Meet Doug Jones, a man who has been transformed into an aquatic superhero, a nude ghost woman and child-eating monster for director Guillermo del Toro, who once again layered the renowned creature feature actor with prosthetics in Oscar contender "The Shape of Water."
Though Jones told TooFab he's enjoyed a "certain level of anonymity" throughout his career thanks to the extreme makeup required for his work, he's been pushed to the forefront of the publicity blitz for del Toro's latest film, which sees him playing an amphibian man who develops a relationship with a mute woman while captive at a secret government facility.
"This is a bit new and different for me. I've been working as an actor for thirty one years now and have enjoyed a certain level of anonymity for the first twenty years for sure," Jones told TooFab. "When the first 'Hellboy' movie came out, I was a speck on the radar for a minute and then was able to disappear again sort of, but I never stopped working. This is new and different. I think now it's all boiled up to a fascination with 'Who is this guy?' and 'What's his background?' I'm tickled pink that the attention's happening, so I'll ride it while it's here."
The role of Abe Sapien - Hellboy's sidekick in the 2004 and 2008 films - was actually the second time Jones teamed up with del Toro, after appearing in the director's "Mimic" in 1997. They'd work together again in "Pan's Labyrinth," where Jones would play both the faun and the grotesque Pale Man, "Crimson Peak" and del Toros' vampire series for FX, The Strain." "The Shape of Water" marks their seventh project together and the twelfth character Jones has played for the director.
In the 20 years they've collaborated, however, Jones said "very little has changed."
"[del Toro] is still the same humble fanboy that he ever was. When I first met him on 'Mimic' back in 1997, I noticed something different about him than any director I've ever worked for before. And that was that he did have, behind those bright blue eyes of his, an 8-year-old fanboy who just loved creepy crawly monsters and wanted to get excited about them," explained Jones. "He has never lost that. He still has this ongoing love affair with monsters, and he makes movies that will give himself a 'Geekgasm.'"
"If anything, our trust in each other has grown over the years and our shorthand has grown as well," he added. "He knows me well enough to know what buttons to push to get whatever out of me, so I think that's been a lovely morphing thing that we've morphed into."
Weighing in at 140 pounds and standing a lanky 6 foot 3, Jones told TooFab he never had any notions to play a romantic lead when he first got into the business, happily resigning himself to comedic or downright creepy roles. A few standouts on his resume: one of the Gentlemen in the fan-favorite "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "Hush," Billy Butcherson in "Hocus Pocus" and the nightmarish Ice Cream Man in "Legion." But "The Shape of Water" was a different beast altogether. Jones said he was especially surprised to find himself playing "a romantic creature that actually gets to consummate and see that relationship all the way through."
That's right, the fish man and human woman get it on.
"The costume and makeup design went through two years of tweaks and changes to make him as kissable and sexy and as appealing as possible while still making him look like an animal from the wild," he added. "So there's your challenge right?"
Even with the tweaks, Jones said none of his costumes "are ever easy."
"When you're encased in rubber from head to toe, basically, you become a nursing home patient. I can't see very well, I can't hear very well. I got motors flowing in my ears because of the gills moving back and forth. Even my fingers were webbed, so I had a silicone glove that went on that was glued onto the sleeve of the suit," he explained. "I'm useless during the day, I can't even work a phone. And even going to the bathroom becomes an issue. I had a front flap ... but I did not have a back flap at all, so that means that I had to backtrack and back time things to make sure I was ready for the day, you know what I mean?"
The little annoyances are worth it though, as Jones added, "When I see the end result, any discomfort I went through is just a nonissue."
While Jones has a starring role on "Star Trek: Discovery" and recently filmed a "Nosferatu" remake, one question remains: What will he and del Toro do next?
"He's always got ideas and he stirs more pots than he has hands to do it with," the actor said of his constant collaborator. "He talked about the possibility of me voicing something for his 'Trollhunters' show. His own version of 'Frankenstein' was going to be done at Universal, and that was in development for a couple years, many years, actually, and then kind of came off the table when they were going to do their Dark Universe. But, that may not be happening now, so maybe Frankenstein's back on the table, eventually, I don't know."