Guillermo Del Toro is photographed on June 17, 2103. Click through the gallery for a look at some milestones in his career. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)Link
"Cronos" (1993): Del Toro's first feature, the Spanish-language thriller "Cronos," centered on a young girl and her grandfather, who stumble onto a golden, scarab-like device with a secret inside. (October Films)Link
"Mimic" (1997): Del Toro famously warred with studio executives on this film about killer insects, which was his second feature and his first Hollywood production. (Kerry Hayes / Dimension Films)Link
"The Devil's Backbone" (2001): A moody ghost story set during the Spanish Civil War, the film chronicles what happens when a young fatherless boy arrives at a haunted orphanage. (Sony Pictures Classics)Link
"Blade II" (2002): A race of super vampires is on the loose in this comic-book inspired sequel directed by Del Toro and starring Wesley Snipes. (Bruce Talamon / New Line Cinema)Link
"Hellboy" (2004): Longtime Del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman starred, with Selma Blair, in the filmmaker's adaptation of Mike Mignola's signature comics about a grumpy demon summoned to Earth. (The Orphanage / Columbia Pictures)Link
"Pan's Labyrinth" (2006): Del Toro's brilliant, beautiful dark fairy tale follows the stepdaughter of a cruel military man as she stumbles into an elaborate fantasy world. The film won three Oscars. (Teresa Isasi / Picturehouse)Link
"The Orphanage" (2007): Del Toro produced Juan Antonio Bayona's terrifying Spanish-language thriller, which helped introduce the filmmaker to a wider audience. (Picturehouse Entertainment)Link
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008): Perlman's title character is only one of dozens of magnificent monsters who become embroiled in an epic supernatural conflict that threatens the people of Earth. (Universal Pictures)Link
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (2010): Del Toro co-wrote and produced this remake of a 1970s scarefest that was among his favorites as a child. (Carolyn Johns / Miramax Film Corp.)Link
"Mama" (2013): Del Toro fell in love with Andrés Muschietti's spooky short film, then signed on to produce the writer-director's full-length expansion of the story of two orphaned girls visited by an apparition. (Universal)Link
"Pacific Rim" (2013): Rinko Kikuchi starred as one of the pilots of the massive Jaegers that fought against invading Kaiju in Del Toro's love letter to Japanese monster cinema. (Warner Bros.)Link
"The Strain" (2009 book): Partnering with author Chuck Hogan, Del Toro penned an apocalyptic vampire trilogy that he now hopes to translate to television. He's currently directing the pilot for the show in Toronto. (William Morrow)Link
If there was one creative force who appeared to be nearly omnipresent at San Diego’s Comic-Con International this year, it was Guillermo del Toro.
The busy writer-director was on hand for the pop culture expo to discuss a slew of projects: his 2015 horror film, “Crimson Peak,” starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam; his FX TV series, “The Strain,” adapted from a trilogy of vampire novels he wrote with Chuck Hogan; the upcoming animated movie he’s producing, “Book of Life,” which arrives in theaters Oct. 17; and “Pacific Rim 2,” the sequel to last summer’s movie that paid glorious homage to the Japanese pop culture he adored as a child in Guadalajara.
After debuting the first scenes from “Crimson Peak” at the Legendary Comic-Con panel in Hall H on Saturday, Del Toro sat down with Hero Complex to discuss his San Diego experience, the status of the “Pacific Rim” sequel and his passion for subverting genre convention.
Hero Complex: The “Crimson Peak” footage was truly remarkable.
Guillermo del Toro: I was afraid of coming between big, big movies with a quiet one, because “Crimson” is a very delicate, beautiful thing and I thought, “Is it going to look a little too quiet?” I was happy the hall was so happy for it. I got to also finally show for the first time an English-language project that has the beauty that the European ones have. Normally, I go for the pop, big stuff and it was thrilling to see it well received.
HC: You’re such a beloved figure here. It must be an interesting experience for you sitting on the Hall H stage and feeling like a rock star.
It’s the only place where I can feel like Mick Jagger. What truly is great, you know what is funny, I’ve come to feel that my movies connect with the type of person, the ones they connect the deepest with, is a person who is creative in a way — they draw, they write, they design, they sculpt. Whatever it is, I find they can read the movies beyond the plot, and beyond the screenplay. They can go, “He did this with that texture, he did this with that monster, he did this with that color.” I think people throw everybody in the same basket when they say “Comic-Con” or “geek” or “fan,” but in reality, we are so diverse. You can have a fan who is a fan of George R.R. Martin and they don’t like superheroes, or they love Tolkien, but they [also] love Victorian steampunk stories and I find that’s why I love it, because I’m all of the above. I know it sounds trite, but I feel I come back to family. There’s no better way to describe it.
HC: Comic-Con is also one of the few places where you can interact with fans dressed as Hellboy, or Tomas from “The Orphanage,” characters that you’ve created or had a creative affiliation with.
