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The Shape of Water Is An 'Adult Fairytale for Today'

Doug Jones is an actor and a former contortionist who has become synonymous with the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. He’s most known for his work alongside famed director Guillermo del Toro, having portrayed roles in Mimic, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and - now - The Shape of Water. Richard Jenkins has had a lengthy acting career, but didn’t obtain a major leading role until the 2000’s, where he played the deceased patriarch Nathaniel Fisher on HBO’s Six Feet Under. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work in The Visitor and won an Emmy for his work on Olive Kitteridge. Both join together to play the roles of Amphibian Man and Giles respectively in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which is currently out now in theaters.

Screen Rant got a chance to talk with actor Doug Jones and Richard Jenkins on press day, where we discussed what are the advantages of working on a practical set versus a set utilizing CG effects, where Doug Jones derived his inspiration from for the Amphibian Man.

First question I have is Guillermo del Toro is a bit of a throwback director. He likes using practical costumes, the monster suit, and practical sets. What are the advantages of that opposed to the CG stuff?

Richard Jenkins: Well, I’m not talking to a tennis ball on a stick, which it’s kind of like that…

Doug Jones: [laughs] I look much the same.

Richard Jenkins: But it’s so helpful to have an actor there. You know, somebody that you can talk to and hears you and responds to you. Yeah. I never understood the other way. I never gotten that. I try to stay away from that stuff. So, it was invaluable for ma and I think for everybody. I know for Sally it was. Good lord! I mean, and Doug had a job because of that.

Doug Jones: [laughs and mumbles]

You’ve worked with Guillermo a lot now and it looked like the suit was at least inspired by the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but what were your inspirations for the your performance?

Doug Jones: Yes, the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Guillermo has a love for all of the classic monster movies and the Creature from the Black Lagoon was among his top favorites. So knowing that this was a nod to that, I wanted to channel the animal from the wild as opposed to other characters that I had played for him before that had been fantastical looking, but have had great dialogue and gentlemanly hand gestures and all of this. This time there was an animal involved and he was tameable and he was intelligent and could learn communication, but he didn’t come into the room knowing that already. He had to learn about that from Sally Hawkins’ character Eliza and, so that was the beauty of this. It was taken from a raw real animal in nature viewpoint and finding the body language that would connect with her without verbal dialogue because she didn’t speak either, so the two of us together were a visual love story happening in front of you.

Richard Jenkins: But I think you knew. I mean, I’m playing Giles, but you knew something about her that she didn’t know and when you took her into the water, you knew she was going to come along and that she was going to swim away with you. Nobody else did, but there is a wisdom about this creature that was really apparent at the end of the movie. You want to say, “Oh my God. He’s smarter than anyone in this film.” He’s smarter than Michael Shannon’s character. Michael Shannon says, “You are a God,” and he means it. And it’s like, “Yes, I am.” Slashes your throat and now give me her. It’ll be fine. Just give her to me. There’s just an incredible wisdom to it.

Giles is my favorite character in the film. He’s so relatable. How did you approach that? And, since it’s the early 1960s obviously, there’s a lot of relevance to today with this characters and a lot of these themes, so what do you want audiences to take away from this film?

Richard Jenkins: Well, I mean, he did it on purpose. It’s an adult fairytale for today. What I want them, it’s like anything. I would not tell someone what they should feel when they see a movie, but if you root for these people, then you are rooting for people who are maybe different than you are. A creature and a woman falling in love is different and if you are rooting for them, you are feeling empathy. Or if you are rooting for Giles to, maybe that pie guy will take his hand back or you please find some happiness here, Giles. And he does and if you can do that, and I believe that every human being can, then you are walking in somebody else’s shoes for a little while and I think that’s invaluable.

MORE: Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg Interview for Shape of Water

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The Shape of Water Is An 'Adult Fairytale for Today'