LONDON Actor Ron Perlman stars with Nicolas Cage in supernatural medieval thriller "Season of the Witch," which hits theatres on Friday.
Perlman plays Felson, a rugged, straight-talking comrade-in-arms of disillusioned 14th century Crusader Behmen (Cage).
The two men are charged with delivering a girl, suspected of being a witch and the cause of a devastating plague, to a remote monastery where powerful dark forces are unleashed.
Perlman, 60, sat down with Reuters recently to discuss the movie, working with Cage, the prospects of a third installment of the popular "Hellboy" franchise and his fear of getting back on stage after concentrating on films in recent years.
Q: Why did you decide to play the part of Felson?
A: "I love the character. I'm actually more comfortable being a sidekick, because I don't get blamed if it is a complete disaster. I really liked ... his mindset, I liked his irreverence. In the world of seriousness, he's a guy who thinks it's all bullshit. He's just in it for the whores and the sword fights."
Q: How was it working with Nicolas Cage?
A: "It exceeded my expectations because he is a movie star who doesn't behave like we think a movie star behaves. He's absolutely the very first one on the set when they knock on the door to get us to come down and start the shooting ... There's no ego, there's nothing external. It's all about the work ... He knows when it's his moment, he knows when it's your moment and he's very willing to make you look as good as you possibly can."
Q: This film is set in 14th century Europe as was "The Name of the Rose" (1986) in which you also starred. Is there something about this period that attracts you?
A: "It's coincidental that I did a couple of movies that were set in those times, but it does interest me. What particularly interests me is the juxtaposition between what the Crusades were sold as being and what they actually were. We're still grappling with the public relations of war and being told to buy into these very jingoistic, one-dimensional mindsets as a justification for what turns out to be different agendas, not the agenda being shoved down the public's throat.
"So it was interesting to do something set in the 14th century and to realize that not that much has changed in man's ability to conquer other men."
Q: You say you like playing the sidekick, but in Hellboy and Hellboy II you took on the central role. Was that daunting?
A: "I felt a little bit of pressure when we were setting out to do Hellboy I, which completely dissipated the moment we all walked on to the set. It's really hard to feel pressure when you're around (Mexican director) Guillermo (del Toro), because he makes for a set where it's okay to be stupid, it's okay to do things that are absolutely wrong."
Q: What are the chances of Hellboy III being made?
A: "I think he (del Toro) is moving in another direction, so if there's another one to be made I'm not sure what his input would be. I would be more than happy to make a third one. He would have to be involved on some level, because he always thought of it as a trilogy ... The take that Guillermo had on finishing the trilogy was epic, and if it doesn't get made it would be unfortunate because it was always designed to have this big finish and I would love to see it being filmed."
Q: Do you think del Toro could change his mind and return to Hellboy?
A: "He may. Life is full of surprises."
Q: You are also a stage and TV actor. What kind of performing do you prefer?
A: "I am in love with the process of making movies. I love the fact that it's a moving army of hundreds and hundreds of people, all of whom have completely disparate abilities ... all of whom are the best in the world at what they do, all coming together to execute a common vision.
"I love working out of sequence, because there's a challenge to that as well. I love the fact that when you get finished shooting a scene you never have to do that scene again. I tried going back to the stage a few years ago and it was a disaster. I had become so entrenched in the filmmaking point of view that I forgot what to do ...
"My ability to perform on the stage has disappeared. Now I feel challenged by the fact that I've lost this skill set. I kind of feel as though there's a challenge out there - there's one more mountain out there for me to climb."
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)