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The Untold Truth Of Ron Perlman

Ron Perlman has a film repertoire spanning all the way back to the late '70s, but it seems like half the time viewers don't even see his face. Perlman wore red makeup as Hellboy, donned contact lenses and prosthetic makeup for the Sayer of the Law in "The Island of Dr. Moreau," and had an animated face superimposed over his own for "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." One way or another, his face is always hidden. "That's the only thing that makes me hirable," Perlman joked in an interview with Good Morning America. "If they completely cover me up, then [they decide], 'Oh yeah, he's acceptable now.'" In a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, Perlman is a famous face that is famous for being buried under makeup.

Yet once you peel away all the layers of latex, Ron Perlman is a (mostly) normal guy — somebody who gets self-conscious when people stare and freaks out a little whenever he meets an actor he idolizes. But then, most people don't spit in the face of their idols either, like Perlman once did. Let's explore the beauty behind the beast.

Perlman doesn't like wearing prosthetic makeup

Since Perlman's most iconic roles required some heavy prosthetic makeup, many viewers assume he must enjoy wearing such elaborate costumes. "Like has nothing to do with it," Perlman told Talk Stoop. "It was the only way I could get work when I was a young actor." For the longest time, he was worried he would only get parts where his face was almost completely covered. After several roles like these — including a hunchback in "The Name of the Rose," for which he once spent 12-and-a-half hours in the makeup chair (via Good Morning America) — Perlman put his foot down. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, he told his manager, "No more makeup jobs." But of course, the next morning his manager asked him if he was interested in playing the fur-covered love interest from the 1987 series "Beauty and the Beast." The trend continued with "The Island of Dr. Moreau" and "Hellboy," though gradually Hollywood began to see more and more of the man beneath the makeup.

While red face paint was kind of unavoidable for Perlman when he was filming "Hellboy," he made a point never to dress up as Hellboy off-set. He shared with Collider that he refused to attend any publicity events wearing his Hellboy costume, insisting, "Hellboy only exists in those movies." He added that it's a relief to play characters where he can actually show his face: "It's always nice not to be covered in red makeup."

At first Perlman was only a reluctant actor

Knowing how devoted Ron Perlman is to his acting, that must mean he always wanted to go into showbiz, right? Nope. In fact, he needed to be persuaded into taking his first role.

In high school, his passion was actually the swim team. Perlman admitted to The Daily Beast that he was "not the best swimmer in the world, but loved fitting in somewhere." He recalled attending one swim meet where he was approached by somebody from the school drama department who had put out a casting call for a school play. More than 30 girls auditioned, but not a single boy wanted to participate — which was a problem, since most of the characters were male. Desperate, the drama club decided to twist a few arms, and that was how they recruited Perlman. The actor explained in an interview with Good Morning America that he only agreed to audition "after much coaxing," and since there were no other guys to compete against, he immediately got the part.

"My response was immediate, dramatic, and positive," he told The Daily Beast. For the first time, he felt like he had found something that he was good at. And if he hadn't been nudged outside of his comfort zone, he might never have discovered his talent.

As a kid he was self-conscious about his body image

In his memoir "Easy Street (The Hard Way)," Perlman wrote (via NPR) that ever since he was a kid, he had "gotten accustomed to people sometimes taking a double look." When he was a teenager, he stood six feet tall and weighed around 300 pounds, which meant that he got a lot of unwanted attention. He told The Daily Beast, "I was constantly fighting this feeling that on a physical level I was at the bottom of the list." He added that he knew early on that "if I was going to succeed in anything, it wasn't going to be because of my Adonis-like qualities."

Succeed he did, though Perlman only overcame his low self-esteem later in adulthood. When he first started out in Hollywood, he only seemed to be able to land roles where prosthetic makeup made him completely unrecognizable. For a while, Perlman embraced this. In an interview with Talk Stoop, he described it as liberating to have "a curtain between [himself] and the camera." According to NPR, this allowed him to overcome his self-doubt and focus on delivering an excellent performance.

