Guillermo del Toro Realizes His Fantasies

By Barker, Andrew | Variety, August 6, 2019 | Go to article overview

Guillermo del Toro Realizes His Fantasies


Barker, Andrew, Variety


IS Guillermo del TORO ever not in pre-production? The Oscar-winning director-writer-producer has seemingly lived in a constant state of development for the entirety of his nearly three-decade career, with his boundless, at times unsustainable, ambition being just as essential to his career as his inimitable eye for creature design, his reservoirs of genre film knowledge, and his ability to balance grotesque horror with Catholic mythology and righteous humanism. After all, it's not every director whose list of unrealized projects is extensive enough to have its own Wikipedia page.

But take a closer look at how he's spent the past several years, and it's striking how much more systematic del Toro has become in bringing all of his fantasies to reality On the same week he finally gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, del Toro will attend the premiere of "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," an adaptation of Alvin Schwartz's kiddie horror tome that he initially developed as a project to direct himself before handing off helming duties to Andre Ovredal. After that comes Scott Cooper's supernatural thriller "Antlers," which del Toro produced through his newly minted development deal with Fox Searchlight. His animated Netflix series, "Trollhunters," recently bowed its third and final season. And, not to mention, he's also in pre-production for two projects that he will write and direct: An adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham's classic noir novel "Nightmare Alley," which starts shooting in January; and his first stop-motion feature, a reimagining of "Pinocchio," also set up through Netflix.

For del Toro, who sometimes butted up against the limitations of studio filmmaking earlier in his career, he's finally arrived at a point where his reputation speaks for itself.

"I execute my craft exactly in the same way through both [Netflix and Fox Searchlight]," he says. "And the thing I have with both is a very clear relationship: they know what I do. At this point I've been directing and producing for more than a quarter of a century, so you become like a certain type of tree. If you come to an orange tree, you're not going to get an apple. I'm very clear with what I want."

While del Toro has been honing his style as a director since his 1993 feature debut, "Cronos," he's more recently developed into a producer of impressive taste and foresight. From his earliest production projects, del Toro has been proven a keen judge for scouting out young filmmakers, helping give J.A. Bayona and Andy Muschietti their first worldwide platforms. And his years on the other side of the balance sheet certainly helped teach him what makes for a constructive producer: after a distinctly unhappy experience working under the Weinstein brothers on his English-language debut, "Mimic," del Toro achieved his first real artistic breakthrough thanks to producer Pedro Almodovar on "The Devil's Backbone."

"Pedro was the best producer I ever had," del Toro says. "He basically said, 'I'm here if you need me, and I'm not here if you don't.' And every time he would give a suggestion he would always say, 'But it's your decision.' So that's the way I try to operate with Andre or Scott Cooper or Bayona. Now and then I will literally say, 'I'm falling on my knees, and I'm begging you to consider this, but' - and I always add the 'but' - 'the name above the title is yours, not mine.'"

For "Scary Stories" director Ovredal, who first reached out to del Toro on Twitter after he praised Ovredal's previous film, "The Autopsy of Jane Doe," those boundaries were bluntly defined from the start.

"Obviously he worked on this script to direct it himself, so he comes into it with a vision of his own," Ovredal says. "But the wonderful part was that the moment they hired me to direct, the first thing he told me was, 'Now this is your film. Do not make a Guillermo del Toro movie, make your movie.'"

Where del Toro exerted the most influence, Ovredal found, was in post-production, taking a hands-on role in finely tuning the final cut. …

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