Quint and Guillermo del Toro chat about HELLBOY II, THE HOBBIT and more!!!
Published at: July 12, 2008, 1:40 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with an interview I did a few days ago with Guillermo del Toro when he came through Austin screening HELLBOY 2 with his cohorts in crime, Mike Mignola and Doug Jones, in tow.
Keep in mind I hadn’t seen the flick before conducting this interview so there are precious few specifics we get in to until the end where we get into where HELLBOY 3 would go and just how important the success of this one is to him in order to be able to finish the story.
We also talk quite a bit about THE HOBBIT, so get them peepers shined up and start scrolling down!
Guillermo Del Toro: … now I’m here. I was in Atlanta when the weather caused problems with the plane. We were in a holding (pattern) and we couldn’t take off for eight hours.
Quint: It’s crazy, some of these places when they are not used to weather, it’s like you could fly in and out of New York and there could be a thunderstorm or a snow storm and they are used to it, but I remember when Austin had a cold snap and there was a little ice on the road and all of a sudden the airport shut down for 24 hours.
Guillermo Del Toro: I remember that.
Quint: They are just not used to it.
Guillermo Del Toro: No, they are not used to it.
Quint: Mind if Kraken grabs some pictures during the interview?
Guillermo Del Toro: Absolutely not. For National Geographic!
Quint: Well, you’d have to take your shirt off for that.
Guillermo Del Toro: That would be for photoshop, man! (laughs)
Quint: I can’t wait to see the movie.
Guillermo Del Toro: You guys haven’t seen it?
Quint: No. Tonight. With an Austin audience.
Guillermo Del Toro: You know, I’m very eager to do it tonight. I think I’m going to not be at the screening as I always tend to bail, because that’s the hardest part of a movie and it doesn’t matter if it’s PAN’S LABYRINTH, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, or BLADE, it doesn’t matter. To stay for the screening is very difficult, because you are always going to notice each theater’s condition. You are going to notice one part of the surrounds is not really there or it’s too light or the bulb is not great…
Quint: Especially if you are used to editing where you have a full 4k system or something…
Guillermo Del Toro: And plus I have to eat a giant beef rib at County Line before I leave.
Quint: You know the Austin audience… you have seen how they react to films, so this in terms of the audience reaction, I think you are going to miss out on really feeling that buzz, but I guess you will see it when you come back.
Guillermo Del Toro: I’m going to come back for the ending, yeah, but it doesn’t matter if it’s the premiere or whatever it is, I usually… The only time I stay is if I am caught, like in a festival, where you go to your seat and then there’s no way you can…
Quint: Then everybody watches and if you leave then the people think…
Guillermo Del Toro: I avoided as many screenings of PAN’S LABYRINTH or THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE as I did on any other movie. The only movie where I stayed for every screening was CRONOS and MIMIC and then I said “I will not do that…”
Quint: I can imagine with CRONOS, it’s your first movie and you are just so high on the fact that you got to make a flick and then showing it to people, you must have loved that.
I think you had said when we were on the set for HELLBOY 2 that you said you took something from PAN’S that you didn’t second guess certain things and it took PAN’S to teach you to do that, so what are you bringing from HELLBOY 2?
Guillermo Del Toro: Well, I would say that that still holds true. It’s too early to tell right now how it’s going to be fully received and I mean that I think we are under twenty reviews on ROTTEN TOMATOES and we have only two bad ones I think, but whichever way it ends up swinging, at least I can say what I always say, which is “Fine, they don’t like it, but I made the movie I wanted to make.”
Quint: They didn’t like “your” movie, it’s not like they didn’t like the studio’s movie.
Guillermo Del Toro: They didn’t like the studio notes or didn’t dislike the studio’s ending, they disliked what I did and I am at peace with that.
Quint: I think my favorite part, when I was on the set was actually going through the practical effects, seeing the animatronics and seeing the creatures and how they could just flip a switch and suddenly this head is alive in front of you. That is one thing that I’m really glad there is starting to be a big movement now and you have done it for a long time and (Jon) Favreau is a big force doing that now where it’s kind of grounding the CG into reality. To me, I think the magic of movies is stuff like animatronics and having to have six people bring to life one personality for each take through remotes and the guy in the suit and…
Guillermo Del Toro: I remember when right before CG when Phil Tippett and Rob Bottin were doing ROBOCOP, you only used the stop motion for very selective things and I think the mistake that happens in terms of using those tools is as if people have used stop motion, at the end of the day it’s exactly the same analogy except CG is easier to pipeline and therefore easier for people to know they are going to get there no matter what, but I think that the average genre movie tentpole has around 1,500 or 2,000 CG shots, the big ones, and the average one is 1,000 shots.
