This year’s Fantasia Film Festival will feature a documentary on practical movie effects called Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex, and in conjunction with that film (in which he is an interview subject), and just because he’s one of the best people to listen to for an hour, the festival invited Guillermo del Toro to an open Q&A with press.
The lack of any real pressing subject at hand led to a discussion that briefly covered a ton of topics. Some of it was stuff we’ve all heard before. We all know that del Toro has a strong emotional connection with monsters in fiction, but one never gets tired of his magical way with words. It’s still pretty exciting to hear him discuss his three favorite movie monsters - Frankenstein’s Monster, the Gillman, and the Alien Xenomorph, though he went on to add Godzilla and (of strong interest to me) Baragon as other favorites.
He was also a bit more candid than usual, admitting for example how he thought the first shot in which The Master was revealed on The Strain was poorly lit, something he made sure got fixed for his next appearance even though he’s not actually in charge of that show (his role currently is to approve special effects and color-correct episodes). He also described his decision to stop producing films for first-time filmmakers, as it took energy away from his “day job” making films of his own. Instead he now meets with and mentors directors he enjoys in an unofficial capacity.
Del Toro also displayed some real emotion when discussing his failure to go ahead with In the Mountains of Madness, claiming that the film’s sudden dissolution broke his heart, and were we to see the FX tests, storyboards and concept art created for the film, it would break our hearts as well. This emotion carried over into his love of movie monsters and his massive collection of movie artifacts, which he explained - in perfect Guillermo del Toro fashion - by claiming “I’m not a collector; I’m a religious man.” That pretty much says everything.
Very little was said about del Toro’s upcoming project, The Shape of Water. He only reiterated that the film was very small, very personal, and would be in English, things we pretty much already knew. It’s a story he’s been wanting to tell for years, and rather than work on Pacific Rim 2, he decided now was the time to finally get it done.
By far the most interesting bits of the Q&A involved del Toro’s adaptation of Pinocchio, which del Toro claimed would stick much closer to the original novel, including all the scary bits that didn’t make it into the famous Disney version. This one, which will be animated should it get made, will take place in Italy between World War I and World War II, which del Toro sees as “a good time for a puppet to exist.” To del Toro, Pinocchio and Frankenstein’s Monster share many similarities, “They are both innocents created and abandoned and learning to cope with the world.” He is currently rewriting the script.
It’s always a pleasure to listen to Guillermo del Toro speak to an audience. Where else are you going to hear a guy claim "Fuck the villagers" when it comes to monster attacks or that the act of putting real emotion on the screen is the new punk? There’s something magical about the guy that makes him entertaining regardless of context or subject. This conversation was certainly no exception.