The legend also talks Hellboy 3 and answers the same 10 questions we always ask everyone!
You play a post-op transsexual in your new movie, Frankie Go Boom. Did you feel particularly ladylike in your dress?
Ha! No, I didn’t. I mean, I felt ladylike enough, you know, no matter what the plumbing indicated. There was a lot of confusion there for [my character] Phyllis, as sure as he was of himself in other areas. My actual favorite line of his in the movie is, “I think I might be a lesbian.” Which is like, why go to all the trouble?
Do you think Sons of Anarchy fans will be surprised when they see you hitting on Charlie Hunnam (Sons’ Jax Teller) in this movie?
I do, actually. I couldn’t help but think, as I was reading that first scene when Charlie comes to the house to meet Phil and finds Phyllis there, I was trying to envision the looks on our fans’ faces. I’m not sure what the die-hard Sons of Anarchy fans are going to think about seeing Clay Morrow in a dress, with the biggest tits you’ve ever seen!
You’ve got around 200 movie and TV credits to your name; is it possible for you to pick a favorite character at this point?
It’s really not! There are so many of them that I really, really loved. There’s a lot of them in there that were just to pay the rent, but I’ve had a huge amount of good fortune getting theses phenomenal opportunities to play people who I ended up totally falling in love with and loving spending time with. And I gotta put Phyllis up on that list…
Of all the characters you’ve played, which would you least like to meet in a dark alley?
I did this movie probably 20 years ago, I can’t even remember what it’s called, it had Ally Walker in it. She played this investigator who was investigating me for these really gruesome killings. You actually don’t meet him till page 95, and you see how sick and twisted he is. If I think of the name of it, I will mention it before this interview is over. I have this thing that a lot of 60-year-old actors get called CRS: Cant Remember Shit.
It seems like you’ve worn more than your fair share of big costumes in movies over the years, but which was the biggest pain in the ass to work in?
Well, they’ve all had their challenges. If you want to talk about heavy, I would say Hellboy, because just the tail alone was about 50 lbs. It was mechanically operated - it was a really rather formidable thing; you knew you had it on, with every movement. And then of course there’s all the layers of clothing, and then there’s this trench coat. But that’s on top of rather formidable amounts of foam rubber, so I was very comfortable… The effects were real - the schlong definitely had special effects, but you won’t write about that, of course.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Of course! How did the Hellboy costume compare to Vincent from Beauty And The Beast?
Vincent’s costume was a challenge. He was an Elizabethan character, so he had this silhouette that needed to be built up, it just sort of gave him this kind of mythic power. Since most of what I did on that show was interior, because he’s always in hiding, very rarely did I ever see him outside, and it was kind of warm in there. Anyways, what might have been annoyances are just the actor’s job - it comes with the territory, and I’m always mindful of the guy who coalmines for a living, or digs ditches. There’s way tougher ways of making a living than what I do.
As well as being an award-winning actor, you’re an icon to geeks everywhere, thanks to roles in Hellboy, Adventure Time, several different Marvel and DC cartoons, and tons of videogames. Are you into comic-y, sci-fi stuff in general, or are those just the kind of roles that people think of you for?
That’s not my kind of wheelhouse when I’m entertaining myself - I’m kind of an old movie freak, you know, '30s and '40s. The classics. But the people I’ve met who devote themselves to that genre, like Guillermo Del Toro, are so delightfully imaginative in their approach to what they do. I love being around these genre guys, and I love being sort of a tube of paint for them to use on whatever canvas they’re creating.
The fans of those genres can be really, really committed, too.
That too! I didn’t understand until I went to my first Comic Con what fandom looks like when it’s operating on all fourteen cylinders. It’s very gratifying and very amazing. It’s mind-boggling to me to see that kind of enthusiasm for anything culture-oriented, so it feels great.
Is there a particular line of yours that fans like to quote at you?
