From Cronos to Troll Hunters, Guillermo Del Toro retraces his career

When The Shape of Water had not yet become a real phenomenon, we met Guillermo Del Toro at the 2017 Annecy animation festival. The opportunity to return in detail to his filmography.

Annecy 2017 – Guillermo Del Toro: “It was reckless and impulsive to attempt Hellboy 3”

Cronos (1993)


A first film in which Guillermo Del Toro deploys most of his imaginary cinema: mechanisms, fantasy, a child and Ron Perlman.
I lived with my grandmother when I was little. And with all the respect and love I have for her, he was an emotional vampire. With Cronos, I wanted to tell the story of a child who takes care of one of his grandparents, even if that person is a vampire! The device hung on the chest also comes from childhood: I do not know if it was the case in other countries, but in Mexico, in the 60s, women wore live beetles, attached to a chain, and they put them on their stomachs. It made a big impression on me because my mom had one and I remember how scary it was to see the beetle trying to come up on its body. Truffaut said that a director’s entire career is in his first film. It is true. look Blood Simple of the Coen brothers, everything is already there. For a first feature film, we want to put everything in case there is no other!

Devil’s Spine (2001)


His true birth as a filmmaker? After the complicated shooting of Mimic, his first American film directed by the Weinsteins, Del Toro wants to prove that he is capable of making a great film. The result is up to the ambition with this ghost film in a Spanish orphanage.
I see all the faults of Cronos ; and Mimic was a damn disaster. There is good in it, but what is bad is really a disaster. That’s why i consider Devil’s back like my first real movie. Aside from my neighbor, The Shape of Water, this is the one I prefer. I love it, I’m proud of it and I find it very beautiful. It was much more complicated than Pan’s Labyrinth to achieve because there are fewer visual elements, it is less demonstrative, more Zen. I had a hard time creating the atmosphere I wanted. The release was complicated: I had good reviews, but the film was released just after September 11, at a time when nobody wanted to see a horror film with children and ghosts! It therefore remained a little secret.

Blade 2 (2002)


His first adaptation of comics is also his first sequel. He invented his American style and propelled the vampire hunter to new heights of darkness and zarb graphics. A revenge.
For me Blade 2 is the equivalent of an evening with friends with a good pizza and a pack of beers! It’s my first good experience in Hollywood. I was more interested in vampires than the character of Blade, and I had this never-before-seen vampire idea that I really wanted to use. Originally, David’s vampires looked like the creature of The Thing from John Carpenter: they had a mouth in their hands and on their stomachs … I told him that the budget was not enough (laughs). I then drew that opening mouth. It was a concept I had imagined for I’m a legend, a film that I didn’t actually make. I was so afraid that the special effects boxes would steal this design from me that I never left them a single drawing, I did it again each time! Did it scare me to direct the continuation of a film which I had not carried out? Of course not ! I knew I was going to go to something totally different from the first Blade; as Alien, the return has a sensitivity different fromAlien. I wanted it to be a more punk, more violent, more crazy film. With this film, I said: ” Look, I’m as capable of making a good European-style film as an American one.

Hellboy (2004)


A monster born in the flames of hell, who tries to gain acceptance from the world but also from his comrades too weirdos that he …
I was reading Mike Mignola’s comic book while I was shooting Mimic. And that’s why I held on, because I thought that one day I could make a film of it. I immediately thought that Ron Perlman would be perfect for the role, he had this “sensitive gravity” which suited the character perfectly. A few years later, I called Mike who I had worked with Blade 2, and I said, ” If Blade 2 makes money, we make Hellboy ” The day after the trip, it was greenlighted ! It’s a film that talks about the fact that I find it hard to believe that what opposes us in life is real. If you share the same roof as the person you hate the most, you will end up loving them. We are all in the same boat, we are all the same. In my opinion, everything that divides us is made to make us more easily governable. We’re just too busy saying ” you are the monster To realize it. Monsters are precisely the symbol of tolerance. And all my films evoke the humanity of monsters and the monstrosity of humanity. Mostly Hellboy.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)


The second “big” film by Guillermo Del Toro after Devil’s back, with whom Pan permanent dialogue. A tale with overwhelming visuals (the monster with eyes in hands) and a fantastic seminal work.
When September 11 came, I cried out in fear for the first time in my adult life. Even when my father was kidnapped, I did not cry. But there, I felt that everything was upside down, I had the impression that we had removed the ground from under our feet. The order, the system … Suddenly everything changed. And that’s when I felt the need to make a film about these emotions. Pan’s Labyrinth is a mirror of Devil’s back. If one day you watch the two films at the same time, you will see that both start with storytelling, a child arriving by car at a new place … They both speak of a secret world that we explore for the first times, there is a creature… And I gave a role in Pan to the kid from Devil’s back. These two films were linked by their themes: innocence and war. I knew they were going to answer each other, that was what interested me. Some people think that the whole story takes place in the mind of the girl, but for me it really happened, because the tree blossoms at the end. Wildlife told him the tree was dry because of the frog. She kills the frog and the flower grows.

