With one day left in the year of our lord 2014, I present unto thee: Ron Perlman. If ever there were an avatar for the spirit of this site, Ron would be it. An actor with a zillion credits in everything from direct-to-video horror to the starring role in his very own comic book movie franchise. He’s also very nice (if my 10 minute phone conversation with him is any indication) and as you’ll see at the end of our conversation, the love fest was (shockingly) mutual.
We spoke mostly about his new movie, Poker Night, available to rent now on Digital HD and iTunes. I talk it up a lot in the interview, but only because it’s a genuinely fun little film. The biggest hurdle with most low-budget stuff is assembling a cast worth watching for more than five seconds and they certainly did that and more. We don’t spoil anything either.
Without further ado…
Ron Perlman: Hey Miles.
Miles Lemaire: Hey Ron, how’s it going?
Ron: Good man, you?
Miles: Good! So I guess the icebreaker here is that I was the one who called you “resplendent” last week.
Ron: Wow, I’m so glad we’re talking, because it was one of those days where I reached out to the rest of the world and got all of these beautiful definitions — a number of different definitions — all of which directed me to this concept that was quite resplendent in its own way. That’s a beautiful reference. That’s one of those things that, you know, when an actor gets called that he can kind of die after that. I got a bunch of responses, but the first one was the best because it was kind of Webster-ish and beautifully rendered.
Miles: Well, I have to say, I really enjoyed Poker Night a lot.
Ron: Thank you, man. Thank you. That was a review you wrote, right?
Miles: No, you know what, I haven’t written the review yet because I just watched it last night.
Ron: Oh, I see. That’s where the resplendent came in. A generic resplendence rather than a specific.
Miles: Oh no, I mean a career-spanning resplendence.
Ron: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. That’s even more beautiful. who gives a shit what I did in Poker Night, right?
Miles: No, now that I’ve seen Poker Night we can add it to the list. But I was pissed because you character — and I may be wrong about this — but he’s the only one who doesn’t get to tell a story at the table.
Ron: You are right about that and I felt like — you know and I was originally approached to play the character that…it might have been the one that Titus (Welliver) ended up playing — but I liked Detective Calabrese because he was sort of this omnipresent figure in Jeter’s life. He was kind of like his Jimminy Cricket. So rather than telling a story he was there for him in certain instances which really informed Jeter’s aesthetic and how to survive as a cop. So it was little bit more interesting a take on the Poker Night theme than actually the conceit of telling a story at the table. He was just there. And I think that’s what attracted me to the thing: how unformulaic the character was to the piece.
Miles: And the film is unformulaic overall, because it’s kind of an anthology movie and it’s definitely a serial killer story. Was it the script that attracted you or was it the cast? Because I have to imagine it would have been pretty tempting to work with Giancarlo Esposito and Titus Welliver. I love those guys.
Ron: I do too. I know most of them and I’d worked with most of them in one form or another and as we were talking about folding me into the mix he was assembling this cast and with each guy that he got, I became more and more obsessed with being part of this because I love those guys. The notion of us sitting around this poker table, doing this ensemble thing was quite attractive to me. So that helped in my decision to jump in and do the picture.
Miles: I actually thought the rapport got better as the movie went along and you guys started to fuck with each other more.
Ron: Yeah, we sat around that poker table for a few days, getting all the coverage and all of these different kinds of shots and in between we had our own little poker game going. Everybody told stories from throughout their career and caught each other up on the last time since we’d seen each other and where one ended, the next began. It was really cool. It was a real pleasure to hang with those dudes and work with those dudes. And then I saw the picture for the first time last night as well and you can see this mutual admiration and respect that transferred itself over the footlights, I think. I thought that was one of the assets of the film, was that comradarie.
Miles: Do you remember any particular story that either you told or that someone else told at the table that you could share?
Ron: I just wanted to share with the world that if you get a chance to see Titus Welliver do either Christopher Walken or Al Pacino and you don’t take advantage of it, you missed out on one of the eight wonders of the world.
Miles: I had no idea he was an impressionist.
Ron: He’s not only an impressionist, but when he does those guys — I mean, a lot of guys do Chris Walken. Anyway, once he started doing those, that’s where the conversation pretty much stayed. We’d say, “come on, do Pacino and Duval from The Godfather” and he did both of them perfectly. It’s mind boggling. The guy has got real depth. He’s not just a pretty face.
Miles: I had a question about your director too, because while I was looking him up I saw that he does a lot of work in “true crime” TV, which I’m sure informed a lot of the writing of this. Are you a fan at all of that genre?
Ron: I am not a fan of that, but I know that (director) Greg Francis is and it was his fascination with that that distinguished the script as something more than just another genre movie. Something that sort of had a real gravitas. He was someone who really did their homework in this world and is exploring it in a way that is kind of as original as The Silence of the Lambs and the way that Jonathan Demme explored that book back then. The same kind of genre as that. And Jonathan Demme had way more resources to make his movie than we did, so I’m not comparing the two—only in terms of genre—but the reason I’m in the movie is because of the writing. Greg really has a lot of skin in that game. He has a real fascination with that world. And he didn’t write it just to write a movie, he wrote it out of passion. So that immediately gets your attention.
(Note: We get the “one minute warning” from the publicist)
Miles: I’ll skip to the end then and ask what Hannibal Chau does in Pacific Rim 2 now that he has his shoe back.
Ron: Not quite yet. We’re a little premature on that. I know that we’re circling each other with dates and availability, etc. and there’s the desire to see Hannibal again, but we’re not ready to break any news yet or make any announcements.
Miles: Fair enough! Well Ron, thanks so much for your time today, I really appreciate it.
Ron: I always appreciate my time with you guys at CHUD. You guys have always treated everything I do with so much love and care and I just want to thank you and everybody over there. Generically, like you thanked me.
Miles: Well, I’m glad I got the chance to thank you specifically today too.
Ron: I can see it. I’ve been around long enough to know where my real fucking devotees are. You like the choices and the adventurousness of it all, where other sites are going, “I don’t get it, I don’t get it.” So I really do see it and want to thank you an everybody over there. Pass it along!