?In mere months, Ron Perlman will play a role that will further cement his reputation as a geek’s actor — that of Corin, father of Conan the Cimmerian, in the remake of Conan the Barbarian. To play the patriarch of one of sword and sorcery’s greatest anti-heroes would surely have placed him in the pantheon of geek movie legends… that is, if he wasn’t there already. Perlman could have made it on his cartoon and videogame voice acting roles alone, since his rumbling baritone has landed him the roles of Batman, Iron Man, the Hulk, Conan, Bane, Killer Croc, Clayface, Deathstroke, the Abomination and more, but it’s his distinctive features (often buried under layers of makeup) that have placed him at the glowing center of the geek culture. While he’s appeared in plenty of “normal” projects in addition to his genre work, and both have put his face in front of millions of people, these are the ones that put his face in front of thousands of geeks, because they’re some of the most nerd-targeted movies and TV shows known to man.
10) Zeno, Ice Pirates
No, Ice Pirates isn’t part of some legendary franchise, and nobody dresses up like an ice pirate at conventions, but the 1984 sci-fi sex comedy gets geek cred merely for being… well, a 1984 sci-fi sex comedy. Arguably silly than Spaceballs, and only marginally sillier than Flash Gordon, this movie is an embarrassing time capsule for a lot of actors. Perlman is hardly the biggest name in it — Robert Urich stars, and Anjelica Huston, John Carradine and John “Sloth” Matuszak all play key roles. It’s not based on a comic or even a sci-fi novel, but there’s something very geek-friendly about the movie’s water-shortage-in-space story, especially since they fight robots pretty constantly. Director Stewart Raffill directed it in between The Philadelphia Experiment and Mac & Me, and he co-wrote it with the guy who wrote Krull and half the ’60s Batman TV series.
9) Boltar, Prince Valiant
?Did you know there was a Prince Valiant movie? Two of them, in fact? And that the one made in 1997 starred future True Blood vamp Stephen Moyer and future Roswell alien Katherine Heigl? Would you be more likely to track it down if you knew that Ron Perlman plays a cave-dwelling VIking with a wild mane of hair and Braveheart makeup in it, and that he helps Valiant reclaim Excalibur for King Arthur? Perlman, Moyer and Heigl are joined by Udo Kier, Zach Galligan, Warwick Davis and Joanna Lumley, a cast that spans roughly all of geek lore, which means there’s something for every facet of nerddom. So even though Prince Valiant is a watered-down comic strip long past its heyday, and the movie plays like a rough draft of the underrated A Knight’s Tale, it’s hard to pass up Arthurian legend told with an all-geek cast.
8) Gunnar, Outlander
If movies were real, chances are Johnny Depp would probably not actually be a pirate, but I’m pretty sure Ron Perlman would be a viking chieftain. After multiple viking parts, the man just looks like he would carry an axe under normal circumstances. An alien antagonist gives this viking role the geeky edge over the Prince Valiant one, but, if such a situation were to arise in the hypothetical world where movies are real, I am reasonably confident that Viking Ron Perlman would still seek revenge against the giant, ex-con space reptile who devastated his village. Because that’s just the kind of guy he looks like he might be.
7) Johner, Alien Resurrection
As the only Alien film written by geek scribe Joss Whedon, Resurrection holds a special place in geek hearts… although, since Whedon hates it, that may be more for the “What if Ripley was an alien?” premise and the presence of Perlman, Michael “Top Dollar” Wincott and Brad “Wormtongue” Dourif in prominent roles. Or because the movie is essentially a dark sci-fi comedy, and the whole thing is taken to a very strange place by quirky French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Still, Perlman’s role is fairly straightforward — play a grade-A jerk whose faults are forgotten and skill with a weapon prized in the face of an alien incursion.
6) Fiery Blaze The Tick
The Tick is generally accepted to be one of the funniest (intentionally funny, mind you) superheroes ever created, be he panel-based, animated or live-action. And while his live-action series was canceled after a mere 10 episodes, fans of the comic side of comic books hold it up as sheer perfection. Also sheer perfection? Ron Perlman as a flame-crotched, mustachioed, fire-powered hero who takes his sidekick (“Friendly Fire”) on a double-date with The Tick and Arthur. The giant Bono sunglasses, the two-tone hair and the sense that Perlman is having a hell of a time make for geek Nirvana.
5) Reinhardt, Blade II
In a movie full of bad guys, Ron Perlman is the baddest. Recruited to a special squad formed especially to hunt and kill Blade, and then ordered to team up with his immortal enemy against a mutual foe, he has to have a bomb attached to his head just to be forced to work with the guy. Even then, he still gives the Daywalker guff, and he turns on him the minute he can. While it’s neither the best nor the worst Blade movie, the Reaper-hunting Bloodpack should be especially noted for its geeky roster: in addition to Perlman, you’ve got the Cat from Red Dwarf, Vincent Van Gogh from Doctor Who and famed martial arts choreographer (and Hong Kong action star) Donnie Yen. Hear that? That’s the sound of hundreds of people digging up their seldom-watched copies of Blade II.
4) The Messenger, Highlander: The Series
Highlander: The Series may be the geekiest thing ever filmed, so Perlman’s one-episode appearance as “The Messenger,” a Highlander who preaches non-violence on a TV show about sword fighting, automatically merits a spot on this list, and a high spot at that. The leather trenchcoat! The stylish cable-knit sweater! There can be only one, indeed.
3) Reman Viceroy Vkruk, Star Trek: Nemesis
?Playing the villain in a Star Trek film places you among the ranks of some of the world’s finest actors, but playing the assistant to the main villain while buried under mounds of identity-concealing Nosferatu makeup… that’s something you do because you love your job. On the plus side, Perlman was playing the chief representative of an alien race no one had ever seen before, and few would see again, unless they watched Enterprise, which isn’t much of a “claim to fame” even among Trek fans. And to this day, Perlman’s character is the only visible Reman to get a name, even if he did get it in the book of the movie. That’s right, the name “Vkruk” isn’t even canon. And yet, he’s the only one with an action figure.
2) Hellboy, Hellboy, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Is there a geekier superhero than Hellboy? He plays videogames with Chuck, reads his own comic books, and once wrestled lucha libre. And he lived at home with his dad until he was 60. Sure, the movies weren’t entirely faithful to the comics, but they were made with Mike Mignola’s blessing and help, which means it’s okay for geeks to enjoy the Seth McFarlane-voiced Johann possessing a set of lockers and beating up Hellboy with them. Plus, the fact that Guillermo del Toro is truly a geek as well as a geek’s director — with two previous Perlman collaborations (Cronos and Blade II), two Hobbit scripts and a two vampire novels under his belt, and a Hulk TV show and Frankenstein movie on his “To Do” list — should allow him to do whatever he wants, anyway.
1) Vincent, Beauty and the Beast
Before anyone dismisses the series as romantic schlock, let me say a few things. 1) Girls are geeks too, and this is probably one of the geekiest non-comedic love stories on television. 2) It was written and produced by George R.R. Martin, of A Song of Ice and Fire fame, before he left the constraints of television. And 3) It wasn’t any schlockier than Smallville was on its best day. Remember, this was before the Disney cartoon turned the dark fairy tale into an all-ages musical extravaganza — the show ran from 1987 to 1990, and was basically Angel without the snark, or Nightbreed without the Grand Guignol. It showed the networks that women wanted a little fantasy in their fantasies and made shows like Forever Knight and Blood Ties and Moonlight possible. And it made a nation fall in love with the dulcet tones of an otherwise unrecognizable Ron Perlman. Thank you, Beauty and the Beast.