To call Ron Perlman prolific would be an understatement. This year alone, it feels as though he’s been in every other film I’ve seen, with 17 of his staggering 182 credits on IMDb taking place across 2011.
The new year was ushered in by Perlman’s appearance in the rather unfortunate Season Of The Witch, and then his voice was heard in Disney’s superb Tangled. Regardless of how the end product turns out, though, his reputation remains intact, as no matter the size or budget of a production, his performance is always a highlight, and never seems workmanlike, which can’t be said of some of his less fastidious peers (that’s right, John Malkovich, I’m looking at you in Mutant Chronicles).
With the superb-looking Drive about to hit the big screen, we thought it fitting to take a look at some of the many reasons why everyone should have some love for the big man. His remarkable work flow, combined with his versatility, have ensured that no matter your age, if you’ve ever switched on a TV, played a video game, or gone to the cinema, then there’s a fair chance that you’ve seen or heard the mighty Ron Perlman in one guise or another.
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea… Ron Perlman? Well no, sadly, it’s SpongeBob SquarePants, but it genuinely surprised me that among his voice-over credits, he’s played a handful of roles on this endlessly popular children’s cartoon, albeit one which I find a little too upsetting to sit through.
On a similarly child friendly note, Tangled (as mentioned above) found him cast as the superbly named Stabbington Brothers, in a film that several of us here at Geek are incredibly fond of, with songs that have been unfairly dismissed by many, but really do deserve a second chance.
Perlman’s unique voice manages the somewhat unique duality of sounding smooth and gravelly at the same time, soothing at times and terrifying at others, a trait which has seen him voice a tremendous variety of characters in the animated Batman incarnations, including Clayface, Driller, Killer Croc, Bane, Rumor and Doctor Double X.
His voice-over credits are too vast to list, but playing homosexual Cuban ex-spy Ramon Limon in Archer must’ve been a high point, and well worth a mention. If you’ve never seen or heard of Archer, I really can’t recommend it highly enough – that is, if the idea of a blackly comic (and extremely offensive) version of James Bond sounds like your cup of tea.
Perlman’s voice has also graced an equally large number of videogames over the years, and I’ve certainly taken great comfort from his unique timbre during the Fallout franchise, as he ominously introduced me to a post-apocalyptic world and cast judgement upon my actions.
I actually experimented with the multiple endings of Fallout 3, but after trying the coward’s path, felt far too bad when the big man expressed his disappointment, no doubt compounded by the added gravitas of having Liam Neeson voice my father in the game. The government should take note – I’m pretty sure if they hired Neeson and Perlman to voice anti-smoking adverts, the industry would dry up overnight.
He plays an awesome bad ass
I have seen Mr Perlman kill a whole lot of people during the course of his career, but every now and again he gets the chance to really show off. Alien: Resurrection is a film that has taken quite a bashing over the years, but it still has its moments and, for me, only really crashes off course towards the end.
The set pieces remain one of the film’s strongest assets (though I actually found the underwater alien pursuit more terrifying in the behind the scenes documentary, when the actors faced the very real prospect of being trapped under water), and Perlman gets a massively enjoyable chance to show exactly how tough his character of Johner is.
While the rag tag group are chased up a ladder by a rather angry alien, he decides to fall backwards and suspend himself upside down by his feet, with two guns blazing, landing a comical headshot on the alien, whose head promptly explodes. Yes, explodes. This is followed by Johner shooting a spider for making him jump, a unique take on arachnophobia, Perlman style.
Under the directorial hand of Guillermo del Toro, he’s also played multiple bad asses from Angel de la Guardia in the superb Cronos, to mean bastard Reinhardt in Blade II, though Reinhardt has the disadvantage of being essentially bitch slapped by Blade, not once, but three times, undermining his authority somewhat. And then, of course, there’s Hellboy.
It’s so incredibly rare for a fan favourite actor to end up being cast in a Hollywood role (just ask Nathan Fillion), yet del Toro managed it in Hellboy after some heaving persuasion, and the result was a perfect fit. Admittedly, the first film suffered from a little too much exposition and some all too familiar story elements, but Hellboy II: The Golden Army was so very good that we even set up a petition on Den of Geek to try to persuade Perlman to endure the gruelling hours needed in make up to return to the franchise.
Perlman is Hellboy, so if he’s not prepared to return to the role, then I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing anyone else attempt to fit those sizeable shoes.
