While Doug Jones may not be a household name, he is very much in demand as an actor.
Admittedly, Jones has a very peculiar background for an actor (he was a mime at one point and a contortionist at another). However, these skills have come in handy for the actor, who has portrayed characters such as the Silver Surfer in a “Fantastic Four” movie, Abe Sapien in the “Hellboy” series, and the Faun and the Pale Man from “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
In addition, Jones has done work out of makeup, including a strong performance in the lead role in “My Name is Jerry.”
In this interview, he talks about his past, present and future as an actor, including potential roles in “Green Lantern,” “The Hobbit,” “Frankenstein” and “The Fantastic Four.”
How did you get started in the business?
My story starts with me coming to Los Angeles thinking I’d be a sitcom star, then falling into a TV commercial acting class taught by an agent who discovered me and took me on as a client. With my college background as a mime, and my limber legs qualifying me as a “contortionist,” he sent me out on all the physical roles and costumed characters that would come out in the casting breakdowns. My first booking was a Southwest Airlines spot as a dancing mummy, followed by an alien for Worlds of Wonder Toys, then a nerdy dweeb for Bob’s Big Boy. It was my fourth commercial booking that would mark me as the tall, skinny, goofy, physically-animated guy who wears masks and costuming well, and most importantly, doesn’t complain while in make-up …. the world famous “Mac Tonight” spots for McDonald’s that saw me wearing a crescent moon mask and dancing on clouds at my piano for 27 commercials over a three-year period from 1987 to 1991. The creature effects make-up arm of Hollywood took notice, and have been referring studios to me ever since, bless their hearts. I owe these people so much.
How has your past experience as a mime paid off?
I know, I know, everyone hates mimes, and true enough, they ARE easy to mock. But it was this art form of communicating all kinds of dialogue without words that really woke my body up and taught me to communicate from head to toe. I learned that dialogue doesn’t is spoken in so many ways, aside from verbal.
What about your experience as a contortionist?
Now there is a skill I never thought would come in handy, but was I wrong or what!? Most of my early work that didn’t involve prosthetic make-up was playing with this sight gag in lots of commercials and sitcom guest roles. And if it wasn’t for me being bendy, I never would have played the lead Spy Morlock in “The Time Machine,” because the artists at Stan Winston Studios sculpted the original design in a squat position that made them say, “Who do we know that can assume this position? — AHA — Dougie!”
What do you bring to a role that is unique?
Are you inviting me to sound boastful now?! (laughs) With all the amazing actors out there, I have trouble thinking I can be truly unique, but people keep telling me it’s my physical communication and presence that they notice first. My hands will usually give away a role as me.
What draws you toward playing such unique and bizarre characters?
If they pay. Okay, okay, I suppose there’s more (laughs again). I love that I get to assume the identities of such a wide variety of characters, both human and non-human, from this world or another. I get to play the most beautiful creations. Completely losing myself in one of these personalities can be theraeputic, even.
What is your relationship like with the makeup artists around town? I’m guessing you know them quite well.
A lot of them, yes! The thing is, when you are doing makeups that are this intense, complicated and time-consuming, you get to know your makeup artists and creators very well. It is an intimate experience; all that teamwork it takes to get a creature onto the film set. And not only are they artists to me, but my very survival depends upon them. They care for me in ways a nurse might when you consider limited vision, muffled hearing, hampered walking or standing, and the inability to feed myself sometimes. My make-up artists have graciously gone way outside their job description for me over the years.
What do you think comes to mind for casting agents and producers when they hear the name “Doug Jones”?
They’re probably saying, “What a doofus!” (laughs) I don’t know, maybe a series of brand words, like …. physical, lithe, fantastical …. hopefully reliable, too. And I’m so thankful to have a couple of other words follow me into casting offices now …. loyal fan base …. for this, I am eternally grateful.
What are your dream roles?
Well, one of them is coming in another question of yours, I believe, so I’ll wait for that one. But I can tell you I’d still like to play a benevolent angel, wings and all. I did play the Angel Of Death in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” fulfilling a lot of that dream, but this time I’d want to be white-feathered and not leave you feeling creeped at all. Another would be to play a really classic, gothic vampire.
Which kinds of roles do you most prefer to take on?
My favorites would be those roles that have a duality to them. The kind that keep you guessing if he’s good or bad. Likable, but maybe with a quirky or sinister edge.
What can you tell me about your movie “My Name is Jerry”?
Now this one I am excited about! This was also one of those dream roles that was created and written just for me. I met Morgan Mead (director and story by) six years ago when he was finishing up film school here in L.A.. He came looking for me to be in his final 10-minute film then, and we’ve been friends ever since. After he left film school and went back home to Indiana (my home state also), he conceived of this feature idea for me to headline a film without prosthetic make-up on my face, and pitched it to Ball State University there in Indiana where my degree is from. They became the “studio,” if you will, by financing the film, thus making this a very unique project. A true dream job for me because:
A) The title role of “Jerry” was such a treat to play. He’s a 40-something hitting his mid-life crisis, needing to re-invent himself regarding his career, his dreams, and most importantly, his daughter and role of father.
And B) The atmosphere and personnel of a commercial Hollywood film, but being shot on my old college campus with current students on our crew in the most effective immersive learning situation I had ever seen. Such a great vibe, with all these bright-eyed puppies learning for their future, while making a real, professional movie. Between that, and playing such a sweet, sympathetic, comedic character like “Jerry,” this truly was a dream job. It’s doing very well with award nominations (including a Best Actor nod for little ol’ me) at film festivals, and distribution should be just a half step behind.