GDT: It’s full circle. It’s almost like sending your kids to school, and the kid’s visiting you after graduation. It comes back different, somebody has loved that character. It’s kind of spacey, in a good way. I met a really young kid dressed as Gipsy Danger. He had a turbine that lit up, I took them through the Oculus Rift, I took them through the haunted house for “Crimson Peak,” and I was really moved by the kid. Then I saw a girl, age 12, dressed as Gipsy Danger, and I loved that it was embraced by a girl. To me, my favorite character in many ways is Mako Mori in “Pacific Rim.” I just love it. It’s an experience that you can’t get any other way.
HC: Speaking of “Pacific Rim,” when do you begin work on the sequel?
GDT: We start designing in three weeks. We get the first draft of the screenplay in three weeks; Zak Penn and I are co-writing and then there’s a long, long, long journey of drafts and design. It took nine months to design “Pacific Rim”; it will take nine months or more to design the second one. We start scouting for the movie in the summer next year, July, and then we start shooting in November. Then it’s a long year of post after we wrap and we’ll probably be showing the movie in January/February 2017 to test audiences.
HC: Will you shoot in Toronto?
GDT: No, it’s all over the world this time. I want it to be different enough to the first one that you don’t feel you’re seeing the same movie. I’m doing a little more location-oriented stuff, there are night battles, but there are also daylight battles. The things we do in the action scenes is very different from the first one. We are expanding the mythology of the Anteverse. We are taking the characters into a completely different journey this time because Raleigh for me solved his problem the minute he was able to go full circle and save Mako by sacrificing himself, which is what he couldn’t do with his brother. He’s not on that journey anymore, he’s on a new journey.
HC: You have a period of several years where you worked on “The Hobbit” and “At the Mountains of Madness,” which you ultimately did not direct. Now, you’re in a period where you appear to be working non-stop, between “Crimson Peak,” “Pacific Rim 2″ and “The Strain.” How do you feel about that shift?
GDT: What’s funny is all these projects were happening right when I went to “The Hobbit.” I had already pitched “The Strain.” We were already finishing the first novel. I was going to develop a video game, then it all got put on hold when I went to New Zealand. When I came back and went through the heartbreak of “Mountains of Madness,” I said I’m going to make up for lost time. I’m a workaholic anyway, but I said, I’m going to work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life.
HC: In terms of “Crimson Peak,” you described the movie during the Legendary panel as a great adult story for a female lead. Can you elaborate on that?
GDT: We follow a “Jane Eyre”-type of romance and then it changes. It is a love story, but that’s not all it is. The whole story is not depending on that. What I wanted to do in a way is, most of the Romantic novels end with a marriage. The whole thing is, Can I get the guy? Can I get the guy? Can I get the guy? And then they marry and that’s the end. In my experience, marriage is the start of it. The other stuff is intoxication or delusion and marriage is a real beginning. I wanted to show how, especially for a girl, marriage is the beginning of noticing that the guy is not what you think he is. Then digging deeper and realizing that you have to stand on your own in a way. I take a very archetypical romance structure, which is she has two suitors — they’re both in love with her and she has to choose, blah, blah, blah. But then, to twist that, to make it really change, it’s my hope to do it. I’m not doing it overtly as a thesis, I’m doing it organically with the character.
HC: You’ve often talked about how your work is centered on recontextualizing archetypical stories — “Pan’s Labyrinth” being an example of a recontextualized fairy tale, “Cronos” operating as a recontextualization of vampire mythology.
GDT: I’ve done that for 20 years. The problem is when you really do it right… Let me give you an example. Someone who works in postmodern art like Jeff Koons, he can riff on a vinyl figure and you know it’s a riff because the vinyl figure is 30 stories high. When you’re riffing on the tropes of a genre, people don’t have the physical data to go, Oh, he’s riffing on it. They think, Oh, he’s doing what the genre does. If you do a giant kaiju, giant robot movie, you have to do what it does, but then you subvert it by riffing on it. Same with a vampire movie like “Cronos.” You have the coffin, you have the daylight, you have the sucking of the blood, but it’s not the normal way. The indicators of that — the Magritte, “This is not a pipe” — are very hard to convey and my hope is … the people who don’t get me, don’t get me. Period. But the people that get my stuff, they understand I’m doing “This is not a pipe” of the genres I tackle. But it has to look like a pipe, right? It has to have the color, the texture, the shape of a pipe, but you are trying to do something with it.
HC: How does that same philosophy apply to “The Strain”? And how does the experience of telling that story on television differ from having it unfold in a novel?
GDT: The difference for me, the novels go and dig a little deeper in a way. They are still just fun genre novels, but they can have quiet moments with the characters in a more effective way than you can do in an audio-visual medium at the beginning of a story. Eventually, we’ll get to have more and more of that, but my feeling was OK, what would I like to see. I said to myself, OK, I want to do a Dan Curtis, 1970s fun horror. Not all horror — I’ve done both types of horror — horror can be a deep meditation on the poetic whatever, you know. But horror can also be fun, and I wanted “The Strain” to go to places that were brutal and gory and this and that, but in a fun spirit. That was my intention. My favorite show ever was “Kolchak: [The Night Stalker]” and as a kid, I was always going, Why is Kolchak going alone in the middle of the night completely unprepared to meet the zombie? And the answer was, Who cares? Just get to the zombie. That is the difference between the book and the series.
– Gina McIntyre | @LATherocomplex
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