‘Pacific Rim': Guillermo del Toro on why he’s like Raleigh Becket

July 13, 2013 | 7:58 p.m.

“Pacific Rim” writer-director Guillermo del Toro invests each of the films he makes with specific emotions or character details inspired by his own experiences; his latest, the big-budget Jaegers versus kaiju epic invading theaters this weekend, is no exception.

Speaking at a special Hero Complex advance screening of “Pacific Rim” on Wednesday at the Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26 & IMAX in Long Beach, Del Toro said there’s one specific aspect of the life of heroic pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) that matches up to his own.

“I made it a point that Raleigh had been out of a Jaeger exactly the same time I had been out of the director’s chair,” said Del Toro, who hadn’t directed a film since 2008’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.”

In the story, Raleigh, of course, finds his way back into the cockpit of one of the towering robot warriors that battle the alien species, just as Del Toro found his way back to directing.

He described the experience of making “Pacific Rim” as “joyful,” though he came to direct the movie only after two other efforts fell apart.

First, he had set out to direct a two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” which ultimately became a trilogy helmed by Peter Jackson. Then there was his long-held passion project, a big-budget adaptation of “At the Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft. The story of a scientific expedition to Antarctica that uncovers ancient life-forms collapsed after Universal declined to finance the film, a $150-million R-rated 3-D horror epic.

Within days, he had a handshake deal with Legendary Pictures chief Thomas Tull to direct “Pacific Rim,” which he’d previously agreed to produce and co-write with Travis Beacham.

MORE: ‘Pacific Rim’ graphic novel: Travis Beacham on ‘formidable’ Del Toro

“I jokingly say I was a widower on Friday and Monday, I was with a blond in a Corvette going full speed on PCH,” Del Toro said with a laugh.

Watch the clip above to learn more of what he had to say during the Q&A, and check out the first video clip from the interview here.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATherocomplex

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