Over time, Perlman's self-confidence grew, and now he is more than happy to show his face to the world. "It was a journey for me to become really comfortable in my own skin," he added to Talk Stoop.

He needed to learn how to ride a motorcycle on the set

Although Ron Perlman plays the ruthless leader of a motorcycle gang in "Sons of Anarchy," he doesn't ride a motorcycle in real life. That's just another part of the character that he sheds whenever he's done filming.

According to NPR, the first time he rode a motorcycle was for a movie that died in development hell. "Just as I was getting my sea legs under me," he said, "it got pulled out from under me." After that, he saw no reason to keep riding, so when he got cast in "Sons of Anarchy," he was a bit rusty and had to learn all over again. He shared with Entertainment Weekly's Couch Surfing that he was always falling and getting hurt on his bike.

After finishing "Sons of Anarchy," Perlman didn't show off his super-cool biker skills. In fact, he hardly rode a motorcycle at all afterward. While most of his co-stars continued to ride long after the show, Perlman admitted in an interview with The Oshkosh Northwestern that he never got into the biker lifestyle. "Let's put it this way — I'd rather be eating Haagen-Dazs," he told NPR.

Perlman was wary of playing this award-winning role

Normally a major award gives a huge boost to an actor's career, but Ron Perlman was initially convinced that the Golden Globes had ruined his. "I still think that [it] was a mistake," Perlman told Couch Surfing, referring to the Golden Globe he won in 1989 — Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series, Drama — for "Beauty and the Beast." Whether it was the young actor's low self-esteem talking or he just believed another performance was more deserving, Perlman became convinced that the Golden Globe shouldn't have gone to him.

Not only did he have reservations about accepting the award, but he had been hesitant to accept the role on the show to begin with. Once the first season of "Beauty and the Beast" was greenlit, he started having second doubts. According to Couch Surfing, he was worried that the show "could be a career killer." Since at the time he was basically known only for his role as Vincent (the beast), Perlman had difficulty being taken seriously in the film world. As he explained in the same interview, most people thought the show and his stardom were flukes. 

His fears were actually justified. "After 'Beauty and the Beast' went off the air, I didn't work for three years," he shared with Entertainment Weekly. In this gap, Perlman needed to support himself by working as a limo driver, according to Talk Stoop. It wasn't until he met Guillermo del Toro that his fortune began to change.

Guillermo del Toro was a huge help to Perlman's career

Many fans know that Ron Perlman and his longtime collaborator Guillermo del Toro are close. However, few people realize just how big a role del Toro played in getting the world to recognize Perlman's talent.

After a three-year gap in Perlman's acting career, he was approached by del Toro. The director had taken notice of Perlman's recent roles and then personally invited Perlman to participate in his directorial debut, a movie called "Cronos." Perlman told The Independent, "I was an obscure character actor behind these masks. Nobody recognized me, let alone knew my name, but he did."

From that point forward, Perlman started getting roles more frequently, even if they were mostly just supporting roles. Yet, according to Couch Surfing, del Toro had always seen Perlman's potential as a leading man. Perlman recalled telling the director that he appreciated the vote of confidence but didn't think it was even a possibility. Del Toro tried for years to convince studio executives to give Perlman a chance as the hero of his own film, but none were willing to even consider it — at least until the box office success of "Blade II," in which Perlman played a major character. After that, Hollywood was more than happy to back del Toro's next project. That was when del Toro pitched "Hellboy," insisting that he only wanted to make the movie if Perlman was cast in the lead role.

He wanted nothing to do with the Hellboy reboot

Ron Perlman is proud of the first two "Hellboy" movies and would love to make a third film to cap off Guillermo del Toro's trilogy, so it's understandable why, when Perlman caught wind of a "Hellboy" reboot with a completely different director, he was not pleased. Asked on Twitter if he would be getting a cameo in the 2019 reboot, Perlman replied, "When Hellboy freezes over." In an interview with Comic Book Movie, the actor shared that he had been invited to contribute to the remake but said no. "The only version of Hellboy I'm interested in is the one I do with Guillermo," he announced.

