Ever since the upcoming ‘Hellboy’ reboot was announced, fans have had to deal with some seriously conflicting emotions on the subject. After all, a new Hellboy movie would under normal circumstances be unambiguously good news. Of course, this is one character whose cinematic history has never exactly been shaped by “normal circumstances.” Indeed, as frustrating as it is that Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman won’t get to finish their trilogy, it’s something of a minor miracle that they got to make the two movies they did. Under normal circumstances, it might’ve all ended when it began, back in 2004. Indeed, under normal circumstances (according to del Toro himself), his and Perlman’s greatest collaboration may not have happened at all.
Though ‘Hellboy’ wasn’t released until 2004, it was a movie that Guillermo del Toro had been trying to kickstart for years prior to that. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the director’s twenty-five year career, as he often has several projects that he’s developing at any given time. What’s noteworthy here is the specific reason (or one of them, anyway) why ‘Hellboy’ took as long as it did to get off the ground. Put simply, it was because of Ron Perlman.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Perlman explained that del Toro spent nearly a decade trying to get ‘Hellboy’ made, with the most consistent sticking point being his desire to cast Perlman in the title role. As Perlman tells it:
“For seven years, he would go to these meetings at these studios and he would say “Ron Perlman,” and they would [snore]. And he never got the movie made. And then we did ‘Blade II’, and ‘Blade II’ opened to like $40 million on the first weekend, and everybody wanted to do Guillermo’s next movie. And he said to himself, “If I’m ever going to get ‘Hellboy’ done with Ron, it’s going to be this week.” And sure enough, somebody said to him, “How do I get in the Guillermo del Toro business?” and he said, “Well, I really want to do this movie ‘Hellboy’.” They say, “Any conditions?” and he said, “Yeah, Ron Perlman,” and they go, “Hmmm… Okay!” There was a loyalty aspect to it, but there was also this… he was convinced, “This is the way I want to make the movie, and if I have to make the movie the way you want to make it, I’m not going to make it at all.””
As Perlman alludes to, it’s a testament not only to del Toro’s sense of personal loyalty but of his confidence in Perlman’s ability to embody the character. Had he been less insistent on that point, the movie could very well have been made much earlier, and yet it’s hard to imagine anyone arguing that he made the wrong choice here. While you could certainly call del Toro’s insistence on casting Perlman a gamble, it’s one that more than paid off.