From Hocus Pocus to Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, Doug Jones has had a prolific career in Hollywood, embodying many of the most memorable characters in film history. But despite his whopping 150 IMDb credits, it’s rare he’s ever recognized.
The reason? On screen, the actor, 57, is always disguised under layers of heavy makeup. Now starring in Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed monster romance The Shape of Water as — you guessed it — a monster, the 6-foot-3, 140 pound actor says his body is what helps him land roles.
“The reputation I got was that I was tall and skinny and moved well and wore a lot of crap on my face and didn’t complain about it,” he recently told the New York Times. “Apparently, for actors, that makes you exceptional.”
Jones went from commercials to starring as a clown in Batman Returns (1992), followed by the endearing mummy Billy in the family classic Hocus Pocus (1993) — the role he’s most beloved for, he told BuzzFeed. But Jones’s most recognizable role is easily the Pale Man from del Toro’s Oscar-winning fantasy, Pan’s Labyrinth. The creepy, lanky figure who sees through bloodshot eyes on his hands is the one that has most permeated pop culture.
“He’s the one who ended up on magazine covers and being iconically redrawn in cartoons,” Jones marveled. “That’s the character that really stuck.”
But Jones admits that constantly being in costume on set causes him emotional and physical setbacks. Not being able to interact with his cast and crew as easily leads to a feeling of isolation that sometimes overwhelms him.
“When you’re on set with your costars between scenes, you’re sitting in your chairs, you’re getting snacks, you’re telling stories about what happened last night, or whatever, and I’m the one who is doing this from behind a mask,” he shared with BuzzFeed. “I have no peripheral vision, and I can’t hear as well as everybody else because I’ve got rubber over my ears, so I’m sitting amongst the banter that I would love to be more of an active part of, and I just can’t participate that much. I’m a very sociable person, so when I’m in a group of people and I can’t interact with them as easily as they’re all interacting with each other, it’s isolating and lonely.”
Still, Jones has managed to carve a niche for himself as a respected and committed actor. Del Toro repeatedly casts him in his films due to his dedication, and Jones has now landed a regular gig on Star Trek: Discovery that doesn’t require as much makeup work as before.
When it came time to find the right actor to play the lovable lead sea creature in The Shape of Water, del Toro turned to his trusty pal. Jones said the project was his hardest yet.
“He is the romantic leading man of the film,” said Jones. “Guillermo wanted him to be sexy. … [I had to] make this animal from the wild be connectable, relatable, lovable, so not only does Sally Hawkins’ character fall in love with him, but the audience does too. That’s a lot.”
The Shape of Water is playing in select theaters now.