Quint and Guillermo Del Toro talk ORPHANAGE, HELLBOY II, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS and HALO!!!
Published at: Dec. 22, 2007, 9:35 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Guillermo Del Toro and I go back a very long time. I remember Harry introducing me to him when I was all of 17 years old, in the time between MIMIC and BLADE 2 when he was living here in Austin.
He’s one of my favorite people. Always full of humor and vulgarity, two things that mix together beautifully. When I was offered the chance to interview him for the site in order to promote his latest producorial outing THE ORPHANAGE I jumped at it. I’ve never interviewed Guillermo in all the time I’ve been acquainted with him.
We talk about everything, from ORPHANAGE to HELLBOY 2 (this was done right before the trailer hit) to AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS and HALO. We fit a lot into our 15 plus minutes. Hope you enjoy!
Guillermo Del Toro: Hey, you fuck!
Quint: What’s up Guillermo?
Del Toro: How are you, my friend?
Quint: I’m doing well. You doing OK?
[Del Toro Coughs]
Del Toro: I have a chest cold.
Quint: And they’re making you talk to all of us assholes?
Del Toro: Only you, man. So should we start with this?
Quint: Let’s do this. I talked to the boys back when they came out for FANTASTIC FEST, Sergio [Sanchez] and Juan [Antonio Bayona], but I don’t think we ever really talked about how you got their script in the first place.
Del Toro: I’ve known Juan Antonio for over a decade. We met in 1992 or 1993 with CRONOS and we have remained friends for all of those years and I love his short films. I particularly loved EL HOMBRE ESPONJA, THE SPONGE MAN, and I also loved his video clips and commercials. He always kept me updated with his reel and I told him “Whenever you need any help doing your first feature, I would love to help.”
So when I was prepping PAN’S LABYRINTH he came in to the hotel and he gave me the script and said “I really need your help, because we are finding it really hard to find the scope and the financing and the access to the actors and this and that” and he presented me with the script, which was pretty much what you saw on the screen.
I met with him again. I discussed a few ideas. Out of ten, six were rejected and four were accepted and what I loved about seeing the way he and Sergio handled that meeting is that they had a really good camaraderie. They really got along… They were following the same idea for a movie. They had a common vision and I liked that. I proceeded to play sort of a bodyguard to help them get their first movie made. Everybody, or most everybody, in the key positions in the film were first timers. First time editor, first time director of photography, first time director… First time screenplay writer… First time special effects supervisor… to the degree that the digital effects supervisor, which did a lot of shots that are, to my eye, really well done and invisible in the film, he was just a kid that was just friends with Juan Antonio and he said, “I wish I was an effects guy… I have my own company” and we said “How many computers do you need? What’s hardware you need?” We bought him all of the hardware and that was his start as a VFX guy.
Quint: You said that you have a lot of interest in helping produce first time projects. Is it just exciting for you to see… I don’t want to make it sound like you are going out of your way to do favors for people who don’t deserve it, because it’s not, but is it exciting for you to kind of make these dreams come true?
Del Toro: The fact is, you know, it’s very delicate, because as a producer I have done I don’t know how many projects, but certainly around ten or more and a lot of them come out really good and a lot of them don’t come out the way I saw them. It’s up to the director at the end of the day. We just act as bodyguards with a hunch and if you get a hunch of somebody having talent or not, you can be wrong. That’s why when I reject a screenplay or I reject a project, I make sure to bow to the director presenting it and say “I don’t like it, but that should not stop you from doing it. You should pursue it in spite of me saying ‘no.’ You should not stop pursuing it.” And vice versa, when I say “yes,” I can be and have been very wrong with my own stuff and with somebody else’s, but it’s more exciting to do a first film than it is to try and just produce “the sure thing.”
Quint: Yeah, well how often do you look at new projects?
Del Toro: I do it enough that I have produced about five or six movies, so far, that are either first projects or second movies. I try to not go to established guys to produce, you know?
Del Toro: Unless it’s what Alejandro [Gonzales Inarritu], Alfonso [Cauron], and I do, which is produce each other’s movies.
Quint: I think those guys might be okay… Now it’s funny that you mention that they knocked back a lot of your suggestions, because they mentioned that as well.
