Benicio Del Toro is an Oscar winner with a tough screen persona, but underneath that rugged exterior, the actor has a soft spot for old-time movie monsters like The Wolfman.
Del Toro, who won an Oscar playing a tough cop in drug film Traffic and recently was revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara in Che, takes a surprising turn in the latest movie incarnation of a hairy, man-beast werewolf in The Wolfman.
But in talking to the 42-year-old actor it is apparent that portraying a monster in a thriller, whose history is steeped in characters like Frankenstein and the Mummy, is a perfect fit for the serious dramatist.
“There was something about those monsters that they weren’t only scary, but they were cool looking,” Del Toro said. “And then there’s something about all of them being misunderstood. So you felt for them, like you wanted to protect them from the human beings, the lynch mob that’s going after them.”
In The Wolfman, Del Toro plays an Englishman named Lawrence, who is stricken with a curse that turns him into a werewolf when the moon shines bright. As the beast, Lawrence rips up country villagers, but he tries to fight the curse, and butts heads with his domineering father (Anthony Hopkins), who is hiding a secret of his own.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, Del Toro said his family always had the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland lying around, and he made model monsters from toy kits. The makers of the film hired six-time Oscar winning make-up artist Rick Baker, who worked on 1981’s An American Werewolf in London. “With Rick Baker, what do you do?” Del Toro said. “You turn into a canvas, let him paint all over your face.”
About taking on a legend like this character, he said, “It stays true to the original, and in my opinion, I think it works. I’ve heard of a couple kids that’ve seen it, like 12-year-olds, and they liked it, so I’m really excited about that.”