Behind the Camera With ‘Hellboy’s’ Vanessa Eichholz

Published on November 20, 2019

Making her U.S. television debut in the Netflix Original Series, “Lost In Space,” Vanessa Eichholz is expanding her role throughout Hollywood, most recently with her latest role in the 2019 reboot of Guillermo del Toro’s “Hellboy.”

Grit Daily spoke with Eichholz about her entertainment career in Hollywood and of course her role in the new Hellboy film!

Vanessa Eichholz speaks with Grit Daily about her role in the 2019 Hellboy reboot.

Eichholz, known for her roles in Father Rupert Mayer and Lost In Space, joined into the Mignorus world of “Hellboy” in the 2019 reboot, starring alongside David Harbour (Stranger Things), Thomas Haden Church, and Milla Jovovich.

Grit Daily: Growing up, did the film and entertainment industry ever strike a chord with you?

Vanessa Eichholz: I’ve always been drawn to movies and storytelling itself. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV, so whenever I got a chance, I treasured it. The idea of getting caught up in another person’s world for a bit, while forgetting your own was super fascinating to me.“The Little Mermaid” was one of the few movies we had at home, so I watched it daily and recited the entire film and all characters on road trips to Italy in the summertime. Needless to say, my family regretted ever getting that movie for me.  

GD: How did you transition into the industry?

VE: I took drama classes in school and performed in school plays and musicals. My parents made it very clear that I had to focus on school and good grades and being a child actor was not an option. After high school I was accepted at a drama school in New York City, then finishing my studies at Pepperdine University. I haven’t looked back ever since. 

The Digital Age

GD: What would you say has been the most challenging aspect about acting in today’s digital age?

VE: Many people think breaking into the industry has gotten easier with the ability to shoot films on iPhones. You can just go out and do your own thing nowadays! The problem is—who is actually going to see it?

While it has gotten easier technology wise, I personally think it has gotten harder to stand out. In the past, competition was typically limited to fellow actors in NYC or LA, whereas now you compete with everyone out there. Self-tapes have made it possible for everyone around the world to submit to casting directors.

At times your followers on Instagram count more than your actual acting ability. You have to be active on different social media channels in order to succeed in today’s digital age. Plus, movie stars have taken over TV. Pilot season has turned into offers only season.

GD: Following up to your point on social media following, how do you feel about Instagram’s recent announcement that it will be testing the effect of “hiding ‘like’s” on a limited number of user’s accounts?

VE: Personally, I think it is a good idea. There is immense pressure on getting enough likes on every single picture you post. I have a few blogger/influencer friends and they are in a state of panic when they fail to get enough likes right away. The likes define your market value and like most human beings, you always want more.

Comments for example, are a much better way to measure real interactions. Some Instagram influencers have over ten thousand likes on each photo, but only about twenty-five comments. That is when you know something is off.

Social media used to be fun, an outlet to keep in touch with your friends. Nowadays, it has become a really tough business!

GD: Online bullying and harassment has begun to take a bigger shape across social media, especially in the entertainment industry with respect to “trolling.” What advice do you have for individuals who may be struggling with such conduct?

VE: Cyberbullying is horrible! People take their hatred and let it out on someone they don’t even know in person. It is easier said than done, but don’t let it get to you! Also, I’m very careful about what I share on social media. It is usually limited to business related posts. 

GD: What has been most exciting to you about acting and performing in Hollywood?

VE: I love how quickly your professional life can change in this business. I remember getting a call from my commercial agent on a Friday late afternoon: “Go to Siren studios now! And by now I mean right now!” The only thing I knew was that I was going to audition for a luxurious car commercial, but no other details were given to me at the time. 

I was greeted by the wardrobe person who was close to a mental breakdown because no one they had auditioned that day could fit into a leather dress that the character in the commercial had to wear. The dress fit like a glove and I made the wardrobe lady’s day. She immediately grabbed me, dragged me downstairs where some of the cast & crew were in the middle of rehearsal and pushed me in front of the director, all eyes on me. It was no other than Gus Van Sant!

On Sunday morning I was on my way to Death Valley to shoot the commercial. Had someone told me that I would work with Gus Van Sant one day just because I was able to fit into a leather dress, I would have never believed them! That’s Hollywood!

GD: How do you choose which brand(s) and/or works to associate yourself with?

VE: Branding wise, I wouldn’t advertise for something that I absolutely do not stand by; for example, I have said “no” to parts that required nudity. 

Unless you are a big name, you can’t be super picky though. In acting school, you get the naïve notion that you will be able to play mostly Oscar worthy material…however, reality settled in pretty quickly. In the end, you need to eat and pay your rent! So yes, I have absolutely been a bikini girl in a Schweppes commercial. Not super intellectual, but hey, it paid the bills. 

