Ron Perlman is one of Hollywood’s unsung heroes. The talented thespian first set female fans on fire as the sensitive but disfigured hero, Vincent on the 80’s romantic/action drama “Beauty and The Beast.” Since then Perlman has brought to life some of the most fantastical (and villanous) characters to life on the big screen (“Hellboy”, “Blade 2”), their depth and complexity always shining through the make-up and prosthetics.
In his latest collaboration with director Guillermo Del Toro, Perlman plays war profiteer Hannibal Chau in “Pacific Rim.” Dressed like a cross between P.T. Barnum and a blinged out pimp, Chau’s only interest is in the bottom line, selling body parts of the Kaiju to the highest bidder.
The Urban Daily sat down with Perlman to discuss his 20 year friendship with Del Toro, the secret to playing a convincing villain and his thoughts on the George Zimmerman trial.
This is your fifth movie with Guillermo Del Toro. How do you feel Guillermo has evolved as a director?
I feel that he’s just been given more toys to expand. These things that are springing on to the screen, are things that I saw in his notebook when I met him years ago. He’s always dreamed these dreams, he’s always imagined these monsters. He developed his aesthetic as a kid, finding comfort in the darkness of a theater. He’s the same exact guy that I’ve known, but because the world has fallen in love with his genius, he’s been given the opportunity to explore more.
What makes your working relationship with Guillermo so special, compared to other directors you’ve worked with?
There’s a genuine, fundamental fondness that exists. He’s like my brother from another mother. When we met there was an immediate connection and mutual appreciation. Our heroes are the same, our influences are the same. I don’t try to overthink this relationship – I just thank God for it every day because it doesn’t take a genius to see the profound effect he’s had on my career and my life. It’s just been a game changer.
Throughout your career you’ve played some very interesting bad guys – what’s the secret to playing a compelling villain?
I think it’s how the villain is conceived by the writer. I’m kind of addicted to dimension. If something is one dimensional it really doesn’t interest me. Especially if it’s gonna be a real heavy lifting in figuring out how to make them interesting. With a writer as sophisticated as Guillermo, you’re going to be offered a character with expansive and well-articulated foundation. The more expansive the character is, the more room there is for interpretation.
With Hannibal Chau, he’s a megalomaniac, who’s in it for himself. He’s in love with money and he’s a complete hedonist. He has zero moral compass, he has zero political affiliations. He has no idealistic pretense whatsoever. He’s just a money maker and a war profiteer – his wealth comes from the suffering of others. He was originally conceived to be an Asian character but then Guillermo thought “This guy is completely full of sh*t, why don’t I have a White guy play him?”
In the movie, Jaeger pilots are connected to a neural link in order to operate the robots. If you could share a neural link with any celebrity or historical figure, who would it be and why?
I would like to be linked with Obama. I think he’s the smartest dude in the world, and he’s always the coolest dude in the room. He has a vision of how he’s trying to steer the country and there’s a certain nobility to it. I don’t have his kind of discipline cuz when I hate, I hate big. But Obama just has this even keel that’s amazing, but he’s still very passionate. He’s egoless. I don’t think he aspired to be a powerful man, I think he aspired to make a difference..
We’re now in the new age of social media where actors can connect directly with their fans. Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?
I thought it was a horrible thing until I joined and now that I’ve been sucked into the vortex that is Twitter, I’m a Tweetophile. Every free moment I’m on there, and I find that breaking news is much faster on Twitter. I find that I have a more intimate view of the opinions of people I admire. If I got something I wanna say, I do.
One of the biggest topics on Twitter is the George Zimmerman trial. You are married to a woman of color and a father to two children of color as well. What do you think this case says about the state of race relations in America?
I have a visceral opinion that Zimmerman pursued this kid. Trayvon was guilty of being a black kid in that neighborhood and Zimmerman had no business following him. I would like to see him pay a price. It’s clear to me that regardless of what happened and how people try to spin the story, Zimmerman initiated the confrontation. It’s reprehensible and I feel sorry for Trayvon’s family, for what they’ve had to go through.
You can follow Ron Perlman on Twitter: @perlmutations
“Pacific Rim” opens in theaters nationwide today!
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