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Where You've Seen The Amphibian Man From The Shape Of Water Before

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water is a fantasy film for the ages, a story of a mute woman who falls in love with an amphibian man. And while it's obvious that Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine) is playing the speech-impaired protagonist, who's the guy under that incredible Creature from the Black Lagoon getup?

Why, it's none other than Doug Jones, a 6'3", 140-pound actor who specializes in playing ghouls, ghosts, and otherworldly monsters. With his unusual build and background as a mime and contortionist, it's no wonder he's Hollywood go-to-guy for portraying creepy creatures. And while you might not recognize his face from The Shape of Water—after all, he looks like the Gill Man—you've definitely seen Jones work his magic in all sorts of genre films, from superhero and sci-fi flicks to award-winning fantasy films.

The man behind the monsters

Born in 1960, Doug Jones is a devout Christian who hails from Indiana. People constantly describe him as humble and modest, and judging from his interviews, he seems like one of the friendliest people in Tinseltown. In other words, he isn't the kind of guy you'd expect to play a sexy fishman or a murderous vampire. Even Jones has admitted that he would've never guessed that one day he'd become Hollywood's go-to-guy for creepy creatures.

Jones first got into show business by training and working as a mime, eventually moving to Los Angeles, where he hoped to become a comical sidekick on TV shows. "I was a goofy fellow who related to Jerry Lewis and Dick Van Dyke and Gilligan's Island," he told Buzzfeed. "I thought I would be one of them. I never set out to do costume work." But instead of turning into a sitcom star, he started working in commercials—including playing "Mac Tonight" in the bizarre 1980s McDonalds campaign that involved Jones wearing a gigantic moon mask and playing a piano.

But soon enough, Jones left commercials behind for a career working with the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Joss Whedon, and Spike Jonze. Still, despite his monstrous success, Jones admits that he's dealt with body issues for most of his life, and he's finally come to accept his unusual frame. Talking with Vulture, the actor confessed,"It took me until my 40s before I could fully embrace this tall, skinny, gangly person that I am. God created me just as I am for a very specific purpose, and I think that's true for all of us."

Hocus Pocus (1993)

After playing a killer clown in Batman Returns, Doug Jones got his first significant role in the Halloween cult classic Hocus Pocus, playing Billy Butcherson, the shaggy-haired zombie with a stitched-up mouth. Resurrected by the Sanderson sisters—a witchy trio who plan on killing the children of Salem, Massachusetts—Billy is ordered to hunt down a group of meddlesome kids and gets his head knocked off several times in the process. But underneath those dusty rags and dried-out skin, there still beats a heart because, eventually, Billy switches sides, helping our young heroes defeat a bucktoothed Bette Midler.

In addition to portraying the world's friendliest zombie, Jones had a big part in developing one of the film's most famous scenes. Originally, after Billy cut the stitches off his mouth and turned on Winifred Sanderson (Midler), he was supposed to drop the decidedly non-Disney "b-word." But Jones didn't think that was right for a kid's movie or the character, so he improvised Butcherson's angry monologue, including the final comedic line, "I've waited centuries to say that."

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Hush (1993)

Widely considered the best episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hush is possibly the freakiest 44 minutes in TV history, and that's all thanks to Doug Jones, who played the Lead Gentleman, a skeletal demon with a taste for fine suits and human hearts. After stealing the voices of everyone in Sunnydale, Jones and his creepy cohorts descend upon the town, floating above the ground while hunting for their prey. Worse still, they're smiling—always smiling.

It's chilling to watch the Gentleman float by door after door. In other words, this isn't an episode you should watch alone. Even Joss Whedon was freaked out by Jones when he auditioned for the part. He was especially creeped out by the actor's smile, leading the show runner to completely redesign Jones' makeup. Originally, Jones was supposed to wear a mask with a smile built in, but Whedon was so impressed by the actor's actual grin, he removed the fake mouth and had Jones use his own natural smirk.

Of course, that meant Jones had to smile for "12 hours at a time." The actor also spent quite a bit of his time wearing a harness underneath his suit that gave him the illusion of floating. In short, it was kind of an uncomfortable experience, physically speaking, but the nightmare fuel was totally worth it.

The Hellboy movies (2004, 2008)

The Shape of Water isn't Doug Jones' first time playing a fish man, and it certainly isn't his first time working with Guillermo del Toro. The two originally met when Jones was hired to do reshoots on Mimic, a monster movie about humanoid insects. Evidently, Jones made quite the impression on del Toro because when it came time for the director to cast the part of clairvoyant gill man Abe Sapien in Hellboy, he gave Jones a call.