Dragons (2010)


One of many examples of Guillermo Del Toro’s work behind the scenes at Dreamworks Animation. Whether hired as a consultant or producer, the filmmaker always adds a pinch of gravity to films made for kids.
Jeffrey (Katzenberg, the former boss of Dreamworks animation) once told me that since working with Dreamworks, the death rate has exploded by 300% (laughs)! Father’s death in Dragons, It’s me ! I also killed Po’s mother in Kung Fu Panda 2 and the Sandman in The five legends ! I love working with them, it’s very refreshing to come up on someone else’s project and try to figure out what’s not working, or at least make things a little better. And I deeply believe that children can see hard things on the screen. This consultant / producer work started from my meeting with Jeffrey. We immediately had an incredibly strong connection. I love and admire him as a friend and a force of nature. I’m a workaholic, but Jeffrey pretends to be a Mexican who naps under a tree! He’s a guy who can inspire as well as terrify. In both cases, he is a leader.

Pacific Rim (2013)


Giant monsters and robots who do not care about the face. Yes, but with a budget of $ 190 million. A pure anime in live action. Never seen.
I just met Go Nagai in Annecy, and I was able to tell him how much he means to me and how happy I am to have done my Goldorak with Pacific Rim. This film is largely inspired by his work, films and animes with kaijus, Patlabor and so many others … But it’s not just the sum of his influences. When I was a kid, I laughed at theorizing and explaining post-modern text: I just wanted robots to smash monsters (laughs). If you are looking to read the film in a more complicated way, it is certainly possible, I could tell you a very nice story. But sometimes it is useless to intellectualize. It pisses me off to see a film as cool as Guardians of the Galaxy be destroyed by criticism. I would have loved to see that at 10 or 11 years old. Christopher Nolan has made great Batman, but I also don’t want all superhero movies to look like this! The ideal audience for Pacific Rim at 8 or 10, period. Besides, I consider that I have made two films for kids in my career: Hellboy and Pacific Rim.
Pacific Rim has worked very well, despite all that has been said. But it’s a long story, and there’s a very political reason behind it … What the media has talked about the most is the American box office. And this for very concrete reasons … I will say no more, incest stays in the family! But to my knowledge, this is one of the rare cases where we have publicly discussed tracking, either the success or failure of the marketing campaign. And it was done in a very specific way … Something happened on the outskirts of the film. When you work with the mafia, this kind of thing happens! It’s part of the job.

Troll Hunters (2016)


The director’s first animated series, broadcast on Netflix. A project that has had a long gestation and dates back to the childhood of Del Toro. The story of a teenager who discovers a magic amulet that gives him incredible powers, and above all the obligation to protect an underground world populated by trolls.
I have Troll Hunters in my head since my childhood, when I explored the sewers of my hometown with a flashlight. We crossed the city for weeks and weeks … I thought that trolls and ogres lived there (smile). I started animation when I was 8 years old with a Super 8. I made an animated short film. Terribly bad! At first, I had pitched Troll Hunters in a TV series for FOX, and they refused. Then we tried to make a film of it; in vain. For four years. I had arrived at a 125-page script … Impossible in the animation! And then Jeffrey Katzenberg invited us to breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel and he said, ” You’re going to be mad at me, but wouldn’t you want to make it a series? Four years later, they tell us that! I actually got angry and I gave him my conditions. Crazy stuff, he said yes to everything! And finally I never needed what I asked (laugh). I love working in animation so much. Of course, there are a lot of constraints and it takes a lot of time, but you are taking people on an incomparable imagination. We are preparing season 2 of Troll Hunters, in two weeks we will have finished thirteen episodes. During production, we binge-watch the animatics (Editor’s note: storyboard recordings synchronized to the dialogs), as the kids will do when the episodes are available on Netflix. It helps a lot, because we can correct details specifically by thinking about how people will consume the episodes.

Video Nicolas Bellet

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