Twenty years ago, Hellboy spotlighted Prague's cinematic allure – Hollywood took notice

Edison FilmHub is marking the anniversary of Hellboy shooting in Prague with a weekend film fest, themed drinks, and the chance to create your own comic.

Jules Eisenchteter

Written by Jules Eisenchteter Published on 24.04.2024 14:36:00 (updated on 25.04.2024) Reading time: 4 minutes

Not all heroes wear capes. Some sport horns, tails, and hail from Hell’s dark and flaming corners. First presented by creator Mike Mignola to the world of comic book enthusiasts at the 1993 San Diego Comic-Con festival, Hellboy has grown to become one of the most beloved and popular superhero figures from the Dark Horse universe.

The film adaptation started here. Fantasy-horror filmmaker maestro Guillermo Del Toro’s original Hellboy was shot in Prague 20 years ago, launching a wave of fantastical films that leveraged the Czech capital's gothic appeal – from Van Helsing and Alien vs. Predator to The Brothers Grimm and The Omen.

Speak of the devil

The three live-action feature film adaptations released in 2004, 2008 and 2019 – including the first two by the Mexican Del Toro – played no small part in the global success of the red-skinned and good-natured half-demon who, after being summoned by the Nazis with the help of Russian mystic Rasputin (played by Czechia’s very own Karel Roden), ends up fighting on the side of the Allies against the forces of evil threatening to engulf the world.

Del Toro’s original Hellboy was almost exclusively shot in Prague and the Czech Republic in 2003, amid a golden age when the Czech capital and surrounding countryside were attracting hordes of international TV and movie productions and Hollywood teams between the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Spectral Motion
Guillermo Del Toro and Danny Elfman on set of Hellboy II: The Golden Army in Prague/Spectral Motion

The filmmaker, best known today for Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water, had already come to film Blade II in Prague a few years before and was a trailblazer in showcasing Prague’s gothic and mysterious beauty to international audiences.

“I was always a big fan of Hellboy, both the comic books and original movies directed by Del Toro,” Ryan Keating, Prague-based film critic and communications manager for Edison FilmHub, tells us.

“Ron Perlman also makes for the most memorable Hellboy in my opinion,” he says, referring to the lead actor studios initially rejected due to his lack of notoriety, forcing Del Toro to battle for years to convince them to cast him in the titular role.

The Guadalajara-born filmmaker had his reasons: “Aside from being a perfect Hellboy, he is a gentleman, a friend to die for, a great actor, and – for the ladies – he has the sexiest male voice this side of Barry White. What more can one ask for?”

Ron Pearlman filming in Prague as Hellboy. Photo: The Czech Film Commission
Ron Perlman filming in Prague as Hellboy. Photo: Czech Film Commission

As a Hellboy fan and long-term Prague resident, Keating is thrilled about this weekend’s anniversary program. “Prague was a huge inspiration for the Hellboy movie. Whenever I jog on Vítkov Hill, I imagine passing in front of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense,” he says.

Apart from the Vítkov National Monument, the 2004 movie features a host of other iconic Prague landmarks and lesser-known locations, including the Ministry of Transport on the banks of the Vltava (which would also be used in Casino Royale a few years later), the Olšany cemetery and the Invalidovna complex. Many scenes were also shot in the Barrandov studios.

Hellboy, vole!

It's no wonder that Edison FilmHub, which opened five years ago and has become a staple of Prague's cinema-loving bubble, is organizing an extensive Hellboy weekend program on April 26-27.

The goal? To showcase the devilish and paranormal crime-fighting hero’s intimate connection to Prague, pay homage to the humorous character created by Mignola over 30 years ago, and more broadly, introduce viewers to the fascinating universe of comic book aesthetics.

Apart from the screenings of Hellboy (Friday, April 26, at 7 p.m.) – with an introduction by Keating – and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Saturday, April 27, at 7 p.m.), one of the highlights of the program will be a Drink and Draw session on Saturday afternoon, starting at 5 p.m.

Under the expert guidance of the Prague-based illustration studio DRAWetc!, you’ll learn how to draw Hellboy characters and, more broadly, easy tricks and tips for creating your own comic book. All levels are welcome, and participants will receive a free Zichovec beer to reward their creative efforts.

After Friday’s screening, Edison bar will host an afterparty featuring the beats of Prague musician Hjörtur, with unique Hellboy-themed cocktails created for the occasion in cups custom-drawn and decorated by DRAWetc! artists. If you ever wondered what your comic-book alter-ego might look like, the creative studio's founder and creative director Vladimír Strejček will live-draw the portrait of anyone who wishes.

And if all that isn't enough to satisfy film fans, Prague’s renowned Comics Centrum will sell a wide collection of comic books in Edison FilmHub’s cafe – including, but not exclusively, Hellboy volumes – available in both Czech and English.

This weekend’s program seems like the ideal way to celebrate an iconic comic book character who, for all intents and purposes, also called Prague his home at the height of the city’s early 2000s cinema boom.

All the info you need on Edison FilmHub’s website and Facebook and Instagram channels.

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