Of course, he bears no ill will toward David Harbour, the actor who replaced him. Perlman told Motor City Comic Con (via Dread Central) that Harbour was "a good dude. I wish him nothing but the best when it comes to the retooling of [Hellboy]." Still, Perlman has avoided actually watching the 2019 version of "Hellboy." He explained to Empire that the film is "none of [his] business," adding that seeing the film would only give him more reasons to dislike it. It would probably also dredge up his disappointment that the world will probably never get to see del Toro's "Hellboy 3."

As it turned out, Perlman's suspicions about the reboot were right on the money. The 2019 film disappointed fans and critics alike (via Rotten Tomatoes), and some reviewers even consider it one of the worst comic book movies ever made.

He was starstruck in the presence of Marlon Brando

Ron Perlman is known for playing intimidating characters, but there's one person Perlman himself found a bit intimidating: Marlon Brando. Perlman admired the veteran actor so much that he got a little tongue-tied when he met Brando on the set of "The Island of Dr. Moreau." "I wasn't me around him," he told The Independent. "I felt like I wasn't worthy." According to Total Film (via PressReader), Perlman made a point to avoid Brando, squashing down what he believed was a silly notion that he and The Great Marlon Brando could ever be friends. "It's like talking to a god," he said. "And what would that be like for the average guy ... to talk to a god? Would he avert his eyes? That's what I did."

To make matters worse, Perlman often saw Brando while wearing an unflattering costume. He played an anthropomorphic ram called Sayer of the Law, so he spent most of his time on-set wearing prosthetic makeup, complete with translucent contact lenses to simulate his character's blindness. He told Entertainment Weekly that Brando didn't even notice his character was meant to be blind until the fifth day of shooting.

Perlman has had plenty of time to think about how he might have made a better impression with his hero. "If I had another crack at Marlon," he told Total Film, "I wouldn't avert my eyes as much as I did. But I still think I'd be a little bit humbled out."

Perlman loves del Toro but will 'never forgive' him

Perlman deeply admires director Guillermo del Toro. Praising del Toro's prolific nature and sheer inventiveness, Perlman even went so far as to say that the director was "the closest thing you've ever seen to Leonardo da Vinci" (via Collider). However, there's still a bit of friction between Perlman and his hero.

The two have worked on several films together, yet there are two del Toro films where the director never extended the invitation to Perlman. "I will never forgive him for not calling me for 'Pan's Labyrinth' or 'The Shape of Water,'" Perlman told Comic Book Movie. That stung a little, he said, "because those are two masterpieces," and he would have loved to be a part of them. Of course, Perlman assured his fans that he still appreciates all the movies he's had the opportunity to do with del Toro.

Perlman also misses a deleted scene from "Nightmare Alley" that he wished del Toro had kept in the final film. In this scene, Perlman's character, a strongman named Bruno, explains to the character Molly (Mara Rooney) how her father died and why he took her under his wing. Perlman explained to Comic Book Movie that it was a crucial scene for Bruno, insisting, "This is the reason why I took the part." So naturally he was upset that it ended up on the cutting room floor. He couldn't understand why del Toro would omit it, since it was only a few lines.

Perlman considered running for president

Kanye West wasn't the only celebrity that seriously considered campaigning for the Oval Office. In the wake of the 2016 election, Ron Perlman announced he would be shooting for the presidency in 2020 (via Business Insider). On Facebook, he proposed campaign slogans such as "2020 is Hindsight!" He later admitted to Indiewire that he was (mostly) joking about his candidacy, but his call to action for activists everywhere was very much real, insisting that everybody — stars and civilians alike — should be standing up for what's right. Perlman urged his fans to take their outrage at recent events and channel it into making positive change.

