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Creating Hellboy II - design and photos
August 2008

Scene from Hellboy II
Scene from Hellboy II
Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy film (2004) was acclaimed for being visually imaginative. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) goes further and depicts rich new realms. How did the director bring his vision to the big screen?

Hellboy II does have a plot - the big red hero has to stop the dark ruler and save the world from annihilation.

Scene from Hellboy II
Scene from Hellboy II
Director Guillermo Del Toro and his team created an extraordinary world for the sequel's story to unfold in - for Hellboy to live in. This is how they turned their wild ideas into movie reality...

Hellboy II is based on the Dark Horse Comic Book created by Mike Mignola. Apparently, after working out the storyline with Mignola, Del Toro took two and a half years to write the script. Mignola is also the co-executive producer of the film.

Del Toro sketched and sketched in his notebook; Prince Nuada’s faithful henchman, Wink (the troll), the winged Angel of Death, goblins and many other creatures. Production designer Stephen Scott was tasked to bring these drawings to life.

At least half the creatures were played by actors in elaborately designed prosthetic makeup. Puppeteers enhanced the range of their movements with radio-controlled animatronics.

CGI was used when practical effects were not possible. Double Negative Visual Effects brought Del Toro's vision of the merciless robotic Golden Army and other fantasy effects to life.

Location location

Scene from Hellboy II
Scene from Hellboy II
Del Toro: “In the first film, we were always in the sewers and subways, never out in the open, among high society or humans. This [Hellboy II] takes us a bit more there and into the magical world.”

This magical world was based in locations found mostly in Hungary.

The Troll Market was filmed in a former limestone quarry, 25 miles southwest of Budapest in the village of Tarnok, Hungary. It took production designer Scott three months to transform the 4,000-square-metre cave, most recently used for growing mushrooms, into del Toro’s vision of the teeming marketplace.

Francisco Ruiz Velasco was Hellboy II's concept artist: “Every artist working on the production was throwing crazy and exotic ideas around to come up with the different creatures that were to populate the Troll Market, ‘where you can find anything in the world, even those things that are not for sale.’”

Designed to contrast

In addition to new Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) uniforms, costume designer Sammy Sheldon had to try and make sure that the audience could not confuse trolls with humans in the enormous cave. “We gave them strange humps on the front, humps on the back, big bellies, big bottoms, gloves with three fingers, tall shoes… anything we could think of to try and change the shape of a human being,” she says. “Every single character in the Troll Market has his face covered.”

Both the Troll Market and the imposing Golden Army Chamber were designed to contrast with the above ground world of humans. “The human world is linear, with straight lines and sharp edges,” says Scott, “while the shapes of the below ground worlds are curved and fluid, with a mixture of Indian, Moroccan and other North African influences.”

Holding the robots

Scene from Hellboy II
Prince Nuada - scene from Hellboy II
The Golden Army Chamber was built in Budapest in a cavernous (and only partially completed) college sports arena, nicknamed Spikey Stadium by the crew due to the Sputnik-like protrusions on its roof. Its towering height offered practical advantages for construction and filming pivotal sequences of the army’s reactivation.

While director of photography Guillermo Navarro’s cameras rolled at these and other locations, the production’s construction crew worked at Budapest's Korda Studios’ back lot, building a New York street to the production designer’s specifications.

When principal photography began on June 9, 2007, Hellboy II's Manhattan was nothing but a stark metal scaffold, which dozens of men scaled daily to build. As the months passed, it grew to encompass three blocks of shabby shops, a meat packing plant, loading docks, an auto shop, a bank, billboards, an SRO hotel and a trendy meat packing district café.

The New York street hosted several pivotal scenes, including the confrontation between Hellboy and the Elemental, a powerful “Jack and the Beanstalk”-type of vine creature with enough life force to rip through pavement.

Ireland's Giant’s Causeway, an ancient place of myth and legend, also features. Although aerial photography was taken at the actual site on the Northern Irish coast, the actors performed their Causeway scenes in a hilly field near the town of Soskut in the Hungarian countryside.

Scene from Hellboy II
Scene from Hellboy II

The B.P.R.D. sets for Hellboy II: The Golden Army were also built in and around Budapest. The Bureau’s well-stocked “freak corridor,” medical bay and meeting rooms were constructed on soundstages at Korda Studios, as was Hellboy’s personal lair—complete with dozens of television sets and cats.

Professor Broom’s library, the site of a confrontation between Hellboy and Nuada, occupied another stage at the brand-new Korda facility.

Also, the small hut at the military base where Professor Broom raised young Hellboy was built at the studio. Here, as a child, Hellboy first heard tell of the Golden Army’s bloody history between mankind and the outlanders.

Look out for...

Inside the Angel’s lair is a carving on the floor that depicts a diagram of the universe. The watchful filmgoer will catch Mike Mignola’s many icons and zodiac symbols (carved after many detailed sketches were considered by del Toro). There'is a glyph that depicts Hellboy at the end of the days, alternately the savior of or harbinger to mankind’s destruction… depending upon how you read the runes.

Odd fact for British pop fans

Prince Nuada (pictured above, holding a spear) is played by Luke Goss. The same Luke Goss who was part of Bros - the multiplatinum-selling British band.

A final word from the producer

Scene from Hellboy II
Scene from Hellboy II
The filmmakers took pride in honouring the designs of the many artists who contributed to the production. “It was inspiring to see the intricate sketches come to life over the shoot,” says Hellboy II producer Lloyd Levin.

“These fantasy worlds and creatures had been so carefully imagined by Guillermo and the many artists who worked on Hellboy II. To find the detailed sketches built into intricate sets was especially exciting.”


  See also:
  Arts: Creating Hellboy II
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  Market: CDs & DVDs

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