'Hellboy' Actor Douglas Tait Talks Playing a Villainous Pig, Practical Effects, and More

The dark and gritty Hellboy reboot finally hits theaters next week, bringing a fresh new take on the Hellboy franchise previously run by the Oscar-winning Guillermo del Toro. Although latest movie sees The Descent helmer Neil Marshall taking over the reins from del Toro, the production stayed trued to their predecessors in using practical effects whenever possible.

In the lead-up to the film, ComicBook.com spoke with Douglas Tait, the actor behind Gruagach, the giant pig-like creature you've seen David Harbour's Hellboy and Daniel Dae Kim's Ben Daimio fight in the trailers. Here's what he had to say about practical effects, his mysterious character, and more:

(Photo: Lionsgate)

ComicBook.com: Let's start at the very beginning. How was the auditioning process? Did you know you would be playing a 10' tall pig? Hog, for a better word?

Douglas: Fortunately, I didn’t have to audition. I was referred by the special effects makeup designer Joel Harlow and was booked off my body of work. And to be honest with you, he's not that tall. The tall Gruagach is the Super Gruagach. I don't know how much we can get into with the spoilers and everything, but he’s tall throughout the film because I’m tall. He grows to 10 feet tall later in the film.

It's by and large mostly practical effects, right?

It's all practical effects except for Super Gru, which is motion capture. The only other visual effects you'll see is when Gru is speaking. There were animatronics in the mouth, but you can't sync his dialogue, so there were markers around my mouth for visual Fx to sync the dialogue with the mouth movements.

Right, so practical effects. Was it like was it a full suit or more of a helmet?

Yeah, It was a full suit with animatronics in the face, eyes, eyebrows, and cheeks, everything moved. There was a fiberglass skull cap that went on my head like a helmet, and the Gruagach head was attached to this skull cap. The skull cap was made off of my head cast. Everything was practical, and the other actors acted opposite me and not a tennis ball.

Is it something you could just hop into? I mean, it wasn't like David where he would sit down for four hours in makeup, right? How long of a process it was to get ready for the day? How long before call time did you have to arrive on set?

No, it wasn't makeup. It was a fully mechanical animatronic head. It took less than an hour to get in the suit and the head. The head was the last thing to go on. It was attached to a battery pack for the servos to move in the face. The head weighed about 50 pounds and would get extremely heated while I was in it. They would use a super-powered fan in between takes or else I would pass out.

So you're saying you have a pretty strong head and neck right now?

If you saw some of the workouts I was doing to prepare for this, it would be laughable. I had a harness on my head with weights on it to make my neck stronger. It took me a while to really get comfortable with what I was doing. When you're acting and performing, you can't think about what you're doing. You have to be in the moment, and when you're dealing with so much, it's so hard to be in the moment.

I would say it took a good month to really relax and feel the character. I was walking in a squat position, with my head completely staring towards the ground because if I looked forward the Gruagach eyes would be in the sky. I couldn't see and I'm fighting David and I'm acting alongside Milla [Jovovich] and bumping into her and constantly stepping on her dress. It took a while to figure it all out and for it to become organic.

Obviously, Gruagach is up towards the top in terms of Hellboy villains. Were you familiar at all with the comic before accepting the role?

You know, I was only familiar with the movies, I wasn't familiar with the comics. When they cast me as the character, I started to do research on Gruagach. My first impression was, "Wow, that's going to be some big makeup." Then I found out it was animatronics. It's the most exhausting thing to do when you're stuck in a heavy head like that, it's really tough. I never heard of Gruagach prior to when I got the call for the role. My only knowledge of Hellboy was from the del Toro movies.

Did Lloyd [Levin] or Neil [Marshall] recommend anything, or did you just kind of research that on your own?

I did the research on my own. Later when I was on set, Mike Mignola gave me the rundown on Gruagach and everything about the character's history. Joel Harlow, the special effects makeup designer on Hellboy was also instrumental in helping me with the movements of Gruagach.

Now, let's keep this spoiler-free. If you had an elevator pitch for Gruagach's story arc or the character in general I guess, what could fans expect from him in this movie?

That's a good question. Let's see how I can answer this without spoilers. Well, Gruagach was once a shape-shifting warrior and now he is trapped in the body of a stunted boar because of Hellboy. The story arc of Gruagach is that throughout the film he seeks revenge on Hellboy because of this humiliation. The Blood Queen is his only hope in destroying Hellboy. Without her, he could never take on the strength and power that Hellboy has.

You often do roles involving these makeup-based and animatronic characters. What sets this role apart from anything you've ever done before?

Well, I think that a lot of characters that I have played, I'm performing based on the design and look of the character. If the character is a beast, you're seeing the beast performance. With Gruagach, he looks very scary and intimidating on the exterior, but for most of the film, I play opposite to this. I play him like an abused dog, scared that he’s going to get hit in the face at any moment. That's what separates him from a lot of the other monster-like characters I have played.

Hellboy is based on a comic, but even Neil's gone on record saying, even Mike has said, they don't want this to be a superhero movie per se. Are there any superheroes you kind of have your eyes on, whether it be Marvel, DC, indie comics, and so on? I guess who would you love to play on screen in a superhero capacity?

I've always been a fan of D.C. comics Superman. When I saw Superman as a kid, that was the superhero that I really connected with. He was the person I looked up to. He was a hero and a role model. There was nothing evil about him. I have VHS videos playing Superman. I would wear the Superman cape under my clothes and I would suddenly appear as him at a family members house. I had the Superman bed sheets and pillow. Growing up in the eighties Christopher Reeve was Superman. He is etched in my memory as the ultimate superhero. I am the same height as Christopher Reeve, 6’4” and we have a similar build. I would love to play Superman. It would be a dream come true.


Hellboy roars into theaters April 12th.

What do you think of the use of practical effects in the Hellboy reboot? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter but hitting me up at @AdamBarnhardt to chat all things Hellboy!



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