Jones shape-shifts again for The Shape Of Water

Actor says amphibian is 11th creature Guillermo del Toro has asked him to play

Doug Jones has made a career out of playing monsters, ghouls and creatures of myth. The former contortionist is a legend in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror circles for his unique ability to morph into diverse roles.

He is best known for his collaborations with Guillermo del Toro, which started in 1997 with Mimic. It continued with roles in Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) as Abe Sapien; Pan's Labyrinth (2006) as the Faun and the Pale Man; and in Crimson Peak (2015).

But their work together on The Shape Of Water, opening here tomorrow, might be definitive - Jones' amphibian creature is the love interest in del Toro's film and also one of the principal leads, and it requires every tool in Jones' arsenal to realise.

The Shape Of Water earned 13 Oscar nominations, including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actress for Sally Hawkins.

Set in the height of the Cold War and during the space race, the film takes its audience into a mysterious government facility in Baltimore where, in the deepest recesses of the lab, an amphibious creature (Jones) is being studied for its unusual abilities.

As Strickland (Michael Shannon), who is in charge of security, demands for it to be killed and autopsied, Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) insists the creature's secrets can be revealed only with a lighter touch.

But it is the facility's quietest employee who realises the truest connection to the creature.

Mute cleaner Elisa (Hawkins) feels a strange affinity with this mysterious visitor from the deep. And as the men in charge prevaricate, she resolves to release the creature from its captors, with the aid of her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins).

He does give leading man storylines and leading lady storylines to creatures... He really has a true love affair with other worldly things. Actor Doug Jones on director Guillermo del Toro

Shot during the autumn of 2016 in Toronto, Canada, The Shape Of Water made its world premiere in August last year at the Venice Film Festival.

From the film's set, Jones expounded on creating a sexy fish man and the fruitful journey he has had with del Toro.

You have played a plethora of creatures for del Toro over the years. What reaction did you have to this script and this particular creature?

When I read the script the first time, I was clutching my chest like: "This is beautiful!" Seeing the designs that were emerging out of (special effects studio) Legacy Effects was like: "Oh, well that is exactly it."

It does harken back a little bit to Creature From The Black Lagoon, which is Guillermo's favourite Universal monster movie. And he mentioned once on Hellboy II how he loved Abe Sapien's looks. For some reason, he has got a true love affair with aquatic beasts (laughs).

Have you lost count of the number of creatures Guillermo has asked you to play?

I have not lost count of his creatures, but in general, yes. I have been acting for 30 years, so I have no idea.

This is my sixth movie with Guillermo, but I have played multiple characters in some of them, and I have also been a recurring vampire on his TV show, The Strain. If I am not wrong, I think the total now, including The Shape Of Water, is 11.

I met him in 1997 on Mimic. And I am very, very blessed and excited and thankful and grateful to him. That man single-handedly changed my life.

I had been working consistently, but he was the page-turner who took me from nondescript guy who wears rubber to a kind of Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney or Bela Lugosi kind of star.

Guillermo is also always incredibly sympathetic to "monsters" in his films - he wants to show their good side.

He does give leading man storylines and leading lady storylines to creatures. It is something other directors might be scared off by, but not him. He really has a true love affair with other worldly things.

I think that is why audiences love him so much, why other film-makers and we actors love him so much, because we are being directed by an eight-year-old boy who thinks this is so cool. Yet he is a brilliant visionary at the same time.

Is there a conscious effort not to repeat what you did with Ape Sapien in Hellboy?

Absolutely, because I know Abe so well. Abe was more artistic, more intellectual, more prim and proper. He had a posh way about him that he could be a butler at a big mansion, at Downton Abbey. Whereas this fish man does not speak.

The movie does not feel like a genre movie in the way Hellboy was. In this, this is a very real story from 1962. This is really all happening.

I am a creature that really was found in the Amazon River. With that has to come a little less flourish, less caricature and more real guy.