His paternal streak
Just imagine if Ron Perlman was your dad.
Well, I was tempted to just leave the reason at that, as I can imagine that one brief visit from Papa Perlman to the schoolyard would put an end to any thought of bullying from anyone, especially if he was garbed in animal skins, which I’m sure he owns many of, as well as a plentiful supply of arms.
At this very moment in cinemas across the world, he’s demonstrating his ability to be both a caring father and slayer of men, playing the father of one Conan The Barbarian. It speaks volumes that when bringing the character of Conan back to the big screen, Perlman seemed the most logical casting choice for such a (literally) larger than life character, and indeed, there are few actors that can pull off such a believable dagger caesarean, while shouting and crying, and killing. Let’s also not forget the proud “That’s my boy” moment when Perlman’s Corin sees his young son return with some rather bloody battle trophies.
The flipside of the Conan school of parenting is probably best demonstrated in another of his voice-over roles, playing Professor Sam Tucker, the father of Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) in the vastly underappreciated Titan A.E. Admittedly, the role is only small, but it’s a fine example of how he can channel a performance through his voice alone, becoming a reassuring, warm and loving father, and breaking all associations with his more brutal and callous roles.
(On the subject of animated sci-fi, if any readers have seen Battle For Terra, I’m incredibly curious to know if it’s as good as it looks.)
He even makes time for TV
I confess that I’m less familiar with Perlman’s more recent TV output, an issue I certainly intend to address by breaking into the critically lauded Sons Of Anarchy, but where fellow actors are often constrained by their reoccurring role in a television series, it would appear that the mighty Ron can squeeze multiple TV episodes in alongside all his voice work and film roles, all in just one year. It makes me wonder if the man has ever had a holiday.
But in mentioning his television career and reasons to love the man, I’d be remiss not to mention my first introduction to him as an actor, in the fondly remembered 80s classic, Beauty And The Beast.
Eighties TV was awash with vigilante justice, so it’s no surprise that, ever since that decade finished, so many of us cherish those programmes that gave us countless small screen heroes, each with their own unique approach to righting wrongs: The A-Team, The Equalizer, Street Hawk and Knight Rider to name but a few. But there amongst them was big Ron, playing Vincent in Beauty And The Beast.
Starring alongside the incandescent Linda Hamilton, the series played as a modern retelling of the tale, with Hamilton’s character, Catherine, working as an assistant DA who inevitably found herself in danger and in need of her guardian. Vincent was the protector who regularly rushed to her rescue – a not dissimilar relationship to that of Batman and Rachel in Nolan’s movies.
The series, as I remember it, played much stronger than the synopsis would lead you to believe, especially after Catherine’s brutal attack in the first episode, and it perfectly captured the duality of Perlman’s performances in future years, with Vincent’s soft nature at odds with his animalistic brutality.
His dedication to both blockbusters and independent cinema
One of the greatest things about Ron Perlman is his absolute blending of art and commerce. As mentioned above, his work with Guillermo del Toro saw him follow the director from his directorial debut to great commercial success, forming a great bond between the two, which to Perlman’s credit, also happened with another great visionary.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet similarly chose to make a leading man of him in The City Of Lost Children, before casting Perlman again in his ill-fated attempt to break into Hollywood with Alien: Resurrection. But it’s not just his ability to appeal to artistic directors making a transition to the mainstream that counts here – he’s consistently dedicated to every kind of film he works on.
The likes of Conan The Barbarian, Tangled and Hellboy might get the lion’s share of publicity and advertising, but I’m just as big a fan of the smaller movies that managed to escape attention due to their limited release, or even straight to disc. Mutant Chronicles is a thoroughly enjoyable and visually rich B-movie, complete with Thomas Jane on grizzled action duties, and Sean Pertwee doing what he does best in movies – swearing and dying (and no, that doesn’t count as a spoiler), while Outlander provided an entertainingly crazy mix of sci-fi and monster movie, alongside Jim Caviezel.
And those are just a couple of my personal favourites, picked from Ron Perlman’s lower budget movies of the last few years. I haven’t even attempted to count those I’ve loved over the course of earler decades, such as The Name Of The Rose and The Last Supper. The beauty is that there are so many great films and performances of his to choose from that, no matter what your taste is in entertainment, there’s bound to be at least one thing that the great man has done to make you love him.