• Feature: Hellboy (David Harbour, live action) Columns 

    Multiversity Call Sheet: Lionsgate’s Hellboy Franchise

    By | March 12th, 2019
    Posted in Columns | % Comments

    Welcome to Multiversity Call Sheet, a column where we fancast actors for upcoming comic book films or television series, and how we’d like to see them adapted for the screen. This time, because it’s Hellboy’s 25th anniversary, and next month there’s a new Hellboy film coming out which will hopefully launch a new series of films, we’re going to be looking at how we’d expand on the existing cast for a future Hellboy movies.

    What We’d Like To See

    I haven’t actually seen any trailers for the upcoming Hellboy film, and I don’t intend to. If I know I’m going to see a movie, I generally avoid trailers so I can enjoy the film on its own terms. That said, I write about the “Hellboy” comics for a comics website—whether I want to or not, I hear things, and I see the stills people attach to their tweets, so I’m not completely ignorant of what’s going on out there (but I’ll cling to what ignorance I can).

    Frankly, David Harbour has already played Hellboy perfectly in the first two seasons of Stranger Things. If the film can put a half-demon Chief Hopper on screen, I’ll be pretty damn happy.

    And I know if Dark Horse and Lionsgate can turn this “Hellboy” movie into a film and television franchise, they will. If they can do it well, awesome—personally, I’d love to see Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s “B.P.R.D.” as a television show—but I don’t need to see everything at once. There seems to be a lot crammed into the upcoming film, and while I get that the first movie needs to grab people’s attention, going forward I’d like to see smaller. I want worldbuilding based on character, not spectacle. If I can see the Bureau agents sitting around drinking coffee and talking about their experiences with death, then I think we’re on the right track. I want to see a series comfortable with silence and stillness. Save the apocalypse and all that big, flashy stuff. We can get to that after we care about these characters. Give me a sad ghost story before we dive into Ogdru Hem devouring the world.

    Who We’d Like To See

    Liz Sherman
    Kate Siegel

    Honestly, this is the role I struggled with casting the most. A Liz appearing in Hellboy 2 would be reintroducing film audiences to the character, and if she’s going to follow in the footsteps of her comicbook counterpart, she needs to be Liz at the beginning of her journey, before all the character growth of “B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs,” “Hell on Earth,” and “The Devil You Know.” She needs to be the Liz of the ’90s, not how readers know her now. For me, the essence of that character is weariness and vulnerability, but without sacrificing her strength.

    As Theodora Crane in Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, Kate Siegel embodied many of the traits I think of when I think of ’90s era Liz. Theo clearly reads as someone scarred by trauma, but also someone that will absolutely get the god-damned job done. Most importantly, Siegel played both fierce and vulnerable at the same time without sacrificing one emotion to the other. I can already see how’d she’d play well off of Daniel Dae Kim’s Ben Daimio.

    Abe Sapien
    Kodi Smit-McPhee

    It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Doug Jones playing Abe Sapien—not because he played the perfect Abe Sapien (he didn’t), but because his performances in other films demonstrate that he could have nailed it if Guillermo del Toro didn’t have other ideas about who Abe was. Jones always brings such incredible physicality to his roles, and that’s something we need in Abe, especially since any actor playing Abe will have their eyes buried underneath prosthetics.

    So I approached the casting of this role from a different direction. I wanted cast someone that could not only play Abe Sapien, but also Langdon Everett Caul, and someone with a striking face that could be read as the same actor even underneath the Abe Sapien prosthetics. I want audiences to recognize Caul in Abe. Purely in terms of his physicality, Kodi Smit-McPhee is perfect, and he’s got the added experience of playing Nightcrawler, so he knows how to play an emotion even when his real eyes aren’t seen by the audience.

    Continued below

    But there’s another aspect he brings to the role, which I believe is crucial to Abe. He’s a reserved character, but there’s cold anger beneath the surface, something Smit-McPhee proved himself more than capable of handling in Let Me In as Owen. At twenty-two, he’s certainly a much younger casting for Abe than I originally set out looking for, but considering the films do not adhere to the timeline of the comics, this may actually be a benefit, especially if Abe is discovered during the second film. We’d be seeing an Abe much more akin to his earlier, timid days during the late ’70s and early ’80s (see “Abe Sapien: The Drowning and Other Stories”), before the more forceful personality of the ’90s and 2000s emerges.

    Dr. Kate Corrigan
    Amanda Tapping

    Admittedly, this is probably my Stargate SG-1 nostalgia kicking in, but after seeing her recently in Travelers, she really looks the part and at fifty-three she’s an age appropriate choice for the role. Most importantly, Kate’s always been a character that cares more than she has to and gives a lot of herself to help others, and I think Tapping is more than up to the task there. She brings the necessary warmth to the role. Plus, she’s had plenty of experience with fantasy action during her tenure as Samantha Carter. I want to see a Kate on the screen that can kick arse, but also be the kind of character that picks up when someone needs to talk, who’ll be there for others, even when it damages her personal life.

    Landis Pope / The Black Flame
    Ed Skrein

    Originally cast as Ben Daimio for the 2019 Hellboy film in a spectacularly wrong-headed studio decision, Ed Skrein showed real character when he stepped down from the role and urged the studio to cast it more appropriately. It was a really cool thing for him to do, and so I want to see him back in a role that could be a lot of fun.

