The years have been good to both Doug Jones and FilmQuest in the decade since the graceful actor visited the first edition of the beloved Utah film festival.
FilmQuest has become one of the most beloved genre celebrations on the planet, and Jones — long known as the man of a thousand faces for his nuanced portrayals of countless fantasy and sci-fi beings — starred in the Oscar Best Picture winner The Shape of Water and earned regular roles on Star Trek: Discovery and What We Do in the Shadows.
To mark FilmQuest‘s 10th anniversary, festival founder Jonathan Martin invited the Mimic and Pan’s Labyrinth star to reminisce about a career that started with commercials in the 1980s, including for the crooning McDonald’s mascot Mac Tonight. (Jones shared that the role helped him by his first house.)
They were careful to stay with SAG-AFTRA rules that keep striking actors from promoting any of their work, including in past films. But Jones was free to detail how he first broke into show business.
Doug Jones Shares His Origin Story
A born entertainer, with perfect elocution and a knack for comic act-outs, he dreamed of sitcom roles. But Hollywood noted his build, and had other plans.
“I wanted to be an actor since I started watching television,” he told Martin. “I was a big fan of sitcoms and musicals and funny things like The Carol Burnett Show — seeing funny people do sketch comedy. Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, Gomer Pile.
“I saw goofy people on screen, and was like, “Maybe there’s a purpose for me after all!” he joked.
He moved from his home town of Indianapolis, Indiana to Hollywood.
“I did not see the career that I had coming,” he told the crowd. “I thought I was going to be like the goofy funny next-door neighbor guy. But when you show up in Hollywoodland and you are six-foot-three and you weigh 135 pounds, and you have a background as a mime —”
At this he impersonated creature-effects teams getting very excited.
It helped that he was also a skilled contortionist who could do things like putting his legs behind his head. He soon landed roles not just in commercials but in the 1993 Disney film Hocus Pocus and the 1997 horror film Mimic, in which he plays a cockroach creature. It was Guillermo del Toro’s first American film, and the two would go on to work together again and again, most notably in The Shape of Water.
But Jones’ roles aren’t easy. When Martin jokingly asked him about his relationship with rubber — they key ingredient in many of his costumes over the years — Jones described what it’s like to be fully costumed when no one else is.
“Well, I’ve never loved it, honestly,” Jones said. “I mean, I love the end results when you can sit back and watch on the movie screen and think, “Wow, it was worth all the sacrifice’ — but there was sacrifice involved.”
He elaborated: “You say goodbye to all human comforts, and say goodbye to going to the bathroom whenever you want. You say goodbye to eating snacks when the rest of the crew is going” — here Jones made eating sounds — “in front of you.”
He added: “The older I get the older it gets, to be honest with you.”
But in telling that story, he also displayed a talent that Hollywood has become increasingly aware of in recent years: He’s not just good at miming the behavior of humanoid creatures. He’s fabulous at delivering monologues and punchlines, as well.
Main image: Doug Jones, left. and Jonathan Martin.