Del Toro: Yeah, I think it’s the fact that whichever ones stayed, that are part of the big scares in the film or there are some of the emotional beats in the movie, those that remain are there for a good reason, but those that were rejected, I think, are the strongest gesture, because they knew what they wanted to do. They were not there to take dictation from anyone and I think, as a producer, you must value that instead of resenting it. You know what I have encountered in my life is I have been produced by both types of producers. I have been produced by producers that are complete assholes that essentially try to give you dictation and you have to tell them to fuck off and I have worked with producers that have been incredibly benign and a real great force, exemplified the way Pedro Almodovar told me he wanted to produce DEVIL’S BACKBONE, he said “I’m going to be the kind of producer I like, which is “If you need me, I’ll be there. If you don’t need me, you will never see me.”
Del Toro: And he was good to his word. He was on the shoot for only one day visiting and the rest of the shoot he was not there.
Quint: That’s great and yeah, I know both Bayona and Sergio were saying that you were there almost exactly like you said in that capacity, like when there were some fires that needed to be put out or a phone call that they couldn’t make, but you could... They spoke very highly of how you protected the project.
Del Toro: The good thing about being a bodyguard is that you can take pride in something existing, but you definitely have to keep your distance and not claim it’s your accomplishment, because it isn’t. It’s their movie. It has a lot of thematic elements that I share and concerns that I share, but it’s absolutely Juan Antonio and Sergio’s movie. You like it, you talk to them. You don’t like it, you talk to them.
Quint: Well, I think we’re already in our last five minutes here, so I guess we should talk a little bit about the HELLBOY 2 trailer. You said that’s hitting today?
Del Toro: It’s hitting today, yeah and it’s a teaser in the sense that even if it’s over a minute and a half, it’s still a teaser, because it’s not telling you the whole story or trying to give you any hints. It’s just a small catalog of a portion of the images that will be in the movie, you know?
Quint: That’s good. That’s what I think should be the regular trailer.
Del Toro: The regular trailer will come out around March.
Quint: Yeah. I love the teaser stuff, but I’m getting a little tired of the trailers that show everything before you see the movie.
Del Toro: And we’ll try to avoid it even in the long form trailer, but I really hope the people that, obviously people that didn’t like the first HELLBOY, may not like this one and the people that did like the first HELLBOY, I hope they really embrace this one, because it’s a good nice growth for the characters and the world, both.
Quint: Everything I saw looked great. I love the ‘Angel of Death.’ That’s still my favorite thing.
Del Toro: Yeah, it’s a really nice character and the way that he plays in the movie, I think, is significant to setting up the tone of what will be, if there ever is, a third movie.
Quint: That’s cool, but you’re happy with how it’s shaping up so far?
Del Toro: Yeah, very much. I mean it was a very tough shoot, only in that we had to sustain six day weeks for over a hundred and thirty days with very very compressed prep. We were always battling the budget and trying to deliver scope on the movie and keep it fresh, so it was a big battle. Physically, Sundays disappeared really fast. You would blink and it was Monday, especially on night shoots, but it was a great experience shooting in Budapest.
Quint: One hundred and thirty days then, so was Perlman as red as HB after four months in prosthetics?
Del Toro: Well Ron, I think, really got more rashes on the first movie and reactions to the makeup on the first movie than on this one.
Quint: Oh yeah?
Del Toro: Much more, but there were moments where we had to stop a couple of times because he had skin breaks. I am not helping Ron Perlman age gracefully at all.
Del Toro: I think he’s going to have the most terrible skin condition due to him working with me.
Quint: That’s something to tell his grandchildren, “It’s Guillermo’s fault…”
Del Toro: It is! I am the anti-Noxzema.
Quint: So you have about five hundred potential follow up projects and I think the fans want MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.
Del Toro: I want MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS! Some of the stuff is just producorial. HATER is a project that I’m co-producing with Mark Johnson, but I’m not directing that. DEADMAN is the same thing. As a director, there are four or five things that I’ve been accumulating for the last few years like MOUNTAINS and MONTE CRISTO and this and that, but I try not to let go, like LIST OF SEVEN, MONTE CRISTO, blah blah blah… In the mortal words of my agent, “After HELLBOY, you are unemployed!”