    Landis Pope, a Nazi sympathizer and sycophant, head of the Zinco Corporation, is the sort of role I could see him in with ease, and not just because he played a similar sort of character already in 2018’s Tau. He can handle the clinical and haughty Pope without veering into a cartoonish performance. He’d be great as the self-important Black Flame, monologuing with gusto and appropriate comic timing, without sacrificing the imposing and menacing aspects of the character.

    Panya
    Karin Konoval

    In truth, I wouldn’t cast Karin Konoval in this role. Panya is an Egyptian woman, and I don’t want to see an Exodus: Gods and Kings situation play out in a Hellboy film. However, if you look at IMDB for women of certain ethnic backgrounds over a certain age, the results are pretty disheartening. There are undoubtedly women out there that are perfect for this role, but I’m not going to find them on IMDB, that’s for sure.

    I mention Konoval, because she has the humor and sophistication I feel Panya needs. I keep coming back to actors that define themselves through physical performance, because the Hellboy franchise needs actors capable of playing through prosthetics, delivering emotion when their face can’t always be relied upon to sell a character. Konoval played Maurice in the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, and she brought such heart to the role, while working through the restrictions the character put on her. She’s the sort of actor that could bring nuance to a character like Panya… plus I think she has that natural sparkle in her eyes that feels so much like the Panya from the comics.

    Roger
    Terry Notary

    Geez, I seem to be returning to the Planet of the Apes cast a lot for this list, but what can I say? It’s a great cast. Terry Notary not only played Rocket in the films, but led the cast in defining the movement of the apes. For me, the highlight of his performance as Rocket was the innocence of the character. Rocket is a victim of terrible abuse, and he wears that on his sleeve, but there’s something childlike about him too. This is very much an aspect of Roger’s character, and I’m sure Notary could handle this. But the role also requires a chameleon-like actor and an excellent mimic, after all, Roger takes on aspects of those around him. Plus Notary’s got the right body type for the role.

    Continued below

    Johann Kraus
    Daniel Brühl

    You probably know him best as Helmut Zemo from Captain America: Civil War, but it’s his role as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler in The Alienist that really caught my eye. Brühl is capable of playing both the warm and cold aspects of Johann’s character, and of playing Johann both as a human medium and as a ghost in a bag. With Johann, the vocal performance is extremely important since the character doesn’t have a face, and I want an actor that can bring sincerity to the performance, without the crutch of a bad German accent. Close your eyes and Brühl can play all of Johann’s genuine emotions as were as the artificial ones he puts on when he’s feeling passive aggressive.

    Fenix Espejo
    Dafne Keen

    Dafne Keen is fourteen years old at the moment, so a little young to play Fenix… except that Hellboy 2 isn’t filming today. That’s still another two years away at least, so by then she’d be around sixteen or seventeen, exactly the right age to play Fenix. This is a character I really want to see cast age appropriately too, because when a twenty-something actor plays a teenager, they bring a certain level of confidence that teenager doesn’t have yet. Teenagers are smaller than movies would have us think, and considering how much everyone underestimates Fenix, that smallness works in the story’s favor. Plus, I want that Harry Potter-esque aspect of seeing her grow into the adult B.P.R.D. agent Fenix eventually becomes.

    Keen has also proven herself to be more than capable of playing a fierce character. Let’s face it, in her early days, Fenix fought hard against the B.P.R.D. and was determined to be her own person. It’s a good thing this new Hellboy franchise is OK with an R rating too, because Fenix wouldn’t be Fenix if she couldn’t judiciously drop a “Fuck!” every now and then.

    Sir Edward Grey
    Charlie Heaton

    I’m hoping we’ll see the Hellboy franchise stray into the territory of its many spin-offs, and “Witchfinder” is right there at the top of my list. For Sir Edward Grey I was looking for someone capable of playing cold and distant, without being a complete dick. Considering Sir Edward’s background as the son of a servant, Heaton’s role as Jonathan Byers in Stranger Things demonstrates him capable of playing a man from a lower-class background that isn’t allowed to forget it. You can feel his discomfort. This class distinction is a necessary aspect of Victorian London, and we need that reminder that Grey does not feel comfortable in his life. He has a bit of impostor syndrome, and overcompensates by adopting some of the antipathy of his social superiors. Grey has to both belong and not belong in Victorian London, and I believe Heaton up to the task.

    “But,” I hear you say, “at twenty-five, isn’t he a bit young to play Sir Edward?” Actually, he’s kind of the perfect age. It’s easy to forget that Sir Edward Grey entered into Queen Victoria’s service at age twenty-three. His relentless focus on the task at hand and the manner in which he looks down on the childish behaviour of others, makes him seem older than his years. And if the character is going to act older, I’d like an actor that looks younger for better contrast, to highlight an element of his character that at times gets lost in the comics.

    So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Did I get it wrong? I probably got it wrong, right? Who do you think should be in these roles? What other characters would you like to see in Lionsgate’s Hellboy franchise and who would you like to see play them? Let us know in the comments below.


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