Film

Ron Perlman: "Aspire to be beautiful"

In these troubled times do we need escapism more than ever? Hellboy and Fantastic Beasts star Ron Perlman argues the case for culture

Ron Perlman’s response to Trump’s shock win was swift:

The 66-year-old actor, a staple of Hollywood films for three decades and best known as devilish comic book hero Hellboy, was probably jesting – though who can tell these days? – but the point was that he, along with millions of other disenfranchised voters knew this was the time to reengage with the political system instead of retreating.

But with all the turbulence and uncertainty that heralds Trump, surely the timing of Fantastic Beasts, in which Perlman plays Gnarlak, a goblin, could not be better as audiences desperately seek escapism from the real world. Do we need fantasy films more now than ever?

“I think we need more culture,” Perlman says. “We need more music, more dance, more theatre, more movies. We need to cherish these things and find ways of celebrating our commonalities and the human condition in general.

“I keep going back to that phenomenal moment in WWII when all of Churchill’s advisers said they needed to shut down the theatres and concert halls because they’re targets in the Blitz. And he said, ‘What the hell are we fighting for then?’ That’s how I feel about culture and storytelling.”

True to his word, Perlman has launched his own production company, A Wing and A Prayer Pictures, and is using film to rebuild cultural bridges. One of its films, Sergio and Sergei, is the first American-Cuban co-production in decades.

“I’m past retirement age,” Perlman says, “but more determined to live out my value system about the glory of culture and how it transcends all the slings and arrows that we have to navigate through, these elections, some of the political dialogue, the discourse and how low it’s become. It has to be countered by something that aspires to be more beautiful and that’s what the arts have always been, not just cinema but literature, painting, dance, opera… There are more sublime things to aspire to than the bullshit that you hear on the news.”

Despite being a goblin, Gnarlak, he has a lot in common with Perlman. “He’s very old school New York, something I recognise because I’m a New Yorker by birth and I knew guys like Gnarlak. He was a pleasure to get out of my system.

“But the easiest character I ever played was Hellboy because he thinks like me, he moves like me, he’s an under achiever like me and he’s a slob like me.”

Sounds like a perfect candidate for president.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out now in cinemas

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