Guillermo Del Toro received the prestigious Cheval Noir Award at Fantasia Film Festival this year and in celebration the fest held a press conference with the filmmaker (unfortunately he’s under the weather so the one-on-one interviews were cancelled, bummer). Over the course of 60 minutes, he discussed everything from his frustration over At the Mountains of Madness to one of his many works in progress, an animated Pinocchio. He covered a lot of ground he’s previously discussed at length, but it was still a joy to sit back and listen to this multifaceted, passionate artist talk.
Del Toro was also at the fest to help promote Creature Designers (read our review), the movie monster make doc he’s featured in. Like he does in the doc, Del Toro discussed at length his emotional connection to monsters, particularly Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s monster. He talked about first seeing Karloff’s monster as a life-changing moment. From Frankenstein to Godzilla, he explained that he’s attracted to stories where the monsters are the ones we connect with emotionally and the humans are the real monsters. “I don’t care about the villagers,” he stated about the Godzilla films. Other monsters he listed off as his favorites included Nosferatu, the Alien Xenomorph, and the Gillman.
He became very impassioned when talking about his fight to bring At the Mountains of Madness to the screen. He stated that if we were to see the concept art and effects tests, we would understand why he’s so brokenhearted over the project, which has been in perpetual limbo for years. Getting James Cameron on as a producer was a big win for Del Toro, but disagreements with Universal (especially about their insistence on a PG-13 rating) has stunted the project every step of the way. A $150 million R-rated horror film was just something the studio didn’t have the stones to get behind, but judging from the passion in his voice, Del Toro is not going to abandon his dream project any time soon.
In the meantime, the prolific write-director-producer has plenty on his plate to keep him busy. It seems like every other week a new film is added to his IMDB page. One of those that came up at the press conference really got my interest: Pinocchio. Del Toro confirmed that he’s co-directing/writing the animated film, which he said will follow the original novel much more closely than the Disney version. Pinocchio will be set in Italy between WWI and WWII, a period Del Toro stated is a “good time for a puppet to exist.” He compared his version of the wooden puppet to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a creation brought into the world and at the mercy of mankind’s viciousness. Del Toro is currently working on a new draft of the script.
He spoke frankly about The Strain, which begins its third season in August, saying that he wasn’t of fan of the lighting in The Master reveal scene and made sure that it was fixed for his next appearance. Even though he’s not the show runner, Del Toro’s sway on the production is evident as he has complete control over all the special effects and color correcting. He talked about the differences working on TV rather than film, stating the “dynamics are very different” and he had to “learn that very fast.”
He touched briefly upon his upcoming film The Shape of Water. There was really no new ground covered on that topic – it’s in English and a very small, personal film, stuff we already knew. Pacific Rim 2 was also brought up, with Del Toro stating he’s wanted to make The Shape of Water for years, so he took a pass on the mech sequel.
One of the more poignant moments of the conference came when Del Toro talked about the birth of his first child. “I saw the baby and I thought, I need to fight for this baby. I’m a very nice guy but if I need to defend this baby’s life, I will. And that’s the way I feel about my movies.” He elaborated more, saying that he learned a very important word in 1997 while film Mimic. That word is “no,” which he said is a powerful tool for a director. “You learn to be a motherfucker.”
It was great to hear Del Toro talk so candidly with the audience about his battles with the studio, love of monsters, and philosophy of film. “I’m not a collector, I’m a religious man,” he earnestly said. That pretty much sums up the man’s obsession with cinema right there.”