Interestingly, the character who would come to define Mike Mignola’s career began as nothing more than a comic convention doodle. Despite his humble beginnings, something about Hellboy stuck with Mignola.
A Dark Horse title starring the half-demon was launched in 1994. Since then, the writer/artist has populated Hellboy’s universe with creations such as Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson and B.P.R.D.
Although he was never a household name like Spider-Man or Batman, Hellboy attained new levels of fame after becoming a feature film helmed by Guillermo del Toro in 2004. The project was a true labor of love for the auteur, who spent years trying to get it made. While his film drew heavily from the comics, it was also a distinctly del Toro affair, featuring his signature creepy characters, elaborate settings, and undeniable sense of whimsy.
Hellboy was moderately successful at the box office and was also incredibly well-received by most fans. A sequel was green-lit soon after its release and Hellboy II: The Golden Army hit theaters in 2008. The film greatly improved upon its predecessor and remains an underrated gem of the genre.
A reboot, completely unrelated to del Toro’s installments and starring Stranger Things actor David Harbor in the titular role, is set for release in January. Fans were stunned by this news, many of whom had hoped to see another outing with Ron Perlman once again brandishing the Right Hand of Doom. Although Perlman’s tenure is over, there were a great many elements that came together to make that movie great.
Here are 20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of Hellboy.
20 Ron Perlman was everyone’s first choice
Most fans would agree that Ron Perlman was the perfect choice to bring Mignola’s creation to the big screen. You might think that the actor was forced to endure an arduous audition process, as is often the case with comic book movies. However, when Mignola and del Toro sat down to discuss who would be wearing Hellboy’s filed horns, they had only one performer in mind.
According to the DVD commentary, after agreeing to state the actor that they envisioned as Hellboy, Mignola and del Toro both named Ron Perlman.
While the studio sought to put someone more high profile in the part, del Toro fought to get Perlman the job.
He has since become so synonymous with Hellboy at this point that many fans are struggling with the idea of seeing someone new take up the mantle so soon.
19 Abe Sapien’s original voice voice was dubbed by David Hyde Pierce
If Guillermo del Toro was forced to pick his favorite monster, it would likely be one brought to life by frequent collaborator Doug Jones.
The actor is responsible for both the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, as well as the Amphibian Man in the director’s Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water. Jones has appeared in the majority of del Toro’s projects, so it’s no surprise that he was chosen to portray Abe Sapien in both Hellboy movies.
Strangely, the decision was made to dub Jones’s vocals with those of Frasier actor, David Hyde Pierce. However, Pierce felt that his contributions were so unimportant compared to Jones’s performance that he refused a final credit in the film.
Thankfully, Jones was permitted to use his own voice in the sequel.
18 Ron Perlman broke a rib while filming the subway scene
Ron Perlman is not afraid of doing his own stunts, even if it means that he might get a bit banged up in the process. During the subway scene, the actor jumped onto a train that was moving at about forty-five mph, resulting in a broken rib.
It was one of many takes and Perlman simply mistimed the jump.
The craziest thing about this injury is that the fifty-four year old then attempted to continue filming the scene. However, a crew member saw tears in his eyes and del Toro refused to let him proceed.
Perlman’s response when asked about the busted bone was “Yes, but it was just one rib. I have lots more.” It would seem that Perlman didn’t really need to act all that much in order to convey Hellboy’s tough exterior.
17 Doug Jones was in the makeup chair for 5-7 hours a day
One of the most impressive aspects of any del Toro film is the incredible creatures that inhabit the world that he created. In this case, the movie managed to make Mike Mignola’s art jump right off the page.
Anyone who’s seen Hellboy will likely mention Doug Jones’s portrayal of Abe Sapien as a high point – even if we didn’t get to hear his real voice in the first film. The character was truly a masterpiece.
Of course, transforming Jones into this amazing creature took some serious time and effort. The actor was in the makeup chair for 5-7 hours a day!
The extensive Seeds of Creation documentary dove into the process. Muscles were sculpted, many separate pieces had to be attached, and he needed to spray-painted. Jones didn’t seem to mind the process, remaining in good spirits.
16 Vin Diesel was considered for multiple roles in the film
Speaking of remaining true to the comics, the studio had someone else in mind for the role of Hellboy: Vin Diesel.
Thankfully, del Toro’s star was on the rise – having just finished up Blade II – and he used this to his advantage. Since both Mignola and del Toro had their hearts set on Perlman, the director refused to consider any other names being discussed, such as Dwayne Johnson, Nicolas Cage, and Vin Diesel.
Even after Hellboy was cast, the studio kept Diesel in mind to portray Abe Sapien.
Most fans would agree that both Ron Perlman and Doug Jones were perfectly cast in their roles. It remains to be seen what David Harbor will bring to the part of Hellboy and it’s unknown if Abe will make an appearance in the reboot.
