Guillermo del Toro on How 'The Shape of Water' Reflects Today's "Casual Racism and Sexism"

By Grater, Tom | Screen International, December 8, 2017 | Go to article overview

Guillermo del Toro on How 'The Shape of Water' Reflects Today's "Casual Racism and Sexism"


Grater, Tom, Screen International


Guillermo del Toro is a leading contender for awards with fantasy The Shape Of Water.

The Shape Of Water has been almost 50 years in the making.

The Shape Of Water

Mexican-American director Guillermo del Toro was just six years old when he first watched Creature From The Black Lagoon, Jack Arnold’s 1954 black-and-white monster movie about a mysterious amphibian discovered in the Amazon. He recalls being inspired by the film - a career focused on movie monsters has followed - but dismayed by its ending, when the creature is killed after abducting a female member of the expedition. “I remember seeing the creature swimming under her [lead actress Julie Adams] and I thought it was a beautiful image. I hoped they would end up together but they didn’t,” del Toro recalls.

The director attempted to address his inspiration through his film projects, including Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), in which he scripted a romantic plotline between a princess and an amphibian man in the form of the characters Nuala and Abe Sapien (who bears more than a passing resemblance to the creature fromThe Shape Of Water). However, Creature From The Black Lagoon continued to lurk in del Toro’s mind, resurfacing in 2011 when Daniel Kraus - del Toro’s co-writer on the novel Trollhunters - told the director he had an idea about a janitor in a top-secret government facility finding an amphibian man and smuggling him home. The idea seemed perfect to del Toro, who knew that by focusing on characters who usually blend into the background, he could make a smaller, more intimate story.

Armed with a plot outline, del Toro began pitching the film to studios but says they were “mystified” by the idea, recalling the same response to his early days of shopping around Pan’s Labyrinth. As a result, from 2011 to 2013 he had to sustain the production himself, sinking more than $200,000 of his own money into the research and development, which focused largely on designing the creature and creating the “look of the movie”. In that time, del Toro also wrote the first basic draft of the script.

The Shape Of Water

For the creature design, del Toro was determined to accentuate the physical properties, to make it humanoid and attractive. …

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