Best known for his cult TV series Beauty and the Beast and his successful franchise Hellboy, Ron Perlman received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, and has moved seamlessly between the worlds of film, television and the theatre for almost thirty years.
In his new supernatural adventure, Season of the Witch, which is set in medieval times, he plays Felson, a warrior who has just returned from the Crusades along with his best friend Behmen (Nicolas Cage). While they are searching for food at the Palace at Marburg, they are apprehended and called before the local Cardinal (Christopher Lee), who threatens them with imprisonment unless the escort a young women (Claire Foy), to a distant abbey, where she is to be tried as a witch.
Can you tell us a little about your character, Felson?
He’s a rough dude who came from noting. He grew up on the street and has never gotten over the rush of taking life right to the edge. He became a warrior for the action. It doesn’t even matter which side he’s fighting for as long as he’s in it, which makes him the perfect foil for Behmen.
Had you met Nicolas Cage before and what conversations did you have with him about your characters’ friendship, which is so important to the movie?
There were huge potions of the movie where it was just me and Nic, and so we did get a chance to bond head-on. I had only met him to say hello, how are you, a couple of times over the course of the years. But we never worked together and we never really had any kind of relationship other than something very superficial. But I do count him among my friends.
I find Nic to be one of the warmest, most genuine people I’ve ever worked with. I really looked forward to being around him. He’s a real pro, he actually makes me feel like a bit of a diva because he’s the first one on the set, he’s the first one to agree with what the director is looking to do, and he dives in with both feet. I really love his work ethic.
Please tell us a little about Behmen and Felson’s relationship.
They needle one another, especially in high-tension situations, because that is what guys in a war do all the time. They’re constantly trying to keep it light, because if they dwelled on what is really going on around them, they would freeze in fear. Nic is a hard worker and very serious about building a foundation for his character. The smartest way for us to approach this was to sit down together and figure out a back story for them.
How do you get to know each other, did you go for drinks?
Usually I do, but in this case, no. That’s my first thing, ‘Hey, let’s go get a drink.’ The rapport between Behman and Felson is on the page, and it’s clear the kind of relationship we needed to have.
The audience is given to believe that these guys have been friends for decades and have fought back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder for decades as well, they are like two sides of the same coin. So in this case it was really important, even if the audience never really experienced it, that we built a very strong back story between the two of us.
At the end of the day, rapport is a chemical thing and it’s really easy to work with Nic Cage. He’s a very generous actor.
How exciting was it for you to recreate the battle scenes from the Crusades?
It was not exciting at all, it was very tiring. In physical action, people get hurt. The stunt team got wrapped a couple of days before I did, so I went out and had a drink with them on the night they were getting wrapped, and they were all lifting up their shirts and pulling down their pants and saying, ‘You did that, you son of a bitch. I’m hope you’re insured!’
We were working with hard rubber swords, but we were swinging for our lives. It’s the only way you’re ever going to print and move on and, at my age you want to print and move on as quickly as is humanly possible! So I go for the gusto right on the first take and if you happen to be in the wrong place you’re going to go to the hospital.
We’re talking about an arc-of-time sequence that delineates ten years of warfare, so there’s a lot of moving pieces, a lot of different moves, a lot of different swipes and kills and head butts, and my goal was to get in and out of there was fast as I possibly could.
Have you ever been hurt doing the stunts?
I’ve broken ribs, I’ve broken toes; luckily I’ve never broken a limb. I’ve been really lucky that most of the things that have happened to me in the course of all these set piece movies that I do have been superficial. You just limp around for a couple of days and then you’re fine.