15 Del Toro chose to direct Hellboy over Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Christopher Columbus elected not to direct the third Harry Potter film after helming the first two. There were several potential candidates, and although del Toro counts himself as a huge fan of the books, he chose not to make Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
It was partially that he felt his style wouldn’t mesh with what came before, but the larger issue was that he finally had the opportunity to get Hellboy made and didn’t want to miss his shot.
It worked out for the best, considering how great the Hellboy movies turned out. Aside from that, Alfonso Cuarón’s installment is considered by most to be the best of the Harry Potter franchise.
Interestingly, the director recently revealed that it was del Toro who talked him into doing it before Cuarón had even read the books.
14 The love story between Hellboy and Liz wasn’t in the comics
When it comes to the romance between Liz Sherman and Hellboy, not even their creator saw it coming. A love story wasn’t even hinted at between the two in the comics. Seeds of Creation revealed that this element of the story came from del Toro alone.
Mignola had told del Toro to feel free to make whatever changes that he saw fit, understanding that the comic and the movie were separate entities. He trusted the director’s judgement.
Del Toro liked the idea of a girl who caught fire kissing a guy who was unaffected by it and ran with that image.
Love interests are often added when comics are adapted into films, presumably to make the stories more cinematic. In this case, most fans were pleased with the results.
13 It was meant to begin a trilogy
Del Toro set out to make a trilogy. Although Hellboy was moderately successful at the box office, it did very well on home video release, which got the sequel green-lit. The Golden Army did a bit better at the box office, but not well enough that the studio was willing to let del Toro complete his vision.
It’s unknown what form the 3rd installment would’ve taken. The first film was definitely a Mignola/del Toro mash-up, created with the sensibilities of both men. However, the sequel was definitely more of a del Toro movie, with a story that came mostly from the mind of the director.
The upcoming reboot from Neil Marshall (The Descent) is shaping up to be quite different, although Mignola has said that it is very faithful to the comics.
12 The studio tried to make many changes to Hellboy’s appearance
Hellboy wasn’t exactly an easy sell in Hollywood. Everything from his title to his appearance was questioned by the studio when del Toro initially attempted to get the movie made.
For one thing, they balked at the word “Hell” in his name.
Aside from that, this hero was perhaps a bit too weird for the executives. One suggested that he only turned into Hellboy when he was angry, à la Bruce Banner.
That wasn’t the only idea that del Toro threw out the window. Another was that they keep the name, but make him look just like a regular guy. It was even brought up that he could have a demonic red dog instead of being a giant red demon himself.
Del Toro stated, “It’s funny when you say it, but it’s not funny when it happens.”
11 Perlman being left-handed saved the movie
Hellboy’s Right Hand of Doom is one of the most iconic aspects of the character. However, early on in the process, switching his stone hand from right to left was also considered. It would’ve been extremely difficult for an actor to perform such a physically taxing role, essentially without the use of his dominant hand.
The film’s very early concept art depicted our hero with a Left Hand of Doom.
Luckily, the point became moot after Perlman was cast, ashe actor happens to be a southpaw. Although this change wouldn’t have been a huge deal, that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cover likely wouldn’t have wound up on the soundtrack– which would’ve been a shame.
10 The secret behind the agents’ names
Digging in the earth is a plot point in both Hellboy films, so it’s appropriate that every agent in the B.P.R.D. has a name taken from something that one might find there.
The first movie featured Moss, Lime and Clay, while the second included Flint, Steel and Marble.
Agent Myers has a name that sounds like “mire,” which is another word for swamp.
Poor Myers. He was a major character in Hellboy, but barely warranted a mention in the sequel. This is due to the fact that Rupert Evans had scheduling conflicts and had to be written out of The Golden Army.
9 Del Toro voiced several characters
When watching a Guillermo del Toro film, audiences have come to expect a certain level of excellence. His movies have a distinct feel that comes directly from him.
Anyone who has worked with del Toro will tell you that the auteur throws himself into every aspect of whatever movie he is working on. Aside from creating concept art, writing the script and directing, del Toro can also be heard all over both Hellboy films.
It turns out that if the movie is in need of any number of sound effects, he’s the guy to step in and provide them.
Some of the squeals, grunts, and groans emanating from Ivan, Kroenen, Sammael and even baby Hellboy came straight from del Toro.
8 Some theaters refused to screen the film
There was quite a bit of controversy when Hellboy hit theaters, thanks to the fact that it was sharing the bill with another controversial film Passion of the Christ.
Some theaters simply refused to screen it at the same time. Apparently, they were put off by the fact that Hell was in the title and that it was released so close to Easter weekend. Mel Gibson’s film found success among certain moviegoers, many of whom suggested that Hellboy get a name change.