The 2019 Reboot of ‘Hellboy’

Vanessa Eichholz attends the 2019 Hellboy premiere

And the moment we’ve been waiting for, the 2019 reboot of Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman’s “Hellboy.”

Filmed in Bulgaria, Hellboy brought director Neil Marshall onto the fiery comic-book throne, who welcomed the challenge of doing something completely different from the Hellboy universe predecessors. Marshall, known for his work on The Descent, has been good friends with Del Toro after meeting at a few conventions.

Marshall shared that he had “a very brief exchange” with Del Toro when his directing on the film became official. Receiving his blessing, Marshall assembled a story from various parts of Mignola’s Hellboy universe.

The film also included Eichholz, who portrayed “Ilsa Hepstein”, a villainess Nazi scientist in the comic book series, as well as in the first “Hellboy” movie. “Hepstein” was recruited by Rasputin for his Ragna Rok project, to which “Hepstein” displayed extreme devotion and loyalty. She helped to manipulate David Harbour’s “Hellboy” into the hands of a vampire she fell in love with during the Second World War.

The Hellboy cast at the 2019 premiere, including Vanessa Eichholz

GD: We are definitely Hellboy fans! Tell us how you came across your role as Ilsa Helpstein!

VE: I got cast on the Netflix show “Lost in Space,“ with director Neil Marshall. Neil’s next project was “Hellboy“ and my German background made sense for playing “Ilsa Hepstein”. One project led to the next. It is nice when it works out that way.  

GD: What was the most exciting part about your role as Ilsa?

VE: I was amazed by how popular this evil character is. Aside from being part of the “Hellboy” movie, I was asked to be in a documentary about “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola. While “Ilsa” didn’t play a big part in this movie, it was very important to the filmmakers to interview the actress who played “Ilsa”. That is when you know you step into a world that has built a fanbase for so many years—be it through comics or movies! You have big shoes to fill.

The most exciting part was that I got to experience my first stunts and explosions on set. The producers and the camera crew started wearing helmets and eye protection, whereas I was told to just run into the explosion. “Be careful you don’t hurt your eyes!” I was told. It definitely freaked me out a bit, seeing everyone around in protective gear. During the first take I ran so fast that the camera didn’t even pick me up. Who wants to linger around an explosion, right? I finally calmed down and the second take worked out really well.

GD: What was your favorite scene in the film?

VE: My favorite part is probably the post credit graveyard scene, as I was on set watching how it went down. It was a lot of improvisation and it was the first time Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church) appeared on set. During the shoot, it was a big secret that he was part of the movie. Seeing two very talented actors improvise and act with each other was really fun. 

GD: You knew we were going to bring it up, but you also starred alongside David Harbour, known as his role as “Hopper” in the fan-favorite Netflix Original Series, “Stranger Things.” Describe the experience.

VE: It was amazing to be part of a David Harbour movie. Having been a fan of his work ever since Revolutionary Road, it was a great experience to watch him work on set. He is beyond talented! 

Unfortunately, David and I did not share any scenes in the movie, but I got to know Thomas Haden Church pretty well, as we did share screen time. He is the most down to earth actor I have ever met! Just really fun to be around. 

GD: How would you describe Harbour’s transition from his character role in Stranger Things, to his portrayal of Hellboy in the film?

VE: David had to spend about three to four hours in make-up every day transforming into “Hellboy”—and it worked. He had taken on a completely different persona. I think you see more of David in “Stranger Things.” 

Funny enough, David invited the entire “Hellboy” cast & crew to spend Halloween watching “Stranger Things: Season 2” at Nu Boyana Studios. Halloween is an official holiday in Bulgaria, where we shot “Hellboy,” so everyone had the day off. It was really fun to see it on the big screen. We all mingled in between episodes and talked about the show. So in a way, “Stranger Things” was a big part of my “Hellboy” shooting experience. 

To Your Fans

GD: What advice do you have for up-and-coming actresses and those looking to penetrate the entertainment industry?

VE: It is tough to give advice, as success in the entertainment industry comes about in such different ways and sometimes all it takes is a fluke. That being said, unless you are born into this industry, I think building a network while you work on your craft is key. My parents are not in the business, so I had to build everything from the ground up. Persistence, determination, and a good business sense have kept me going to where I am today. Many talented people come to LA only to give up a few months later. It takes years!

GD: For those who want to know you “off-screen,” do you have a favorite hobby or past-time?

VE: I love to go on hikes and I recently started to practice mindfulness-based meditation. I’m still new to it, but it really helps to put things into perspective. I also enjoy traveling and time away from the Hollywood bubble. You get so immersed in the industry. Sometimes you need to take a step back to realize there is more to life than the film business. 

The Future

As for what’s next on the horizon for Eichholz, she told us that she is beginning to work on a new film early next year:

“I am currently attached to a feature film that is based on a bestselling novel. We are supposed to begin shooting in early 2020. It’s a very exciting project with a really fun team. That is all I can say at the moment.”

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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