We’ve all heard that clothes make the man. In the case of “The Shape of Water’s” oddly attractive fish fellow, it’s the latex rubber body suit and silicone facial appliances.
But it’s also the 6’3” actor, Doug Jones, underneath it all. Currently portraying Saru on “Star Trek: Discovery” with a minimum (for him) amount of special effects makeup, Jones is perhaps most beloved for the strange creatures he’s lost himself in for director Guillermo del Toro: “Pan’s Labyrinth’s” Fauno and Pale Man, the “Hellboy” films’ beloved (and amphibious like “Shape’s” guy) Abe Sapien, The Ancient on the GdT-produced TV series “The Strain” and others.
But to play a convincing love object for del Toro’s latest, which picked up 3 awards from the L.A. Film Critics Association, Jones naturally had to get in the best shape of his life – but that was just to get dressed.
“It takes a village, by the way, to change a tall, skinny guy like me into a fish man,” Jones acknowledges. “The artistry that went into it was headed up by Shane Mahan at Legacy Effects, a company I’ve done many, many creatures for over the years. Then a fine artist named Mike Hill was brought into the mix; Guillermo loves his work, and personally had Mike sculpt and refine the shape and colors of this fish man, to make him the beautiful beast that he was.”
Squeezing into the feet-attached body suit, getting the creature’s hands glued on and the neck and head pieces applied took about three hours each day – short work considering what Jones is used to. But that’s not the same as saying it was easy.
“The suit zipped up in back, but I didn’t slide into it,” he reports. “It took baby powder if it was dry or K-Y Jelly if it was wet to really snuggle and shimmy shimmy shimmy this thing up. It was snug to every dot and diddle of my body; it had been molded and conformed just to me.
“There were mechanical gill contraptions built in that were actually puppeteered from off-camera, and the eyes could pop out so I could see with full sockets if it was a big physical scene, and if it was a close-up they would pop the eyes in and we could see the beautiful paint job that was done on those.”
Unlike, say, Apes/Gollum essayer Andy Serkis, Jones has never done a motion capture performance, in which the actor does their work, often on a bare green…