The Lifes, Loves, and Works of Guillermo del Toro

Born October 9th, 1964

Guadalajara, Mexico

Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Novelist

 

In 2016 I went to LA to see an exhibit at LACMA called Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters. It was a sprawling showcase of del Toro’s personal collection, effects, and props from his films. I went alone and was overwhelmed by the 4-hour flight, the taxi to LACMA, the line to get in the exhibit and the crowd, as I went on the last weekend. Once inside it was like I had been transported to another world. It was the world I’d always dreamed of, filled with ghosts, gowns, lovelorn monsters, maniacs, ghouls, spells, magic, and wonder. Somehow this man knew me. He knew all the things I had held in my head, all the darkness that I had held inside myself. I felt home. If I could have moved into that exhibit I would have. Gladly. I wanted to cry when I had to leave, but when I came home, I was filled entirely with something new. I wasn’t lonely anymore. I knew somewhere out there was another weirdo like myself and I felt, comforted by that.

Before Del Toro was a famous filmmaker he studied special effects and make-up with artist Dick Smith, he spent 10 years as a make-up designer and formed his own company, Necropia. He also co-founded the Guadalajara International Film Festival. Later in his directing career, he formed his own production company, the Tequila Gang.

His fascination with monsters started at an early age with a love of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, his designs for films like Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Strain are evident markers of del Toro’s style. His influences from bugs and moths to Mexican folklore, classic horror movies, Lovecraftian monsters, Francisco Goya, and Edmund Dulac.

First film Chronos, in 1993, was a film about an antiques dealer who discovers an object that gives a person immortality but also vampiric symptoms. This was a critical success with the majority of critics loving the originality and acting of the movie. Many horror aficionados noting the film for its use of gore but also it’s charm and intelligence which would become a marker for del Toro’s style and aesthetics. This film was del Toro’s debut film and also his first nomination for best foreign language film.

Next was Mimic in 1997, del Toro was not satisfied with this film as he was not given final cut by Miramax. The Devil’s Backbone came in 2001, which was independently produced by Pedro Almodovar. Del Toro stepped away from Hollywood after his bad experience with Miramax and made this film as a collaboration between Spain and Mexico. The plot is about a children’s orphanage in the year 1939 during the last years of the Spanish Civil War, and a ghost that is haunting the children. The film which revolves around the suffering, the emotional damage that war has on children and the horror of what lies inside and outside. It’s a tender, beautiful film with moments of high tension and dread.

Blade II in 2002.

Hellboy in 2004, an adaptation of Mike Mignola’s graphic novel. The film was followed in 2008 with Hellboy 2. Which was a huge push into the mainstream for del Toro as a distinguishable director.

In 2006 he made Pan’s Labyrinth, a massive hit with a 95% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is about a young girl Ofelia in 1944, years after the end of the Spanish Civil War. She deals with the presence of her violent and menacing step father and her ill and pregnant mother, by escaping to a fantasy world through a labyrinth. Del Toro considers this to be a spiritual successor to The Devil’s Backbone. Del Toro got the idea of the faun from childhood experiences with “lucid dreaming”. He stated on The Charlie Rose Show that every midnight, he would wake up, and a faun would gradually step out from behind the grandfather’s clock. This would be his second nomination for an Oscar for best original screenplay and best foreign language film.

In 2009 he wrote a book, The Strain with Chuck Hogan which became a TV show from 2014-2017

2010 he wrote The Fall with Chuck Hogan, a sequel to The Strain.

2011 he completed The Strain trilogy with The Night Eternal.

Pacific Rim in 2013

Crimson Peak in 2015

Trollhunters in 2016

The Shape of Water in 2017, which recently won an Oscar for Best Picture.

He was also co-director of the video game P.T. , an entry in the Silent Hill catalog, along with Hideo Kojima 2014 and in 2016 worked together with Kojima again on the Death Stranding game, with a character of their likeness. He considers himself a huge fan of video games, saying they are  “a medium that gains no respect among the intelligentsia”.

Guillermo del Toro continues to be a man who finds the inspiration to create new works in the places most would find reprehensible, the places where monsters delve. His empathy towards the outcasts and monstrous allow the audience to explore the sympathy and empathy we need to show towards the reprehensible parts of ourselves as well. I look forward to the journey del Toro is taking us on.

 

 

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