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Leonardo DiCaprio. Daniel Day-Lewis. Matthew McConaughey. Doug Jones. Titans of the film industry. Kings of the Oscar-baiting blockbuster with haute art-house acumen to boot. Wait, what? You haven’t heard of Doug Jones? Have you heard of modern classics like “The Shape of Water” or “Pan’s Labyrinth”? What about ’90s-kid fan favorites like “Batman Returns” and “Hocus Pocus” or “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”?
Jones is in all of those movies and probably dozens of other things you’ve seen, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to “Star Trek: Discovery.” You just wouldn’t recognize him because of the hours of prep work by teams of makeup artists and costume designers that went into making him unrecognizable. Doug’s specialty is bringing life to horrific monsters, fantastic creatures and phantasmic beings that movie magic—and Jones’ considerable chops—make real.
Jones didn’t set out to be Hollywood’s go-to creature-feature king. He actually started out as a mime. Though you might think the primary challenge for mimes is remaining silent (or not being afraid to leave the house dressed as a mime), it’s actually the mastery of expression and movement from Jones’ miming experience that sets him apart.
A good actor can bring an audience to tears with their tears, can bring a crowded theater to a boiling fervor with an impassioned speech or make them quake in fear with a creeping approach or a sudden jump. Could DiCaprio do any of that through a full prosthetic bodysuit? Maybe, but method acting mastery and casual charm aren’t going to sell sympathy for a lovesick fish-man the way that Jones’ movement and poise can make the fantastic so very, very human.
So the next time you sit down with your 3,821-ounce Coke and oil-drum of popcorn, look to the creature, the monster and the alien. Behind the hours of dedication and hard work from the folks who make imaginations tangible, there’s Jones, making their creations live and breathe. Although movie studios can do more than ever before through digital wizardry and special effects, it still takes a master to create a feeling.
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