Ron Perlman Talks BUNRAKU And...PACIFIC RIM?

Sean Smithson, Contributor
Ron Perlman is an actor whose face is immediately recognizable by even the most casual cinema fan. His performances in a wide range of films such as QUEST FOR FIRE, CRONOS, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, ALIEN: RESURRECTION, BLADE 2, the HELLBOY films, SONS OF ANARCHY, and the current DRIVE,  to name but a few, make one hell of a filmography, and Mr. Perlman, size and all, remains of the most subtle and well-defined performers in cinema. He is, to put it mildly, "an actor's actor." On Friday, September 30th, he will add another iconic character to his repertoire with the axe-wielding overlord, Nicola, in Guy Moshe's BUNRAKU. Released to theaters by ARC Entertainment, this tale of honor, revenge, and finding oneself amidst a landscape of stylized sets and unique storytelling devices is a visually stunning and thought-provoking bit of cinema that is unlike any other.

Twitch: We wanted to start by asking how you came to become involved with the BUNRAKU project.

Ron Perlman: One of my managers - and this is something I give them high marks for doing - found out about this project. It was being done as sort of a package by one particular agency and the word wasn't supposed to get out on it, but he did some behind the scenes spy work and found out about BUNRAKU and discovered that the part of Nicola hadn't been cast yet. So, I was the last one in. He called the producers and the producer floated the idea to the director and it was met with great enthusiasm. They were all in Bucharest, Romania getting ready to film when I was put on the phone with the director, Guy Moshe, and we had a really good conversation about his vision and my vision and we decided to work together on it. It already had Demo Moore, Josh Hartnett, Gackt, Kevin McKidd, and Woody Harrelson and I was really excited by the prospect of working on a piece of material that I found to be as intelligently rendered as this and working with a cast of characters for whom my admiration was off the charts.

T: You talked about having a discussion with Mr. Moshe about his vision and your vision for your character, Nicola. What was your vision and was there a difference between the two?

RP: You know... the script was rather vivid and very well rendered. It's a story that takes place a few hundred years in the future, so there's already a stylistic separation between the audience that is going to see it and what it is they're going to see. Then, of course, it's called BUNRAKU and I did some research and found out that Bunraku is a highly stylized form of storytelling employed in Japan using papier-mâché, puppetry, and elements of comic books. So, it's multi-media and real cinema. But at its heart, you have a story where conventional weaponry has been banned. There are no guns. There are no cannons. There's no planes. There's nothing that can enable Man's inhumanity to Man, and yet, people are still fighting with great zeal with like the legs of chairs and canes and whips and swords and toothpicks... with whatever you can name. So, the impulse of Man's inhumanity to Man can never be legislated. It can never be removed because it's just too primal and basic. That's the story I felt Guy was trying to tell. He has this character of Nicola at the center who cynically owns every one and every thing as far as the eye can see and who is a very lonely man because there is no one he can unburden his soul to, there's no one he can share his innermost aspirations to. He's hold himself up in this very remote location where no one can get to him. So, all of the fruits of his labors can never be enjoyed and it makes for a real melancholy which I found to be one of the most interesting aspects of the story. He's not a conventional villain in that sense. There's this beating heart that makes him compelling.

T: One more question about Nicola... Who came up with the hair?

RP: Well, that was something that happened in the Makeup Room. We were just trying shit on. I mean, we were trying facial hair. We were trying wigs. I had these two English girls who were doing hair and makeup who were turning me on to such great music that I'd never heard before, two very hip people who I adored, and their imagination was running wild with who Nicola was and what he looked like and how he bathed and how that all translated itself into his everyday appearance. We tried on some wigs and some facial hair and we just came up with this thing. It wasn't anything that was planned. We walked onto the set and showed Guy and he went, "Wow! Interesting..." And we said, "Thank you. Is that a yes?" And he said, "Yes! He's got dreadlocks." So, there it is...

T: You'd mentioned the cast... and it's a great cast. And it's a very eclectic cast and you get to snuggle up with Demi Moore which is awesome. Was that a good amalgam of people for you to step into. You mentioned coming on late. Was it an immediate click or did it take a little bit to get the gears meshing?

RP: I only had two weeks to give them, so they kind of condensed this role that probably should have been the whole run of the film into a very short period of time. So, I got thrown right in. I mean, I arrived one day and a day later I was filming with Demi. The good thing about this cast was that they were a real workman-like bunch. Demi is about as down to earth a human being as I've ever met. You have no sense that she has this movie star-like patina behind her that she does. She's just really sweet and amazingly collaborative and generous to work with. It was the same with Kevin McKidd, same with Josh and Gackt and all the other people I get to interact with.

T: It's a beautiful lookin' movie, man. I mean, it must have been a blast to be a part of that universe for a while. And god knows, you've been a part of a lot of cool cinematic universes... which brings us to - and I've got to ask because we're nerds and we're dying to know - are you going to pop up in Pacific Rim, the new film by your buddy Guillermo del Toro and starring your SONS OF ANARCHY cast mate, Charlie Hunnam?

RP: I sure hope so. I am not at liberty to give that notion any credence nor am I denying it. I can only say, "I sure hope so." Only time will tell. And, at some point, there will be an announcement that Ron is - or isn't - in that movie. [laughs]

T: I'm smiling very big right now.

RP: Me, too... me, too. *cue majestic and triumphant music here*

T: I want to go back just for a second to the stylized look of the film. Recently, I was watching Masaki Kobayashi's KWAIDAN which, like BUNRAKU, is decidedly stage-bound. That and their use of color continually made me compare the two films in my head, maybe not thematically, but by their look. I'm curious whether or not that film in particular was discussed or if there were certain films that were brought to the table as visual bookmarks as to the way the finished film was going to look?

RP: If Guy had any muses from out of the past, he never discussed them with me. It seems as though - to me - that this was such a personalized exercise. I'm not sure if this is something that's been widely reported, but Guy was a very elite Israeli commando, kind of like our Navy SEALS, and when he left that service, part of the way he decided to heal from some of the horrific things that he had seen was to do this exposé on violence and to do it in such a stylized manner that it would allow him to participate in the exercise without having these, like, acid flashbacks. I guess you could say. So, I don't know what his muses or his influences were thematically, but I know that he was doing something unlike anything I had ever participated in before and it made for a great collaboration.

*This interview was conducted by Sean "The Butcher" Smithson and new Twitch contributor Thom Carnell, who you can listen to HERE on The Night Crew Podcast. You can hear more Ron Perlman in an extended version of this interview on the show's return, this October 1'st.

BUNRAKU will be in theatrical release starting this Friday, September 30'th, 2011. If you enjoy highly stylized, four color cinema, and broad performances, this may be the movie for you. Look below the break, and check out the trailer.
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