I remember I think that when JURASSIC PARK came out or T2, in the early days it was under 100 or 100 was already topping it, so I think if we could get back to that… I don’t think there’s a turning back, because of the fluidity of CG is really quite amazing and is being better and better technologically, so what I think we can aspire to is to use more physical stuff, CG augmented. That’s a realistic goal.
Quint: Yeah,. Part of the magic of film is watching somebody pull off an illusion, but if it’s completely CG, then you know the trick. What I love seeing is when… like in IRON MAN, one of things I love about the effects in IRON MAN was that there were times where I was 100% sure it was the guy in the suit and it turned out to be a CG shot and there were other times where I’m like “That has to be CG” and it was the suit.
Guillermo Del Toro: That is ideal.
Quint: At least for movie fans. General audiences I don’t think are that probing, but for what inspires fandom… and you are a movie geek and you understand this stuff.
Guillermo Del Toro: Look, there is an aspect of puppetry in animatronics that is just incredibly charming and has a lot more personality I think than just going straight CG, if you can avoid it.
Quint: I think it also opens up happy accidents, too where CG is so rigidly planned.
Guillermo Del Toro: You open the performance as opposed to… Even if you get a great animator, once you have a performance, if the timeline is not incredibly big… If you have two years of post production, yeah then you can tweak it, but if you are against a release date like most people are, all you can expect is to tweak that performance a little.
I would say we really, really tweaked about 45% of the CG shots on HELLBOY, because of performance and we really took it to the wire. I think there were many, many weeks in which I was the most hated man in Soho in London, because I kept sending stuff back for performance, just saying “Look, this is not working.” The only thing you can not allow is the CG not to do the piece of storytelling it needs to do.
Quint: That’s important and that’s why I think a lot of people really like your work, because you have such a focus on the story and on the character and that’s… I think a lot of times when you get on to bigger budgets, a lot of people focus more on the spectacle than they do on the story and what I love about your stuff going back to the early days, you could look at CRONOS or BACKBONE… even though they are different movies, you can still look at BLADE 2 and see the heart and humanity there and you can look at HELLBOY and see the same thing.
Guillermo Del Toro: I think for those, and it’s the same for every movie, for those that connect with them, yes absolutely. For those that will never connect with them, no, but you are right for at least finding moments that go against the grain in every movie. I remember one of the early screenings of BLADE 2 and one of the executives saying “We should reshoot the final scene and have Nomak killed by Blade as opposed to him offing himself or give him a really nasty one liner and then Wesley gives him an even nastier one liner,” and I didn’t want to go that way and it was a big fight.
I know it may be silly to fight for those moments of humanity like him talking to his father in a movie so blatantly popcornish, but I still do it because I’m geared that way.
Quint: That’s what sells the spectacle. You have to care about the character and if you don’t, then you could have as much on the screen and it doesn’t matter.
Guillermo Del Toro: It’s empathy. If you recognize yourself in any moment of that character, it’s very, very good. I think that with HELLBOY 2, we were juxtaposing something that maybe a little crazy, which is big set pieces with incredibly tiny character moments that are just almost intimate, you know, really more towards a different rhythm and I don’t know, so far the screenings have been going great. The response at the end with the Q & A’s have been great. I’m very anxious to see the response tonight.
Quint: I think you definitely have a crowd that is predisposed. You are definitely preaching to the choir with the Austin crowd, so it’s definitely your audience.
Guillermo Del Toro: Great!
Quint: I think you are going to have to fuck up really bad to piss them off. What do you have coming up? THE HOBBIT is probably going to be the next film you jump in to…
Guillermo Del Toro: Oh yeah!
Quint: You are not going to be able to sneak in a new…
Guillermo Del Toro: No no no and neither would I try. It would be madness… The scope of that movie…
Quint: You are writing it with Peter [Jackson], Fran [Walsh], and Philippa [ Boyens] right?
Guillermo Del Toro: Yep, but the scope of those movies are staggering. I know it sounds like a leisured preproduction when you say a year and a half or two, but it isn’t. We have to create a lot of new stuff for the first movie and we have to recreate a lot of the stuff they did on the trilogy they did for the second movie, so it’s not even prepping two movies consecutively, it’s prepping two completely different movies in a sense, because the second movie is in many ways an exercise in mimicry and at a certain point it has to evolve into the lensing, the color palette, the texture palette, and the feel of the trilogy…
Quint: …because if it doesn’t bridge the two stories, then there is no point in making the second film.
