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The Doug Jones Experience on location in Budapest – Part 2 October 2, 2007

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