too.

PAT: And Dougie …

ME: What a sweetheart.

Silence. (Yawn.)

PAT: The set …

ME: Awesome.

PAT: And isn’t Nigel –

ME: Oh, cute … very cute.

More silence.

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)



1. Riddick - October 10, 2007

You should write a book about your experience on this set, or Doug jones!
Nice report, it is better than see it on TV!

2. Sybil - October 10, 2007

I hope they are making a making of Hellboy 2 the movie. The troll cave set sounds awesome. Can’t wait till this comes out!

3. Laura - October 10, 2007

While I was reading I was there with you! Wow!

4. Biggerboat : Troll Market - October 10, 2007

[…] more I read about Hellboy 2, the more it seems that there’s something of a Harry Potter-esque vibe to it. I think […]

5. hellmistress - October 10, 2007

You might think so – but it isn’t, not really. The Troll Market is only one scene in the film, and I tend to think of the film in a more Arthur Rackham/Machen/Dunsany style, with a LOT of Mignola thrown in. This is very much in the more traditional Mignola style and world, very ancient folklore-oriented with a very quirky twist.

6. Marjorie - October 10, 2007

I just wanted to chime in and say how much I love this blog, and the work of Doug Jones! Reading this has been such a delightful experience, and as a fan, I appreciate it tremendously. I can’t wait to see more!

7. Leopara Bates - October 11, 2007

gotta say, ‘being there’ on set was a lot more pleasant than being here begging a vicoden to kick in while my knees thump at me like some sort of deranged percussion section! (evil knee surgery and complications thereof) thanks so much for the distraction! more more!

8. CosmicAvatar - October 11, 2007

Lovely vicarious experience!

9. Madam Lash - October 12, 2007

G’day Hellmistress, I’m really enjoying Doug’s and your blog very much, and find myself checking just about everyday to see if there is a latest instalment. You are both very interesting people with wonderful writing styles, so please keep it coming.

I have a question(s) specifically for you. You mentioned that you are an archivist by trade. What exactly does that entail and how did you get into that line of work; where do you work – library, museum…(?), and if you completed any studies. I realise that this probably isn’t the forum in which to discuss this topic, so if you have any spare (ha, ha!) time, then I would love to hear from you (my email address in field below).

Please pass on a big cheery “G’day!” to Doug from one of his many (no doubt!) Aussie fans.

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