Hellboy has attracted all sorts of fans over the years. Interestingly, Mignola has received fan mail from both a minister and a member of the Church of Satan, both of whom enjoyed his work immensely.
7 Del Toro was a fan of Hellboy before he made the movie
It’s certainly not a rule that a director needs to have previously loved the source material in order to honor it. Even still, most fans feel that the property is far safer in the hands of a fellow fan. According to Seeds of Creation, this was certainly the case with Hellboy and Guillermo del Toro.
The director had been reading Hellboy for years.
It was the his immense passion for the comics that led creator Mike Mignola to trust him with the difficult task of adapting them. Mignola left their first meeting feeling that no one but del Toro could make this film.
Del Toro felt that Mignola’s work was incredibly unique and wanted to honor it, while putting his own spin on the material. Most fans would agree that he achieved this goal.
6 The medical tank scenes were shot on Doug Jones’s birthday
It turns out that Doug Jones is a real trooper. Aside from sitting in a makeup chair for at least five hours a day, he also spent his birthday hanging upside down in an incredibly tight hip harness.
Many members of cast and crew came by throughout the twenty-one hour shoot to wish Jones a “happy birthday” as he hung suspended in air for an excruciatingly long time.
Much like his time in makeup, Jones doesn’t complain about the experience, instead blaming his own bony hips for how much pain he was in.
The actor seems to really enjoy bringing these characters to life, no matter how much of a struggle it is to do so. At least del Toro took the cast out the next night to celebrate the actor’s birthday.
5 Hellboy quoted del Toro
The character of Hellboy was heavily influenced by Mignola’s father with his “been there, done that” attitude and del Toro himself has also stated that he finds him incredibly relatable. The auteur has even gone so far as to having Hellboy quote him directly.
Like all artists, Guillermo del Toro’s everyday life has been known to influence his work. In Hellboy, this was particularly true of the demon’s love story. According to the director, “The romance between Liz and Hellboy is pretty much taken, in some cases verbatim, from courting my wife of 20 years”.
Del Toro’s wife was attempting to get him to dress a bit better and he responded by promising her, “I’ll always look this good.” Hellboy assures Liz of the exact same thing near the end of the film.
4 The movie was shot in Prague
If you were watching Hellboy and wondering what part of Newark, NJ actually looks that nice, you won’t be surprised to learn that the movie wasn’t shot there. It was actually filmed in Prague— even the New York City subway scenes. Del Toro had shot there previously for Blade II.
An old warehouse was converted to double for a subway tunnel, complete with Czech extras dressed in their convincing NYC getups.
Despite all of the fighting that took place in the film, del Toro had to find creative ways to not show blood, in order to avoid the movie receiving an R-rating.
3 Mignola was very involved in the making of the film
Oft times when books or comics are adapted, the author has little say in the final product. Thankfully, this was not the case with Hellboy. Mignola was incredibly involved, particularly during the design stages.
There are many shots in the film that look like they were directly pulled from panels of the comics.
Del Toro was a longtime fan and it was incredibly important to him to pay homage to Mignola’s work. The artist was involved in everything from set design to character development to dialogue.
According to del Toro, the two did fight quite a bit, with him winning some battles and Mignola emerging victorious in others.
In the end, del Toro made a great many changes, but definitely kept the essence of Mignola’s story and characters intact.
2 Mignola and del Toro both have cameos
Blink and you might miss it, but both Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro have cameos in the film.
When Sammael terrorizes a group of costumed people, the former is dressed as a knight, while the latter suited up as a dragon. This is revealed in the Seeds of Creation documentary and anyone watching can see that these two men became incredibly close during the making of Hellboy.
Initially, there were plans for the upcoming film to be a continuation of del Toro’s already established universe. However, according to Mignola, del Toro didn’t really have the time to direct and Perlman didn’t want to make the movie without him.
The film commenced as a reboot, with Neil Marshall taking his place.
1 Del Toro was not the studio’s first choice to direct
Guillermo del Toro may have just been coming off the greatest success of his career thus far with Blade II, but that doesn’t mean that he was the only director in mind for Hellboy. The studio also considered Jean Jeunet, Peter Hyams, and David S. Goyer.
Jeunet is almost as well known for the films that he has chosen not to make as the ones that he has. The French director found worldwide acclaim with Amélie, but is also highly respected for his work on films such as Delicatessen and City of Lost Children– which starred Ron Perlman. However, aside from those incredible movies, Jeunet has turned down several high profile projects, like Tin Tin, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Hellboy.
As amazing as Jeunet’s work is, most fans wouldn’t trade del Toro’s Hellboy adaptations.
Do you know any other crazy details behind the making of Hellboy? Let us know in the comments!