Guillermo Del Toro has not had an easy time bringing his dream project, an elaborate big-budget adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” to the multiplex. The filmmaker has spent years on the movie, which failed to receive a green light from Universal earlier this year after the studio had concerns about the cost of a project that was likely to receive an R rating for the intensity of its chills.
But Del Toro is optimistic that he might yet figure out a way to mount the story of a scientific expedition to Antarctica that yields unearthly finds. “I’m not giving up,” the Oscar winner said, speaking by phone recently from Canada where he’s readying his next directorial effort, the creature feature “Pacific Rim.” ” ‘Mountains of Madness’ has been with me for 13, 14 years and I really don’t want to give up on it. Look, the movies I do, I stick with them when I think, well, if I don’t do it, nobody will. … ‘Hellboy,’ if I hadn’t done it, I don’t think anyone would have. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ same thing. ‘Mountains of Madness,’ the way I plan to do it is a very peculiar take, and I think if I don’t stick with it the version I would like to see would never get made.”
The writer-director, who was just in town to present his new version of the 1973 telefilm “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” as the closing-night gala at the Los Angeles Film Festival, conceded that the main hurdles to “Mountains of Madness” remain the budget and the rating.
“I’d rather address the budget than the rating,” Del Toro said. “The movie can perfectly someday be PG-13, but contractually I need to protect it. There’s nothing in the movie that is profanity or sexual situations or any of that. But what we learned with ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ is that sometimes intensity, the intensity of the situations, garners you the R. ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,’ in my mind, should be a PG-13. It’s several intense moments [that] got us the R — I think some of the situations at the end, I don’t want to spoil it, but there are a couple of moments at the end that they deemed were too intense and I didn’t want to water down the movie.”
Del Toro produced and co-wrote (with Matthew Robbins) the screenplay for the new horror film, which is set for theatrical release Aug. 26 and tells the story of a precocious 10-year-old (Bailee Madison), who begins to hear creepy voices from the basement of the historic Rhode Island home where she’s sent to stay with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes). First-time feature filmmaker Troy Nixey, who previously did the short “Latchkey’s Lament,”- directed the movie, which was initially due out last year but ran into roadblocks because of studio wrangling.
“Pacific Rim” is scheduled to open in 2013, and after it’s completed Del Toro said he has every intention of turning his attention back to Lovecraft’s frigid alien landscapes. “I’m going to keep pursuing it,” he said. “Universal is still really interested in doing it. Coming out of ‘Pacific Rim,’ I intend to see if we can do it immediately.
“I knew ‘Mountains’ was a long shot,” he added. “In fact, it was a miracle we got that close to production.”
— Gina McIntyre
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