‘Pacific Rim’: Ron Perlman didn’t have his eye on Hannibal Chau

July 08, 2013 | 5:13 p.m.
pacific rim 3 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 5 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

The United States' Gipsy Danger in a scene from "Pacific Rim." Gipsy Danger is a Jaeger, one of the fighting robots invented by humans to defeat an alien kaiju onslaught. (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 4 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 10 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 13 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Clifton Collins as Ops Tendo Choi in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 16 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 17 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Robert Maillet as Lt. S. Kaidanovsky and Heather Doerksen as Lt. A. Kaidanovsky in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 18 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

China's Jaeger Crimson Typhoon, left, and Russia's Jaeger Cherno Alpha in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 25 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, left, and Mana Ashida as young Mako in "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 31 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

The United States' Jaeger Gipsy Danger, left, and Australia's Jaeger Striker Eureka in a scene from "Pacific Rim." (Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 35 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen, left, and Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 37 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 40 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 41 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Max Martini as Herc Hansen, left, and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 47 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Charlie Hunnam, left, as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 48 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, left, and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 49 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, left, Max Martini as Herc Hansen, Clifton Collins Jr. as Ops Tendo Choi and Rob Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 50 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Charles Luu, Lance Luu and Mark Luu play the Wei Tang triplets in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

pacific rim 54 Pacific Rim: Ron Perlman didnt have his eye on Hannibal Chau

Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, left, and Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler in "Pacific Rim." (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros.)

There are plenty of larger-than-life creations in “Pacific Rim,” the new big-budget sci-fi epic from Guillermo del Toro that opens in theaters Friday. While towering Jaegers and monstrous kaiju might get top billing, not to be overlooked is Hannibal Chau, Ron Perlman’s outrageously attired black market dealer in alien artifacts, a role that Del Toro dreamed up specifically for the actor. The two have enjoyed a long artistic partnership that dates back to the filmmaker’s feature debut, 1993′s “Cronos,” and of course, includes the two “Hellboy” movies in which Perlman starred as Mike Mignola’s oddball demon child.

Perlman recently spoke to Hero Complex — the actor called during a round of golf on a Los Angeles course — to describe his rapport with Del Toro and his work in “Pacific Rim.”

HC: How much input did you have into the creation of the character of Hannibal Chau?

RP: I was probably as little involved in the creation of it as you can possibly imagine. With Guillermo — especially the Guillermo of 2013 — everything is so incredibly well-articulated. What he’s always done amazingly well — but he just seems to get even better and keener at — is characters that are just filled with idiosyncrasy and eccentricity. Hannibal Chau was completely his creation all the way down to the outer trappings, the kind of croupier adornments, the dark glasses, the hole in his left eye. All I had to do was kind of just show up and not trip over anything.

HC: What was your initial reaction to the script and to learning about the role?

RP: The script arrived at my house and I’m reading and I’m reading and I’m reading. I kept looking for something that would scream my name out. I finally had to call his assistant and say, “Can you please tell me what role I’m looking at?” They said, “Hannibal Chau.” I said, “I’m not [kidding] around. What am I looking at here?” They said, “No, Hannibal Chau, that’s the role.” It was definitely not obvious. It was definitely a very theatrical kind of gesture on top of a very theatrically rendered character — to have a big overgrown Jew from New York play a guy who calls himself Hannibal Chau.

HC: Did you have any trepidation about signing on?

RP: I’m kind of in before he even asks. First of all he’s always come up with the most fun characters I’ve ever played in my career, one after another, starting with “Cronos”… Same with the “Hellboy” movies and now this. I know I’m in the hands of somebody who understands my wheelhouse and understands my approach to everything and is going to utilize that to the extent that it will hopefully benefit the film. It’s never a question of if I’m going to do it or not. It’s a question of will he ask. So far, so good.

HC: How was the experience shooting “Pacific Rim” for you?

RP: I arrived and they were 80% of the way done with making the movie. I only worked two weeks on the film. It was a love fest. Guillermo, I had never seen him so happy that late in the process before, which meant that he had just had a picture-perfect experience with Legendary and Warner Bros. He pretty much made the movie that he had in his head, which for a guy as ambitious as that is really saying a lot. He was just filled with joy. He had such a good time watching Hannibal come to life because Hannibal is one of the comedic elements of the film, I was kind of a respite from all of the heavy lifting that he had to do. It was a terrific experience for us. Both of us knew the movie was not going to be made or broken by Hannibal Chau’s performance. It was not like “Hellboy,” it was, “Let’s just have some fun here and see what we can put in the can that’s worthy of staying in the movie.”

HC: You’ve known Guillermo for decades now. How would you say you’ve seen him grow and evolve as a filmmaker?

RP: He’s not changed radically in terms of his aesthetic. What’s changed are the circumstances of his ability to tell stories. “Cronos” was a $1.2-million movie. The budget for “Pacific Rim” is a little north of that. What has really changed is his ability to back up this extraordinary imagination of his with the state of the art of what’s available in terms of the filmmaking process. I’ve never seen anything that comes close to the scope and the epic nature of what he puts on the screen in “Pacific Rim.” It answers to all of the precepts of what a summer tentpole movie needs to be but for some reason he humanizes the technology in such a way so that it’s no longer technology. It has blood coursing through itself. It has a personality, it has a soul. Even the robots have a soul. That’s the difference between Guillermo and everybody else, he’s able to endow things that have basically been one-dimensional and sort of functionary into being things that you’re looking at that you’re invested in emotionally.

HC: Was there a particular moment where you really realized that the two of you connected on a fundamental level?

RP: The moment I met him. It was over a meal here in [the] Mid-Wilshire [neighborhood of Los Angeles] at an Indian restaurant, and he said, “Do you mind if we start with dessert? It’s my favorite part of the meal and I like to get it out of the way.” I said, “That’s funny, me too.” From that point on, to coin a very overused phrase, we were brothers from another mother. There was an ease to everything that transpired between us because we had similar appetites and we had similar aesthetics and we worshiped at the same shrines cinematically. I don’t usually look at dailies, I’m not that guy, but I caught myself in a room where they were showing dailies of “Cronos” and I could just tell from the way his shots were framed and the camera was moving — this was raw footage, this was not color-corrected or anything — that I was not dealing with a director, I was dealing with a filmmaker. It was apparent immediately. I told everybody in Hollywood the minute I got back from Mexico about this experience because I felt like this was lightning in a bottle. And I wanted to say, “I saw him first,” before anybody else took credit for it.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATherocomplex

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