Film and television actor Doug Jones visited VFS last week to give a special presentation to Makeup Design for Film & Television and Acting for Film & Television students. Known for wearing heavy makeup in his films, you probably know him best as Abe Sapien in Hellboy and Hellboy 2, The Faun and The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, and the Silver Surfer in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Doug had a lot of interesting stories to share about his time spent in both the makeup chair and in front of the camera. Doug originally wanted to be a supporting actor on a sitcom, but after joining his university’s mime troupe, discovered that he loved the art form and telling stories with his body. Doug also spent two years as the basketball team’s mascot – an interesting introduction to the kinds of characters and acting he would soon be doing.
After graduation, Doug headed for Hollywood and began looking for work in sitcoms – not realizing that you could be a monster in movies. He began doing commercials and did 27 Mcdonald’s commercials in three years. Remember the moon-headed guy from the Mac Tonight commercials in the 80′s? That was Doug! That role established him in the industry and his career soon took off.
With his animated personality and incredible physicality, it is no surprise that he transitioned smoothly into the world of expressive and elaborate characters. So how do characters like The Pale Man or Abe Sapien transition from a character on the page to the living, breathing monster we see on screen? Doug works closely with the director of the films, utilizes his own imagination, and visits the design shops where the makeup and prosthetics are being created.
He likens taking on a role as taking the character in your chest cavity. He also believes that the director must create a playground that is safe to play in to get the best work from the actors. You must be able to trust the director 100%. This seems especially important when taking on such extreme and larger-than-life characters.
Doug has had to spend many hours in the makeup chair to allow the artists the opportunity to achieve the incredible and award-winning looks we see on screen. In the case of HellBoy, Doug spent seven hours a day in makeup, having 12 prosthetic pieces applied.
In Pan’s Labyrinth, Doug spent five hours a day getting made up, was covered in foam latex, and had to speak Spanish dialogue as the Faun. The Pale Man makeup required another five hours and the application of silicone to get the correct look. The hours paid off. Pan’s Labyrinth makeup artists David Martí and Montse Ribé won the Best Makeup Oscar in 2007 for their work on the film.
Doug’s unique perspective, as an actor who has spent more than his share of time working with makeup artists, means that he was able to offer some great tips and lessons to those starting out in the film and television industry. One important piece of advice is that the makeup should enhance, not hinder, what the director wants and what the story requires. The actor must be able to move, see, and act while wearing the makeup.
Doug has become close to his makeup artists over the years and shared the fact that these artists must wear many hats during a film production. From therapist to nurse to confidante, there is much a makeup artist can offer the actor who is sitting in their chair, often for hours a day. Ultimately, the actor and the makeup artist have each other to lean on and support throughout the shoot and can help each other achieve their best work.
A big thank you to Doug Jones for visiting VFS and sharing his incredible industry knowledge with our students. Doug is currently in Vancouver shooting the third season of TNT’s Falling Skies. The series will return in the US with new episodes in 2013. In Canada, the first season is currently airing Monday nights on Space.
See more photos from the event on our Flickr page.