Which part are you going to play in the “Green Lantern” movie?
Am I going to play a part in the “Green Lantern” movie? I did hear such a rumor a couple of months ago, but no one has called me regarding this one yet. But if there’s a character I’m right for, I’d be quite interested to hear about it.
How much do you keep up with fantasy casting? It seems like fans want to put you in every science fiction movie made.
And I adore them for their loyalty when they think of sci-fi/comic book casting. I usually hear about rumors and fans’ wish list casting after it’s been talked about for a while. Which is probably best. One could go crazy trying to keep up with all the opportunities and rumors out there. Over the years, I have been very blessed when the phone keeps ringing with the perfect roles at the perfect times.
Where are we on another “Silver Surfer” movie?
Your guess is as good as mine … probably better. There are still a couple of years left on their option for two more pictures with me, as a three-picture deal is quite standard when starting a franchise-potential character. But with all the “re-boot” talk of the Fantastic Four, I have no idea where that leaves the Silver Surfer end of things. I would love to re-visit this character. I do love Norrin Radd.
With which directors have you especially enjoyed working?
I imagine it’s no surprise that I love love LOVE working with my dear Guillermo del Toro. The man is a true genius and a funny, intelligent, creative, imaginative teller of stories. I’ve been so blessed to be part of four of his films so far, with hope in my heart of many more to come. I have truly loved all my directors over the years, all for different reasons. Others that come to mind from most recent projects are Morgan Mead of “My Name Is Jerry,” Joann Sfar of the French biopic “GAINSBOURG: A Heroic Life” (hitting European cinemas in January) and Scott Stewart of “Legion,” opening Jan. 22. These are just a few of the many directors that I would work with again in a heartbeat. All of them willing to take a chance on me. All of them visionary storytellers. All of them in-tune with actors.
Are you still up for “Frankenstein”?
This would be yet another collaboration with Guillermo del Toro. He recently announced his plans to make his own adaptation of Mary Shelley’s book, with a part of those plans casting me as Frankenstein’s Monster … leaving me breathless, speechless and a whole lot of other “lesses.” Doing this movie, with this director would be nothing short of another dream come true. But it’s difficult to talk about a project that is this far in the future, as Guillermo will be hip deep in “The Hobbit” for the next few years still. Let’s all join hands and hope this dream does indeed come true.
What role are you playing in “The Hobbit?”
Let me just quote what “Hobbit” director Guillermo del Toro said when he was asked the same question about me. (Affects a gruff voice with a charming Mexican accent) “I have nothing official to report, but let me say this … if I direct a hemorrhoid commercial, Doug Jones will be in it.” And that was over a year ago with no further news on any casting since. I dare not guess or wish, as I wouldn’t want to set myself up for disappointment if it doesn’t happen. In the meantime, all I can say is that if Guillermo and Peter Jackson will have me, I’d be tickled raw to join the gang at Middle Earth in any role they find appropriate for me.
Which roles or role do fans tend to ask you about the most?
‘Abe Sapien’ from the Hellboy world seems to be the one I’m asked about the most. I do love Abe, myself. But the Faun and the Pale Man from “Pan’s Labyrinth” come in a close second and third. Golly shoot, I love them too! I’ve connected with all the characters I’ve had the privilege of playing, and it is so fulfilling when fans feel something for them too, enough that they want to find me and talk about it. So sweet.
Which role do you think fans might be most surprised to find out you played?
Two roles which make people say, “Nu-UH! That was you!?” are the goofy zombie Billy Butcherson from Hocus Pocus, and one of the Rippers from Tank Girl.
What keepsakes do you have from the sets of your movies?
I wish I had room to collect more, but I’ve just been able to keep a few bits of prosthetic make-up masks after they’ve been removed, like, a full Abe Sapien face, a set of Abe’s eyes and hands also, a face mask for the Silver Surfer and a few costume pieces, like shoes. My quirkiest obsession is taking home a pair of socks from every character who wears them. I especially love my argyles from my Ice Cream Man character in the upcoming “Legion.” You always have room for another pair of socks.
What is going on with your music career?
I’ve been just busy enough with the film world that I haven’t been able to focus on music much. I still sing at church when they let me, and I have plans for a project that would involve me recording my first CD in the next few years. For now, I’ll just have to refer you to my scene with Ron Perlman in “Hellboy 2,” where we had to sing slightly off key on purpose.
And, finally, what is it like to have a fan page dedicated to you? Do you check it out to see what you are up to?
I am shocked when I see that people have taken the time to make fan pages on Facebook and whatnot. Such a precious stamp of approval. My official website, http://thedougjonesexperience.com, started as a fan page, but as I grew to know Webmaster Helen better, she has become like a sister to me, and she would rather eat glass than get information wrong or put up something that would embarrass me. So it soon became my Official Site on the web, and yes, I DO check in there to find out things about myself, everything from my own filmography, which is even more accurate than my IMDb page, to finding information and links to what conventions I’m showing up at next. It has become the one stop destination for all things Dougie, and Webmaster Helen is tireless in keeping it up to date. I’m eternally grateful for her.
(With my eternal thanks to Laurie Jones and Webmistress Helen for their invaluable assistance).
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