In the first Hellboy, the character was voiced by David Hyde Pierce, but that's Doug Jones you see onscreen, bringing Abe Sapien to life. From the cock of Abe's head to his fish man walk, Jones excels at bringing the character to life. Thankfully, in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Jones was given the opportunity to use his own voice, making the character completely his own. And this was a pretty big deal for Jones, as it allowed him to get more dramatic than most of his other performances, since Abe falls head-over-flippers in love with the character of Princess Nuala.

But Sapien wasn't the only part Jones played in the sequel. The actor also starred as the amphibious-looking Chamberlain and, more notably, as the Angel of Death. Sporting enormous wings and a freak show face, Jones gives an incredibly eerie performance, gesturing with his incredibly long arms and gesticulating with his snakelike fingers. Of course, there was a drawback to playing three parts—Jones had to spend five hours in makeup for each character, which has got to be hell, boy.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Shakespeare has Hamlet, da Vinci has the Mona Lisa, and Doug Jones has Pan's Labyrinth. This award-winning film finds Jones pulling double duty as both the ancient faun and the Pale Man, one of cinema's most gruesome monsters. As usual for Jones, he was forced to sit in the makeup chair for an extended period—five hours to play the cranky faun, and six to play the child-eater. And when Jones was portraying the faun, he had to deal with very elaborate leg prosthetics plus huge ram horns that were super heavy. In fact, they weighed so much that he had to have a custom-made cushion that he could rest his forehead against to take some of the load during breaks.

But despite the aches and pains, Jones gave two absolutely masterful performances. The faun starts off as a rickety creature and morphs into a much more powerful beast as the movie goes on, aging backwards as a result of Ofelia's faith in the fantasy world. (Del Toro also advised him to study how hoofed animals walk, so he could incorporate those movements into the faun's gait.) He even learned Spanish for the part so he could exchange lines with Ofelia while filming. And as the Pale Man, Jones steals the show as a terrifying monster driven by hunger, a voracious ogre that staggers through hallways like it's still half-asleep.

In short, Pan's Labyrinth is a testament to Jones' skill as an actor, one that places him in the pantheon of physical performers alongside legends like Lon Chaney and modern-day maestros like Andy Serkis.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

While Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer has largely been forgotten by superhero fans, it does feature a performance from Doug Jones that stands apart from most of his other work. In this Marvel adventure, Jones plays the titular Surfer, an alien being and harbinger of doom. Despite his lighthearted name, the Surfer actually prepares planets for destruction, leading an all-consuming entity named Galactus from planet to planet, helping the cloud creature devour everything it its path.

In most films, Jones is very expressive with his arms and fingers, but in Fantastic Four, he was far more reserved, playing the Surfer as a thoughtful, understated cosmic creature that skates through the sky while remaining totally Zen. And while you might think Jones is doing motion capture here, the actor actually had to dress up for the part.

Talking with Rolling Stone, Jones explained, "Not only was there a foundation glued on to me of Silver Surfer bits—I was in a suit and the makeup that turned me into the Surfer every day with the musculature and the coloring, the restricting of my face with a foam latex mask glued to me, making me very sternly handsome." The whole thing was polished off with a bit of CG to give his facial features a little more life. Sadly, while Jones gave a great performance, his lines were later dubbed over by Laurence Fishburne. Jones admits he was disappointed in the last minute change-up, but despite the switcheroo, the actor was still able to shine through all that silver and impress audiences in a movie that's otherwise a bit lackluster.

Legion (2010)

Directed by Scott Stewart, Legion wasn't what you'd call a critical success, but hey, any movie gets better when Doug Jones shows up onscreen. The plot of this religious thriller follows a band of people trapped inside a diner, only instead of fighting zombies or monsters, they're fighting humans possessed by angels. It seems God has grown tired of humanity, and instead of wiping out the world via flood or meteorite, he wants his angels to go mano y mano with mankind. Fortunately, the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) isn't so keen on the whole apocalypse thing and joins forces with the heroes to blast his otherworldly brethren to bits with machine guns.

Of course, if Michael and his new human buddies want to survive, they'll need to deal with the demonic Ice Cream Man first. As the survivors huddle on the rooftop, preparing for an assault, they hear the off-kilter music of an ice cream truck barreling their way. And when the truck pulls up outside the diner, out steps Doug Jones himself. We actually get to see his face this time, though it quickly morphs into the face of a monster. His arms extend, his legs sprout, and soon, he's the four-legged Ice Cream Man from hell. However, after Michael puts a few bullets in him, the threat is over. But as Jones put it, even though his scene is short, it's "90 seconds of pure terror!"

