Guillermo del Toro is alive and well and taking Comic-Con International by storm. By swearing. A lot.
The Mexican multi-hyphenate suffered a back injury and was forced to miss a preview night appearance Wednesday for the announcement of a new comic book based on his vampire novels with Chuck Hogan, “The Strain.” But he was his usual spirited self Thursday afternoon at the FilmDistrict panel in the San Diego Convention Center’s 6,500 seat Hall H, participating in a lively discussion with Danish writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn that was possibly the deepest conversation to ever transpire in the venue.
“I love everything that’s deformed because that’s beautiful to me,” Del Toro said in response to a question posed by a fan about what the filmmaker, touting the release of “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” which he co-wrote and produced, most appreciates about horror. “Everything that’s aberrant we should cherish.”
When discussing notions about retaining control over independently minded productions, Refn offered, “The chief enemy of creativity is safety. Being safe is always dangerous. Creativity is the most capitalistic thinking tank. It has no rules. It’s all about ideas.”
That was just a sample of some of the bon mots from the lips of the international duo — who were flanked onstage by cast and crew from each of their productions. Representing “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” Del Toro’s update of the 1973 made-for-TV movie of the same name, was star Guy Pearce and first-time feature filmmaker Troy Nixey; along with Refn, “Drive,” which was adapted by Hossein Amini from James Sallis’ novel and premiered to stellar reviews at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, was supported by two of its actors, Carey Mulligan and Ron Perlman. Trailers for both movies were shown.
With few exceptions, though, it was the exchange of ideas between Del Toro and Refn that stole the spotlight. Sitting in a special chair designed to support his back and the bulging disc he suffered, Del Toro said, “After 40, anything that bulges is welcome.” He frequently exhorted the crowd to check out the work of the Danish director whose credits include “Bronson,” the “Pusher” trilogy and the Viking film “Valhalla Rising.” Del Toro, of course, is one of the most beloved figures among the Comic-Con crowd with his genre heavy filmography that includes the “Hellboy” movies and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” (Later this afternoon, Del Toro is due back on the Hall H stage for a conversation with “Cowboys & Aliens” director Jon Favreau.)
Using a healthy number of expletives, Del Toro extolled the virtues of the realism of Refn’s work, noting that he takes an entirely opposite approach to creating his richly detailed worlds by “fabricating everything.” Refn, by contrast, described “Drive,” which is set in Los Angeles and stars Ryan Gosling, as a crime movie-fairy tale in which “Ryan would be the knight, Carey would be the princess that needed saving, Ron’s the dragon.”
Of course, there were plenty of lighthearted moments, with Refn likening the casting process to sex and relating the tale of his first meeting with Gosling, which was marred by cold medicine and REO Speedwagon. There were plenty of chuckles about a particular shot of the two men at the Cannes Film Festival, in which Refn was awarded the prestigious best director prize.
Their rapport does seem to have blossomed into something special; Refn and Gosling are currently set to make two more films together, “Only God Forgives” and a remake of cult classic “Logan’s Run” about a youth-obsessed society taken to extremes.
Though “Drive” did, well, drive, much of the discussion, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’s” Pearce managed to get in a great parting shot at the panel’s conclusion: When asked whether it was confusing to film “Memento,” Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller, the Australian actor quipped, “I can’t remember.”
“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is set for release Aug. 26; “Drive” opens Sept. 16.
– Gina McIntyre
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