Ron Perlman grew up in the Washington Heights section of New York City, where his father was a radio/TV repairman and his mother an employee with the city's Department of Health. A profoundly unhandsome youth, Perlman was nonetheless very active in high school theater by virtue of his height (6-foot-2) and his deep, rolling voice. He continued studying drama at Lehman College and later at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with a master's degree in theater arts. He went to work with New York's Classic Stage Company, an organization specializing in Elizabethan and Restoration plays. Perlman starred in several Manhattan and touring productions staged by Tom O'Horgan of Hair fame before accepting his first film role as a Neanderthal man in 1981's Quest for Fire. Emotionally drained, Perlman backed off from acting after finishing the movie, but was soon back in the groove, essaying such attention-getting roles as the hunchbacked Salvatore in The Name of the Rose (1986). Most often cast as brooding, inarticulate, villainous characters in films (such as Pap in 1993's The Adventures of Huck Finn), Perlman became best known for his performance as the beneficent, albeit hideously ugly, sewer-dwelling Vincent in the late-'80s TV series Beauty and the Beast. Though this remained the actor's defining role for years after the show's run had drawn to a close, he was busier than ever through the '90s.
Appearing in everything from obscure arthouse hits (Cronos  and The City of Lost Children ) to voice-over work for television (Aladdin) and video games (Fallout, A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game) to overblown Hollywood blockbusters (Alien Resurrection), Perlman left few stones unturned in terms of flexibility and experimentation in new media. He continued this trend into the early 2000s, alternating between various arenas with remarkable ease and refusing to be pigeonholed, appearing in such high-profile releases as Titan A.E. (2000), Enemy at the Gates (2001), and Blade II (2002). Though his recognition factor seemed higher than ever, few could foresee the opportunity just ahead when Blade II and Cronos director Guillermo del Toro announced that Perlman would star in the film adaptation of Mike Mignola's popular comic book Hellboy, although it seemed highly unlikely that studios would invest the millions of dollars needed to bring the comic to life with an actor of such minimal "marquee value." They wanted Vin Diesel for the role, but del Toro, with the blessing and encouragement of character originator Mignola, eventually won out to have Perlman play the Nazi-creation-turned-superhero in the 2004 fantasy-action film.