The Strain (2014—2016)

Based on the book series by Chuck Hogan and—you guessed it—Guillermo del Toro, The Strain tells the story of a grisly vampire outbreak involving worms, grotesque tongues, and creatures that would eat Edward Cullen alive. These vampires look more like Nosferatu or the beasts from Blade II than Dracula, and since del Toro is the guy running the show, these monsters are made of most mostly practical effects. And if you're going to stick a dude inside a vampire suit, then you've got to call Doug Jones. The lanky actor showed up as one of the Ancients, and in season two, he made a memorable appearance as the Master, a vampire who's hosting a major parasite party. It took 18 appliances and over five hours to prepare the actor for the part, but thanks to the character's ugly appearance, audiences were freaked out when he first showed up, slurping on somebody's skull. Make sure you're not eating spaghetti while watching that particular episode.

Crimson Peak (2015)

In 2015, Jones re-teamed with del Toro for the filmmaker's haunted house masterpiece, Crimson Peak. The story follows an American heiress, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who's seduced by a charming Brit who looks a lot like Loki (Tom Hiddleston). He takes her back to his incredible—and insanely creepy—estate where the ground is made of red mud, his freaky sister (Jessica Chastain) lurks in every corner, and ghosts are constantly prowling the hallways.

And as you've probably guessed, quite a few of these spirits are played by the one and only Doug Jones, who turned in some gender-bending work here, playing the troubled souls of Victorian women. Jones first shows up early on as Edith's deceased mother. Complete with a 19th-century dress and skeletal face, he comes floating down the girl's hallway—on a moving track that gives the illusion of levitation—and after arriving at Edit's bedside, he followed del Toro's instructions by using "piano fingers," which means he made them look long and "spidery" as he placed his hand on the little girl's shoulder.

Jones comes back later on, after Edith arrives at Allerdale Hall, Hiddleston's home. For his second appearance, Jones plays the murdered Lady Sharpe, a horribly deformed ghost with crimson red skin. Wearing a full-body suit, Jones had to contend with an unwieldy neck piece and gloves that were glued to his hands. The eyes were made of glass, and it was impossible to see through them, so he had to make do by looking out through "tear ducts carved out around the eyeballs." He also struggled with getting a dead woman's walk just right; after his first attempt, del Toro said it looked "too sexy."

Of course, Jones eventually was able to get "more of a jitter, an unexplained quick, sort-of fluid movement," a gait that would guarantee everyone watching would suffer from nightmares for weeks to come.

The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Doug Jones is no stranger to playing nefarious fiends. He showed up as the electricity-loving meta-human Deathbolt in both Arrow and The Flash, and he gave a pretty chilling performance as an evil Willy Wonka in The Candy Shop. But moviegoers most recently saw Jones in The Bye Bye Man...one of the worst films of 2017.  It's unfortunate that an actor as classy as Jones wound up in a movie with 23 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but you can't begrudge the man a paycheck.

Plus, no matter the movie, it's always fun watching Jones. He's a guy who can send a shiver up your spine by just pointing a hand or lifting a finger—and boy, does the Bye Bye Man have some freaky fingers. Jones is actually wearing elongated digits to give himself that extra sinister look, and then there's the makeup that makes him appear like the world's (second) most evil burn victim.

What's especially interesting is how everyone involved in the movie swears Jones is the nicest guy in the world, and every interview completely supports those claims. It just goes to show that Jones is insanely skilled at his job. One moment, he's all laughs and smiles; the next, he's an evil demon driving college students to murder. Talk about talented.

Star Trek: Discovery (2017—)

In 2017, Star Trek: Discovery boldly went where no Star Trek program had gone before by casting Doug Jones as—what else?—a long-legged extraterrestrial. The contortionist was hired to play Lt. Commander Saru, First Officer aboard the USS Discovery, and Jones was excited to land the part. Not only was he now a part of sci-fi history, he was also playing a brand new species of alien.

As it turns out, Saru is a Kelpien, a creature that always keeps its eyes wide open for danger. In fact, Saru has the ability sense death coming. And naturally, to play the part, Jones had to bury himself under prosthetics, but instead of sporting a bald cap—which causes a lot of nasty perspiration—he decided to shave his head instead. To capture the Kelpien's unique walk, Jones wore specially designed shoes without heels, forcing him to walk on the balls of his feet. Now that he's appeared as aliens, amphibians, spirits, and superheroes, it'll be fun to see what kind of creature Doug Jones plays next.