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The Many Mutations of Ron Perlman

The Many Mutations of Ron Perlman (photo)

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Ron Perlman has done Ibsen, Chekov, Pinter and Shakespeare, but since his burly physique first filled screens in 1981’s “Quest for Fire,” the 59-year-old actor has become known as someone who can give strong performances under layers of facial prosthetics. (See also: “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and the TV show that launched his stardom, “Beauty and the Beast.”) It’s almost strange to see the demon hero of “Hellboy” without all the make-up, as Perlman can currently be seen au naturale (above the neck, anyway) as Clay Morrow on TV’s biker drama “Sons of Anarchy” and his new film, “Mutant Chronicles.” Based on a pen-and-paper RPG, director Simon Hunter’s post-apocalyptic horror actioner co-stars Perlman — alongside Thomas Jane, John Malkovich and Devon Aoki — as Brother Samuel, the leader of an ancient monastic order in a steampunk-esque future where four warring corporations rule all. Hideous, bloodthirsty “necromutants” have escaped from a portal below the earth, and Perlman must help lead a charge of soldiers to destroy the mutant-making machine. I spoke with Perlman about the intelligence and terrifying prescience of “Mutant Chronicles,” whether he likes cartoons, and how he ended up starring in Spanish and French films when he didn’t speak either language.

You’re a classically trained thespian, but the screen projects you’re most well known for tend to be genre works. Do you ever feel like you want to break away from those kinds of roles?

No, no, no. I don’t want to change anything. I’m really happy with the way things are going. Even though there’s been a huge amount of genre, it’s all been treated with intelligence and integrity. There’s always a larger sort of issue than the one-dimensional, obvious trappings of the world that we’re looking at. There are always great deals of humanity in the characters that have been offered to me. Yeah, Hellboy is big, he’s red, he’s got horns, he’s a demon, but you’re never able to describe his heart [so simply] because it’s so human, nuanced and admirable. It’s something to aspire to. As an actor, that’s what we do this for.

In a movie like “Mutant Chronicles,” that’s set in an otherworldly time and place when you’re grounded in the real world, do you ever just lose it and crack up when your dialogue concerns something called a Necromutant?

The thing that was so attractive about the “Mutant Chronicles” script was that it was smartly rendered. You didn’t find yourself having to fix hokey shit, you know? Sometimes you look at something and realize, “Holy shit, I can’t say this. I have to find a new way to express this same thought and hopefully make it more intelligent.” With “Mutant Chronicles,” I never had that problem. [It’s set in] this theoretical world some few hundred years in the future being divvied up into corporations. There are no more nationalities. Patriotism is only reflected in a pure economic sense. That’s the way the world was headed when we made this movie. The corporations were winning. We found out in the last few months, as our new president took office, that was a bankrupt set of values, and we’re paying for it now. Hopefully, it’ll be a wake-up call that you can’t forget the guy with the lunch pail. His needs will eventually kill you.

04242009_TheMutantChronicles.jpgSo you no longer see the world of “Mutant Chronicles” as an ominous disaster in the making?

I thought it was very prescient when I agreed to do the film three years ago. If you’re going to theorize what a world might look like a few hundred years in the future, it was as smart a guess as I thought could’ve been made. Then there’s the perpetual warfare element — these corporations are constantly at war with one another, [and] this “Machine” buried in the bowels of the earth unleashes this truly diabolical force that’s even more impersonal than the corporate one. [laughs] This soulless, bloodless corporate mentality is trumped by something even more soulless and bloodless, and I found that rather compelling.

The film made me think of Ewan McGregor griping about acting against a tennis ball in a “Star Wars” prequel. You’re no stranger to CGI backgrounds and effects, so is it challenging for you to stay focused when you’re performing against green screen, or is it like some Brechtian stage play?

Every time you get on a stage or in front of a camera, the whole exercise is about imagination. You’re constantly depicting something that doesn’t exist, and trying to find the reality of it. Once you settle on that premise, everything else is a matter of degrees. We’re working against green screen, so what? You’re still going to be imagining this world. After all, if it’s a $12 million set, which I’ve been on in big studio movies, you’re still using your imagination because you’re still just standing on a set. I don’t think it’s that big a stretch. Would Ewan McGregor prefer to be shooting this thing on Mars? Maybe that’ll help his work? It wouldn’t help mine. I need the craft service table nearby and an air-conditioned trailer to go take a nap. [laughs]

As much time in your life as you’ve spent in a make-up chair, how do you not get bored out of your mind just sitting there for hours?

Generally, I like the guys I’m hanging out with. All the guys who put make-up on me are salt-of-the-earth people where the conversation flies, the music is cool and we take a lot of cigarette and food breaks. We’re getting ready to do something that most people wish they could do, so it’s never been a problem. It’s always been a joy.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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