Between his no-nonsense Twitter presence, endless back catalogue of badass characters, and that instantly recognisable, cigar-smoke-tinged voice, Ron Perlman comes across as a guy you don’t trifle with.
For his latest movie, Asher, released on 7 December, Perlman plays another in a long line of tough guys. But the character of Asher, an aging New York hit man, involves facing one’s own limitations.
“He’s constantly reminded he’s got more years behind him than in front of him,” Perlman explains. “He’s got to start making decisions about legacy. And at 68 years old, I understand that quite viscerally.”
Produced by Perlman and co-starring ’70s movie icons Richard Dreyfuss and Jacqueline Bisset, Asher draws inspiration from street-level character studies like the work of John Cassavetes.
“Everything is communicated through style,” says Perlman. “The way this guy shines his shoes. The way he picks a bottle of wine. The things that are unsaid when he’s trying to share his innermost feelings with this girl that he meets. It’s a real ’70s movie in that regard.”
He admits that those kinds of movies are “dinosaurs — they’re of another time and place.” Instead, having starred in gritty shows like Sons of Anarchy and Hand of God, Perlman sees TV as the new home for layered, warts ‘n’ all portrayals of compellingly flawed antiheroes.
“Television has become so competitive,” Perlman says, “that they’re writing very smart, edgy, nuanced stuff that used to only exist in the best cinema. So that’s why I’m always going to be looking for my next TV series.”
In case you’re wondering, that next TV series won’t be anything to do with Sons of Anarchy. Perlman played corrupt biker kingpin Clay Morrow for six of the show’s seven seasons, having been killed off before the final episodes.
“I made my peace with his exit,” Perlman says, “and I’m not one to look back.” When I ask if he’d consider appearing in the spin-off show Mayans MC or the long-rumoured SoA prequel, he replies, “I can guarantee that’ll never happen,” in a voice that doesn’t invite follow-up questions. But then again, that might just be his voice.
Perlman certainly doesn’t pull any punches on social media, where he’s known for his forthright condemnation of divisive politics, and the Trump administration in particular.
“What’s most reprehensible about our politics today,” he says, “is that people are knowingly and willingly exploiting hatred and fear in order to gain political leverage, and I think that that’s incredibly dishonest, corrupt, toxic and sinful.
“I’m also really saddened by how easy it is to regenerate Nazism and xenophobia and racism,” he says, describing the prevalence of hatred as “eye-opening for all of us.” Yet he remains “optimistic about the human condition. I think people are fundamentally good … I just think we constantly need to remind ourselves of our commonalities.”
And he makes no concession to anyone who thinks celebrities shouldn’t talk politics.
“I feel obligated to remind everybody what life is worth living for,” he says of his straight-talking Twitter feed, “what’s beautiful about this existence and this freedom we have in this amazing democratic experiment called America. It’s not perfect. It’s not something you should take for granted. It’s something that has to be fought for … All of that is under siege right now, and I don’t think there’s any room for anybody to sit on the sidelines and not have an opinion.”
Meanwhile, Perlman isn’t ready to give up playacting just yet.
“I’m about to go to South Africa and do a movie called Monster Hunter,” he says. “I get to use axes and swords — and here I am in my late 60s. Dudes really have a hard time giving up the ghost.”
Culture: Your hub for everything from film and television to music, comics, toys and sports.
Movie Magic: The secrets behind the scenes of your favorite films and filmmakers.