It depends - I have fans from Police Academy movies and fans from The Name Of The Rose, so there’s kind of a wide swath of things I’ve become known for. I would imagine that people really want to hear me say the word “Catherine” from Beauty And The Beast. People want to hear me say, “War…war never changes” from the Fall Out video games. People want to hear me say, “Oh, crap” from Hellboy. My favorite line I’ve ever spoken is when Abe Sapien and I are getting drunk in Hellboy 2 and I’m offering him his first beer. He says, “My body is a temple” and I say, “Mine is an amusement park.” That’s my favorite thing I’ve ever said.
Do you think we’ll ever see Hellboy 3?
We talked about it, Guillermo and I, a lot. Hellboy 2 was a really heavy lift, and there were a lot of personal costs to both of us to get that thing made. But you know, once the dust settled, it became clear to me that - and we agree on this - it was always designed to be a trilogy. This is a guy with a destiny, almost like an oracle, where it’s non-negotiable - he will destroy the Earth. And yet he’s been nurtured to go the other way. It would have been a phenomenal movie, we’re both aware of that, but it would have been an amazingly expensive movie, and the Hellboy movies, as well as they did in the box office, were never blockbusters - they weren’t Iron Man or Spider-Man kind of money. They held their own and made a little bit of a modest profit, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be surprised if we never see Hellboy 3, although I’m going to keep at it, because I feel as though it would make a great film.
There’s footage that resurfaced on the Internet recently of you hosting at the Improv - would you want to do that again?
Oh, absolutely! I actually started in stand-up. And pretty much all of the seminal moments I had in theater in New York when I was first discovering that maybe I wanted to be an actor, were in comedy. Everything was comedy until I moved to Hollywood, and then of course they looked at my physicality and they niched me out into this kind of tough guy, a rough looking kind of gangster. So getting full circle here, when an opportunity arises like Frankie Go Boom for me to go back and work in something comedic, I just jump at it. We all worked for free on Frankie Go Boom - that’s the only way I’ll ever do comedy, is if I do it for free, it appears. But fuck it, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
Even if it means wearing a dress?
Even if it means working for free!
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
Raising my voice at my wife, last night. That’s really recent.
What’s your favorite curse word?
That sounds so good when you say it!
It feels good, that’s why I love it!
Photo: Prashant Gupta / FX
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
Southern Comfort, back in the '60s, that was the one that informed the rest of my drinking to date. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a lot of doozies, probably four or five dozen really, really sick, twisted hangovers. But the Southern Comfort one was the one where you have to have your face up on the toilet bowl, because it’s cool and you’re burning up and you need to be by the bowl anyways. That was as messed up from a frolicking evening as I’ve ever been.
What was your first car?
My dad gave me his Rambler in 1966, I think it was a '64 Rambler. It was a push-button transmission, it was the car of the year.
Do you still have it?
I kept the buttons, haha!
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have a hernia scar, and it tells the story of getting a hernia when I was very young. There’s a number of stories - there’s the actual story, which I never tell because it’s so boring, and there are the two or three which I kind of alternate, that are rather colorful. I’m leaving it at that.
Do you have a party trick?
Driving home safely, that’s my party trick. I leave the magic and the rest of that shit.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
I can’t answer that one - I can’t remember what the biggest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth was.
You’ve smoked some pretty epic cigars onscreen.
Yeah, those are big, but they’re manageable. I could say I put a carton of cigarettes in my mouth and smoked them all at once. I never did that, but I could say I did. Yeah, let’s say I did that! Back in my smoking days, I once put a carton of cigarettes in my mouth and smoked the whole motherfucker!
What’s the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
How the first time I ever got hit upside the head, it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I thought it would. In other words, I can take a punch. And that’s very liberating, by the way, when you find that out about yourself.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
Unfortunately, it was my doctor, because my wife has been in New York for a couple months because we’re bi-coastal - I’m in L.A. and she’s working in New York. I had a physical, and it’s just so sad, but it’s my doctor.
Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day, I would…
I’d make sure that everybody was happy.