The real fact is that none of these things are real until you get the green light and then you know. If you had asked me, after CRONOS, if my next movie was going to be MIMIC I would have said “No, absolutely not! I’m going to do this and…” I co-wrote MONTE CRISTO, I wrote MEPHISTO’S BRIDGE, which never got made, so you know I can’t tell you. Three weeks from now or a month from now a project might come out of left field and that’s the one I’m doing.
The morning that HELLBOY 2 came to pass, I was having a meeting for a project I was going to get green lit that afternoon and then I got the call saying “HELLBOY 2 was going” and I had to jump out of the other project immediately.
Quint: That’s crazy.
Del Toro: Yeah, at Universal, too!
Quint: So at least it didn’t feel like you were jumping into somebody else’s bed.
Del Toro: No no, but it’s like that. Things change from one day to the next. Now MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, that is truly… the difficult thing is to do it against what… The movie could be done if we took a smaller budget, but I really think the way to approach it is to give it the epic, sort of Shackleton exploration feel, you know? Where you really get the whalers, you get as much as you can, the feel of a big epic adventure that then turns into what it is, because the Lovecraft books… many many of the pages are essentially an exploration book and then little by little this thrilling incredibly inhuman element creeps in, but seeing things like Frank Darabont’s THE MIST or stuff in the CLOVERFEILD trailers, you know, I really get very antsy and certainly in THE MIST, there are moments that are completely out of what I want to do on MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.
Quint: Like the leviathan that’s walking across the road?
Del Toro: At the end? For sure and the fact that in MOUNTAINS as the arctic fog settles, there’s a lot of stuff happening in the mist, so you know, as long as I can keep my blind albino penguins and the Old Ones and the Shoggoth, I think… Somebody is going to do it sooner or later. When we were in New Zealand talking about HALO, I certainly knew that if HALO happened, the flood would completely destroy MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, because the flood is in essence an ever mutating Shoggoth.
Quint: Definitely, you can very much feel that inspiration in the video game and I can only imagine how it would have translated to the screen…
Del Toro: It would have been beautiful and I must tell that’s a… of anything in my life that I look back and wish it could have happened is that project, because it is such a powerful experience. People talk about it and say “it’s ALIENS or it’s a retread of this or that,” I don’t think so. I think there are angle to that game that are far more epic and far more complex as a cosmology than that. It’s not just about grunts in space. It’s much more than that. It’s a whole epic.
Quint: And with as successful as the videogame is, there’s just… somebody’s going to do it at some point. That film has to happen, the video game just makes too much money.
Del Toro: It should, if there was any wisdom to the way things should happen and I love it so much, again, that I would like to see it in any incarnation. If Neil [Blomkamp] and Peter [Jackson] get to do it, I’ll be almost as happy as if I was doing it. I’d probably enjoy watching it more than if I would do it and you know when I was talking to (Universal Exec) Mary Parent about Neil and I saw Neil’s reel, I really thought “This guy is going to do a fantastic HALO movie.”
Quint: That goes back to your excitement of seeing somebody get their first shot.
Del Toro: I’ll tell you this, soon enough we’ll announce a new project that I’m producing that is again a very likely presentation credit and it’s a filmmaker that had only done a couple of short films and that’s what I like to see. I like to find the guys that are doing short films that really have a voice and help them get to the big stage of a feature, you know?
Del Toro: I find that, if I can produce ten of those movies before I die, I’ll be incredibly happy and if I was doing a TV series, I would go that route. If I was doing a TV series, I would go the route of producing an entire anthology, just with first time directors. I would not call it MASTERS OF HORROR, I would call it “THE APPRENTICES OF HORROR.”
Quint: That’d be awesome. I’m sure that they are ready to pull you away here, since we are going over our time, but we’ll keep in touch. You need to come back to Austin.
Del Toro: Say hi to the County Line BBQ, will you?
Quint: I will. I’m trying to lose some weight, but I’ll do that for you.
Del Toro: You are losing it.
Quint: Yes, and I’ve lost ten pounds since I last saw you in Budapest.
Del Toro: Soon, you will be able to see your shoes!
Quint: And other things, hopefully.
Del Toro: And then the shoeshine boy.
Quint: Alright, later on Guillermo.
Del Toro: Bye Bye.
There you have it.
I’m sure I’ll post something more in the next few days, but I’ll take this opportunity to wish all you folks a Happy Holiday. On behalf of all the Ain’t It Cool contributors, thanks for reading and making AICN what it is, day in and day out. It’s appreciated.