Ron Perlman could not have been more surprised that Hellboy, a comic-strip superhero who looks like a devil but does battle with the forces of evil, was written with him in mind. So of course, how can the tall character actor possibly say no to writer-director Guillermo Del Toro?
"Oh, you are kidding? Who in their right mind would say no to this character? It's a dream come true," says Perlman enthusiastically.
This was not the first time that the 54-year-old has had to go through arduous make-up sessions to play a beastly character buried under make-up. Perlman achieved great success donning latex and fur for the TV series Beauty and the Beast.
Since Perlman acted on Del Toro's debut Cronos, released in 1993, the two men's careers have been somewhat intertwined.
"My association with him is 14 years old now and you can't revere a filmmaker more than I revere him and his incredible integrity and ability," says Perlman. "So that when Guillermo calls you and says 'I'm cooking something up, and I want you take part in It', that's when you start looking. He's animated me on three separate occasions that have been some of the greater chapters of my time on this planet."
Of course, Perlman, who is listed with 87 acting credits on IMDB going back to 1975, was not the ideal choice for a studio that was investing some $60m in this project.
"I knew Guillermo had a desire to see me in the role but I knew that he'd never pull it off," he admits. "I had been the kind of guy who was flying under the radar. I had a nice career as a character actor, but this was gonna be a big studio movie, which it had to be by nature of the scope and epic quality of the story that he was gonna tell."
Speaking before Hellboy's release in the US earlier this year, Perlman was laid-back about the fact that he may now start lighting up radars.
"I'm happy with whatever comes. I mean, I would love for this movie to vindicate the risks that Guillermo took in making it and I would love for Guillermo to be able to say it was worth it; that this was a battle worth fighting, because at the end of the day we've been proven to be smug."
Hellboy has been praised for its comic strip look and feel and Perlman for creating an exuberant character who leaps off the screen. Perlman has modestly put it down to the fact that the script was the best adaptation of another source that he'd ever personally participated in.
"His (Del Toro's) characterisation of Hellboy was so vivid and so obvious, from the way this guy trash talks, with the snide wise-cracky, blue collar kind of everyman quality to him. I mean, you saw this guy in your mind's eye and see this thing as you're reading it. Therefore, it was not a hard job to figure out Hellboy's personality and to figure out his heart. Nor did it require a great deal of behavioural adjustment on my part because he ended up writing a character that kind of moves through the shit in the same way I do."
Perlman revelled in the physical hardships he endured making Hellboy and is quite happy to do it all again if a sequel is green-lit.
"The more typical and the greater the hardships, the more enthusiastic I am to embrace it. In the case of Hellboy, he is a character anyone could play for the rest of their lives while they were growing tired of him. He's got every aspect of humanity that an actor would just revel in exploring, participating and he's got this heart that is this beautiful. My favourite part of Hellboy is his heart."
In the meantime, while fans wait eagerly for Hellboy's return, Perlman has another pet project he is working on. "I have actually been trying to set up a project that I'm going to direct and the elements seem to be coming together rather rapidly, so I think I'll be directing a picture in the fall." The film is a low-budget film, the very antithesis of Hellboy, called Wooden Lake.
"I've offered that to actors at this point." None of who will be Perlman, he hastens to add. "I never direct myself, because I don't like working with me. I would punch me in the mouth if I had to take my direction."