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"We built six different suits for Sammael, some of them for the stunt people," says Elizalde. "They're foam latex on the outside with a heavy structural construction inside, which holds batteries to make his head and tendrils move."
For the stunt sequences, Elizalde created minimal function ("basically only eye movement") stunt heads for the Sammael character that "could take a lot of punishment but were lightweight enough that the stuntmen wouldn't be injured. We made them out of a soft polyfoam that can take a pretty good bump without anybody getting hurt or the head being crushed." Stunt arms were also manufactured that were light enough and soft enough so the stunt men could fly through the air and crash into walls without injury.
The main costume worn by actor Brian Steele, who portrays Sammael, was much more elaborate - and heavy - weighing in at around 60 pounds total. "Once he was in the suit, Brian wore it pretty much all day with few breaks and he sweated profusely," says Elizalde. "He was a pretty rugged guy."
The head Sammael wore was multi-functional with membranes that opened and closed, eyes with dilating pupils, nostrils that flared and a tri-furcated tongue the character used to grab onto objects and spew venom. More elaborate arms were created for insert shots when del Toro required Sammael to move his fingers - done via remote control. "Aside from Brian, who's in the suit," says Elizalde, "we had three puppeteers operating the creature and keeping him looking slimy and wet and gross."
The nuance in Perlman's performance belies the rigorous application of several layers of makeup he underwent every day starting at four in the morning. "What's truly amazing to me is how subtle Ron's performance is and how it comes through all that makeup," says Levin. "You're looking at this outrageous character. He's red. He's got horns. He's huge. He has giant teeth. And yet, you don't see a mask. He's a living, breathing, emoting being right in front of your eyes."
"I've always enjoyed working under makeup," Perlman confesses, "ever since my first film Quest for Fire, back in 1980. It's like alchemy. They apply this stuff to your face that's without life and the minute it's on you, it comes to life. Hellboy may look big and fierce, but the softer parts of his humanity definitely come through."
Even with years of experience wearing extensive makeup, Perlman confesses the specifics of Hellboy's head-to-toe get-up took some adjustments, particularly to his big stone arm. "Like my tail, the arm was remote controlled, so I won't know what performance the tail and the arm gave until I see the finished film."
The process took about four hours, according to makeup artist Jake Garber, with a breakfast break for wardrobe and the insertion of contact lenses by a lens technician. "Ron wore four foam-like tech appliances," notes Garber. "After a preparation to protect his skin, the first piece we put on was the neck and chest piece, which wrapped around him and was glued below his jaw line down to his collarbone. The piece extended down to his pectorals and was left loose so it could be lifted up when he put on his muscle suit. Next came the skullcap that incorporated the horns. Then there was a facial piece that covers everything except his lower lip, which was the last piece we put on."
After wardrobe, Perlman inserted his contact lenses after which the lower lip was secured. "The last thing I did was pop in his teeth," says Garber. When the process was complete, only the actor's eyelids were actually his own.
The logistics for stunt coordinator Monty Simons also required intense preparation, especially since del Toro wanted as much of the action as possible to be real and shot on set, rather than filled in later with computer graphics. "CGI is a punctuation rather than the sentence in this movie," Perlman affirms. "The three- dimensional world will be enhanced by CGI."
As it did with Elizalde, the character of Sammael provided Simons with one of his biggest challenges. "He wears a suit that weighs about 60 pounds. It's very flexible, but still you have a stunt guy dragging around all that weight during intricate fight scenes, having to hit marks and basically not being able to see."
Months prior to the onset of production, Simons rented a sound stage and built flying systems to explore what he could do with the Sammael and Hellboy characters. Flying systems were built with eight special harnesses for the two characters that had to be custom fit, measured and sized with "pick points" - different places where the cables could be attached to the harnesses since Simons didn't know how the costumed characters were going to balance once they were airborne. "We spent five days picking them up, seeing if they turned over and fell on their feet or their heads and how they reacted when we launched them from long distances," says Simons. "We learned a lot that week. It was very encouraging, because amazingly enough, there was a lot we could do with guys in the Sammael suit."
Of concern with Hellboy was the character's large concrete fist, which Simons feared would add weight to the character and change his center of gravity to such an extent that, when suspended, he would be completely off balance. This was solved by the design of several lighter-weight fists just for the levitation scenes.
Simons' hard work paid off in the exciting fight scene between Sammael and Hellboy on a subway platform, as well as in the chase sequence at Halloween, most of which were shot live on set.
Simons also studied all the actors in rehearsal before deciding when and if a stunt double would be required. "I watch them as they walk back and forth on the set to see how coordinated they are and how able they are when it comes to action and having to think fast and react under pressure," he says. "Once I've learned all that I go through each sequence, stunt by stunt and figure out what they're capable of and where their part will end and where I will put in a stunt guy."
The sequences in which the Abe Sapien character, played by Doug Jones, is under water, are a combination of special effects and stunt coordination. "Since Abe spends so much time under water, trying to do it physically would have taken weeks of shooting for just a few seconds of film. That was logistically impractical," says Simons. "However, we did have a couple of scenes in which we hung Doug upside down and filmed him 'dry for wet.' It appears that he's in a tank, when actually he's behind a two-sided wall of glass with water in between."
To Nick Allder, the SFX Supervisor, fell the task of executing some of the film's most daring on-set mechanical stunts like flipping a Jeep Cherokee into the air three times and crashing it, "which had never been done before, so it was a challenge," says Allder.
The feat was executed with the use of cables and a large nitrogen cylinder. "You see Hellboy walk over and punch the car with his hand and stop it and the car literally flips up and stops dead. Then it rotates over him and crashes to the ground behind him. It was very realistic."
The action that could not be staged on set was the responsibility of visual effects supervisor Edward Irastorza. His work included digitized images as well as miniatures. "We have a digital bridge being blasted apart by a giant pendulum. These effects are being done by (the visual effects house) The Orphanage," Irastorza explains. "Whenever you see Abe Sapien swimming, that's a digital effect done by Tippett Studio. If Sammael moves any faster than a step or two, that's basically a digital character effect."
In total there are about 900 visual effects in Hellboy, Irastorza estimates. The opening sequence at the Abbey Ruins totaled 95 shots, most of them of the giant machine that brings Baby Hellboy to Earth. About a year before production began, Irastorza started work on his visual animatics, a rough form of animation, in order to get the timing for each sequence