David Harbour, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, and Mike Mignola talked to EW about how the new movie differs from past versions
Third time’s the charm, and charms are useful when you’re dealing with fairies and monsters. Next spring will see the release of the third Hellboy film, this time directed by Neil Marshall and starring David Harbour, and several New York Comic Con attendees got a sneak peek at a Saturday panel hosted by EW’s Clark Collis.
Harbour’s co-stars Daniel Dae Kim (who plays irascible commando Ben Daimio) and Sasha Lane (who plays fairy-touched human woman Alice Monaghan) were also in attendance to discuss the film, as was Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. Ian McShane (who plays Hellboy’s adoptive father Trevor Bruttenholm) was not able to make it, while Milla Jovovich (who plays the villainous Nimue, a.k.a. the Blood Queen) sent in a pre-recorded video message.
Naturally, a big question mark about the new movie is how it differs from the previous two Hellboy movies that were directed by Guillermo del Toro and starred Ron Perlman. On stage at the panel, Harbour admitted he was nervous going in to the role because of Perlman’s iconic performance, but explained how he made his version of Hellboy different from what came before.
“My approach is maybe a little more down-and-dirty,” Harbour said. “My Hellboy feels a little younger — he’s got hair, he’s got a little more inner turmoil, he’s got more strife with Bruttenholm, he’s a little more lost in the universe. I’m just bringing more of what I bring. It has a completely different feeling, and in that way I can enjoy both, and I hope that you can as well. To me this character deserves a long life, and he deserves more movies. I want to see him grow and change, and really get down to the core of Mike’s stuff, which is really horror, even existential horror in a certain way. I think we achieved some of that in this movie, while also having fun — there’s a lot of jokes. This has more of a Mike Mignola feel to it than a Guillermo del Toro feel. This is what Neil and I wanted to do, and I hope you enjoy it.”
Shortly afterward, the panel presented exclusive footage of the new film. Right away, it showcased Harbour’s Hellboy getting shot at by cops while trying to help them fight a monster attack. “I’m on your side!” he exclaims, with the exasperated tone of someone who’s had to have this conversation many times before. McShane’s Bruttenholm appears to explain that “we’re the line in the sand, we fight against the forces of darkness.” But not everyone believes that Hellboy should be standing on that line with them; at one point, Daimio complains to Bruttenholm that “I thought we were supposed to be fighting monsters, not working with them.” Of course, Daimio’s not the most normal-looking human himself; the right side of his face is covered entirely in monstrous scars, a fact Hellboy is quick to remind him of.
The new film is an adaptation of a massive, three-part Hellboy comic saga, one of the few that Mignola didn’t draw himself; he just wrote it, while artist Duncan Fegredo stepped in to illustrate the fairies and monsters assembled by a resurrected Nimue to destroy humankind (mythology nerds may recognize Nimue as the sorceress who once imprisoned the wizard Merlin and stole his power, back in the days of Camelot). Mignola previously told EW that the film was faithfully adopting the look of Fegredo’s creations, and that was apparent in the footage: One giant swinging its club at Hellboy look like it had stepped right off the page, while the few glimpses of Nimue showed her in full Blood Queen glory, clad in her magical crown as dark energy ripples around her. There was also a shot of Hellboy in full demonic glory, wielding a flaming sword with a flaming crown set above his head, much as the character appeared on the recently-unveiled movie poster.
Hellboy clearly has a lot of existential conflict to work through in this movie. Speaking to EW after the panel, Harbour noted some commonalities with his most well-known role, Chief Hopper on Stranger Things.
“There’s a lot of the same elements, in terms of this guy who has a very pure heart but the externals are a little crusted-over and strange,” Harbour told EW. “Hopper is also a guy who’s a bit of a child at his core, and can’t be an adult. I always thought it was interesting that the character is named Hellboy, and I know he’s not technically a boy but it sticks, he never becomes Hellman. Hellboy certainly has different one-liners from Chief Hopper and he exists in the world differently, so there was a lot of work to do and they are different. But at his core there’s that sense of a guy trying to do the right thing but stuck in a circumstance where he doesn’t know how to do that, which is in a sense very similar to Hopper.”
Mignola, who said on the panel that his wife originally told him she thought Harbour would make a good Hellboy while they were watching Stranger Things, told EW that both characters share a profound sense of world-weariness.
“Hopper had that world-weary sense of having been there, done that, and been beaten down. That’s always been a big thing with Hellboy,” Mignola told EW. “Hellboy is pretty much based on my father, who was one of these guys, a Korean War veteran who had been all over the world and done all that. I always thought that was part of Hellboy. I’ve been doing this job for a really long time, and yet somehow he’s never quite grown up. He’s living this adolescent life, and yet also working seven-day weeks all over the world.”
Because of this sense of world-weariness and exasperation, Harbour explained that Hellboy’s one-liners (at one point in the footage, he reacts to Bruttenholm gifting him with a gigantic monster-hunting pistol by saying, “don’t most parents get their kids LEGOs?”) come from a sense of displacement more than sheer humor.
“The interesting thing to me about the one-liners is I wanted them to come from a place not just of comedy but also a guy who doesn’t really know what he is,” Harbour said. “He’s been through everything, he’s lost in the situation, and for me the comedy comes from a place of sadness or displacement, some kind of feeling that he doesn’t belong.”
Hellboy does get some existential help from Lane’s character Alice, a human who has a foot in the magical world. As Lane explained her character on the panel: “she’s been kidnapped by fairies and talks to dead people.” Speaking to EW after the panel, Lane said that even though Alice is “not necessarily the most human,” she has some things to teach Hellboy about finding yourself caught between the human world and the magical world.
“I feel like she has more of a handle on it, and she embraces it more,” Lane told EW. “When she does meet Hellboy and Daimio she’s like, I’m gonna be your rock in this. Just because you’re battling these two things doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself.”
Kim, who replaced Ed Skrein as Daimio after the latter stepped away from the project, spoke on stage about how cool it was to be portraying an Asian-American character in a big comic-book film. Readers of Hellboy and BPRD comics know that Daimio’s Japanese heritage plays a large role in his life. Kim told EW that Daimio’s past experience with xenophobia plays a large role in his strained relationship with Hellboy.
“I think the character, in general, has issues of appearance,” Kim told EW. “He has a military background, and being Asian in the military was something that shaped his character. Then he has the scar to deal with, so he has multiple issues of appearance. That affects his character deeply, and strikes at the heart of how he feels about Hellboy and how Hellboy exists in the world versus how he exists in the world.”
Hellboy is set to hit theaters on April 12, 2019.