Ultimately, Perlman dropped out of the race in January 2019. He tweeted that he would throw his support behind Kamala Harris, joking that his endorsement would win Harris a grand total of "93 fully committed votes." The actor is still an outspoken advocate for Black Lives Matter and other causes on social media. In what is perhaps his most memorable political discussion to date, Perlman challenged Senator Ted Cruz to a wrestling match, according to Vanity Fair. For better or worse, such a showdown never came to be.

He wants to make Hellboy 3, but suspects it won't happen

Guillermo del Toro had always intended for his Hellboy movies to be a trilogy (via Inverse), and in fact he already had an ending in mind. Yet it seems increasingly unlikely that the film will ever get made. Perlman and del Toro are each busy with their own projects, according to ScreenRant, and since Perlman won't film the threequel without del Toro, that means "Hellboy 3" is a long shot at best.

Don't get us wrong — Perlman would love to make the film. "If Guillermo were to wake up one day and say, 'We need to finish the trilogy' ... I'd be there in a heartbeat," he announced in an interview with Empire. "We owe this to the fans," he told The Independent, but added that he couldn't see how he'd manage to do any action sequences, seeing as he's over 70 years old. So he's not holding his breath. "I spent a long, long time really poking and prodding the bear to get the third one made," he explained to Collider Live, but by now he's accepted that it probably won't happen.

There's still a chance another filmmaker might try their hands at "Hellboy 3." If they do, Perlman hopes they will at least use the script del Toro has already written. "Whether he directs it or not [doesn't matter]," Perlman told Inverse. "Whether I'm Hellboy doesn't matter." He just wants to see del Toro's script brought to life, to give Hellboy the ending that del Toro had envisioned.

He almost ruined a take in Alien: Resurrection

When filming "Alien: Resurrection," Ron Perlman got to watch Sigourney Weaver shoot a basket by tossing the ball over her shoulder — and he almost ruined the take.

Weaver shared a journal account of the incident in Premiere magazine (via Birgitte's Sigourney Weaver Page). She trained for weeks with a professional basketball player, and had gotten quite good at it (averaging "one basket for every six tries," she wrote) — until director Jean-Pierre Jeunet told her she needed to shoot the basket from even further away. Weaver wasn't prepared for that. According to Den of Geek, Jeunet kept insisting that Weaver should deliberately miss so the VFX team could make it look like she made the hoop. But Weaver, knowing that it would only look fake, was intent on proving she could make the shot. So she stood where the director asked her to stand and, within a few takes, she nailed the shot.

The entire film crew was ecstatic — except for Perlman. According to Den of Geek, he shouted, "It's no good ... I broke up after the ball went in." Sure enough, when they replayed the footage, they saw that Perlman broke character and cheered like a madman when Weaver made the basket. "They played it back about a hundred times, to see whether they could get the editing scissors in there before I blew it," he told Couch Surfing. Luckily, camera operator Connie Hall did an amazing salvage job, which must have been a huge relief for Perlman.

Perlman spat in Sean Connery's eye

Ron Perlman holds only the highest respect for Sean Connery. He even told BBC that he believes Connery is not only the best James Bond, but also "the only Bond." So there's no way on Earth that Perlman would spit in the veteran actor's eye — unless he had a good reason.

In this case, that reason was simply that the script called for it. Perlman's character in "The Name of the Rose" was supposed to launch a loogie right into Connery's face. He told Entertainment Weekly that he was awed to be working with such a revered actor, and he "certainly didn't have the chutzpah to spit in the guy's eye." So he tried to be nice and only pretended to spit.

However, this simply wouldn't do for Connery. According to BBC, he told Perlman, "You know, Ron, if you don't spit in my eye, I have nothing to play." He explained it would be so much easier for him to react if he had a real glob of spit dripping down his face. After that, Perlman decided well, he'd better spit then, since Connery insisted. So he let loose a big one. His spit must have exceeded Connery's expectations, because Perlman recalls the actor saying (via Entertainment Weekly), "Yeah, that was pretty good spit there."