Few people in Hollywood understand what the Comic-Con audience wants better than directors Guillermo del Toro and Jon Favreau, a point the two filmmakers proved in a conversation Thursday in the San Diego Convention Center’s Hall H moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen. Both men came to Comic-Con to promote their own new projects, Del Toro as producer of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and Favreau as director of “Cowboys and Aliens,” but settled in for a discursive conversation that Del Toro likened to “having milk and cookies with 6,000 of my closest friends.”
Here are seven things we learned from their chat:
1) They’re both obsessed with Walt Disney. Each director has a project in development based on classic Disneyland attractions, Favreau’s “Magic Kingdom” and Del Toro’s “Haunted Mansion,” and they share a reverence for the animation innovator. “This is a guy that was highly experimental,” Del Toro said of Disney. “Talk about a risk taker. This guy didn’t do anything that was safe.” Del Toro also confessed that on a 5 a.m. visit to Disneyland, which had been opened especially for him, he hid a dime and a quarter in the Haunted Mansion attraction.
2) They also share a waistline issue. “We never look thinner than when next to each other,” Favreau said of the weight fluctuations that both men grapple with, particularly in the heat of finishing a film. When a fan offered to give Favreau an “Iron Man” T-shirt he’d made, and asked his size, Favreau confessed, “In post-production, I’m 2XL,” while Del Toro one-upped him, saying, “I’m Triple XL–pornographically fat.”
3) Even directors need friends. “Often directors don’t hang together,” Del Toro said. “Because we’re jealous [jerks].” He and Favreau have often been attached to the same projects—including “John Carter of Mars,” but the two relayed a story of finding kinship after their first meeting, over spaghetti and meatballs at Frank Darabont’s house.
4) Directors also need f-bombs. Del Toro had been letting loose with colorfully vulgar language all afternoon, beginning at his earlier Film District panel. When the lights dimmed to show some footage, Favreau whispered to Del Toro discreetly, “Watch here,” and pointed out a note on his name placard that cautioned panelists against swearing in front of the all-ages audience. Del Toro shrugged and racked up several other four-letter words before the panel was through.
5) They have nothing to fear but fear itself. Favreau, in describing his sci-fi western “Cowboys & Aliens” as “not the safe move,” reflected on an earlier noble flop, “Zathura.” “If your movie makes money, you’re on a good list,” Favreau said. “If your movie doesn’t make money, you’re not on a good list, and that changes all the time… Once you’re comfortable with failure, there’s nothing that can be done to you.”
6) They reward the Comic-Con faithful. When one audience member stepped up to the microphone wearing a “Cowboys & Aliens” T-shirt he’d gotten at the film’s Hall H panel, Favreau leapt out of his seat to give him two tickets to Saturday night’s San Diego premiere of the film. Del Toro, meanwhile, said he had hired multiple artists that he’d met at Comic-Con, including two working on his new monster film, “Pacific Rim,” who had stopped him at the convention and presented their portfolios. “When the time comes, you get that weird phone call from that guy with the Mexican accent,” he said, of following up with the artists.
7) They want you to take their genre films seriously… but not too seriously. “Comedy isn’t making jokes,” Favreau said of the implausible world of “Cowboys & Aliens.” “Comedy is finding irony in a situation and playing it to the hilt, until it transforms into something else… there’s a smart movie in this dumb movie.”
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