Daniel Dae Kim co-stars as Ben Daimio in Neil Marshall’s reboot of ‘Hellboy’ opening this weekend. Daimio is a grizzled, seasoned member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) and thanks to a past encounter, can transform into a jaguar at times of pain or stress. He’s just one of many unique individuals that occupy Hellboy’s world, and the red monster will need the help against Nimue the Blood Queen, portrayed by Milla Jovovich and her hellish legions. Beyond the “world-in-the-balance” scope, ‘Hellboy’ has always been about outcasts finding one another, and that helped inform Kim’s performance.
Kim was cast very late in the process to replace Caucasian British actor Ed Skrein, who dropped out after social media went nuts over the whitewashing of the Daimio character, who is Japanese-American in the comics. (In Skrein’s defense, he had never read the comics, and was unaware of his character’s race.)
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kim described the process of getting into character while on a trans-Atlantic flight to the film’s set in Bulgaria.
“I started with the scar. His defining characteristic, to me, was the fact that he had an indelible scar on his face. To me, that scar was a metaphor for race. It is something that is a part of your appearance that you cannot control; it defines how people view you and the judgments they make about you. Daimio has spent a lot of time hiding that scar, and it’s something that whether he wanted to try and hide or not, he couldn’t. So, because of it, people recoil while looking at him. So, I couldn’t help but see parallels between that and race.
“How people perceive you helps determine how you perceive yourself. As a young Asian-American kid growing up in a steel town in Pennsylvania, I can tell you that I felt ugly a lot of the time. I was directly told on many occasions that the way I looked was “funny” or “ugly.” So, I could relate to Daimio a lot. He probably had his self-worth and self-esteem directly affected by this event that left a scar on his face. So, that was a parallel I was able to draw. The course of his life changed once that encounter happened, and that was my entrypoint into the character.”
David Harbour portrays Hellboy. In addition, Kim joins Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan, who was kidnapped by faeries when she was a baby; Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson, a vigilante who burns his lobster logo into the foreheads of mobsters he kills; and Brian Gleeson as Merlin, the ancient Arthurian sorcerer. The film also features Ian McShane as Hellboy’s adopted father, Doctor Trevor Bruttenholm, the founder of the BPRD.
Catch Kim in action as Ben Daimio in ‘Hellboy’ now playing in theaters.