Guillermo Del Toro: The whole point is to bridge them. The whole point is to create that joining, but I think that it’s also expanding and illuminating some of the aspects of the trilogy in a slightly different way, like same characters in a different environment. I find that very attractive that you can see the characters before they know their destiny, you know? I love that idea which is something very attractive.
Quint: Now are you going to… I’m familiar with the story, I have read THE HOBBIT, of course, in elementary school and I have read it since and I have read the RINGS, but I am not as familiar with all of the background that Tolkien submitted. Are you going to be able to have the second movie have its own story? I think a lot of the worry with the fanbase is that you have THE HOBBIT in one movie and then you have a second movie which is just going to be “Hey look, you remember these guys?” I know that isn’t the…
Guillermo Del Toro: It’s too early to tell. I know that for the first time I can say something and it won’t be taken out of context, so I’ll give a decent answer, if there was no second movie, we would not be attempting it. We would leave there is, but it’s in the early stages of investigation and I have never been asked so many questions about a project that hasn’t been started or a script that is not written and it’s natural, but I’ve been dealing with it since we started promoting THE ORPHANAGE, when I didn’t even know if it was going to go which way, so THE ORPHANAGE… The HELLBOY set visits or the HELLBOY junkets… all of that ends up with me answering about THE HOBBIT.
Quint: That’s what happens when you dip your feet into the…
Guillermo Del Toro: Absolutely! God bless, but unfortunately once you run out of answers you run out of answers.
Quint: That’s cool, so what about the other stuff that you have a hand in, like SPLICE and all of that?
Guillermo Del Toro: I am hoping precisely when THE HOBBIT came to be, which was only a few months ago, it represents such a big detour in my life just anecdotally that I have to start finishing or putting to bed or shepherding the stuff I had pending. I cancelled a lot of stuff and had many other stuff going and other projects going and I had to put them to bed in what is left of the year, from now until December, because by the spring of next year I will be going more and more to New Zealand until I finally completely move there.
SPLICE is in post. I have a project at Miramax that I am doing for a new filmmaker. I may be involved in a movie in Spain. I’m finishing a movie in Spain just now that I’m co-producing by the same guy that did Cronicas, the movie with [John] Leguizamo that we did and I like very much. That is a very good director… The CHA CHA CHA movies, we finished the first one and it opens in Mexico in December… everything is geared towards finishing at the end of the year.
Quint: It feels like you are in a real interesting time. You are in the calm before the storm once HELLBOY is out.
Guillermo Del Toro: This is a calm?
Quint: Well not now, but then you have the rest of the year and it’s going to be…
Guillermo Del Toro: I’m actually in the storm before the calm and then I’m going to be in the storm full time. The only thing I requested in a humane way is that I take ten days off between now and the time we start THE HOBBIT, because I really need ten days off.
Quint: Just to think about nothing.
Guillermo Del Toro: Just to think about whatever, you know? Swim or not swim…
[A representative comes up to wrap the interview up.]
Guillermo Del Toro: Give us a few, please.
Quint: I really can’t ask you too much more without having seen the movie…
Guillermo Del Toro: That is very fair.
Quint: But I will say that everything that I have heard and based on the early draft of the script I read and seeing especially the Angel of Death when we visited, that you are aiming to finish off the HELLBOY story in a pretty dark way. Is that accurate?
Guillermo Del Toro: That still holds. I don’t know if dark is the word, but heartbreaking would be a good word or tragic if you want, but at least I think the stakes are high enough for the third movie if there ever is one. This is the only movie I have done when I am actually really, really invested in the outcome; because normally once they are out they are out. If they make X amount of money or they under-perform or over-perform I don’t care, but in this case there is a part of me that really feels I would love to finish this iteration of the story.
Quint: Yeah, and you think that if this one doesn’t do well at the box office then you just wont be able to tell that story?
Guillermo Del Toro: Yeah, it’s the first time I have been watching and checking the tracking with a magnifying glass and checking ROTTEN TOMATOES every five minutes, but as I said so far so good, out of twenty reviews two bad is pretty OK.
Quint: I guess we wouldn’t get a third one for what five years from now?
Guillermo Del Toro: It depends where it’s shot… You know what I’m saying?
Quint: Just sneaking it in between Hobbit movies!?
Guillermo Del Toro: Not in between, but right after. At least we can start prepping or something, but…
[Mike Mignola approaches Guillermo from behind and hugs him while saying, “He’s lyin’! He’s lyin’! Don’t believe anything he says!”]
Guillermo Del Toro: It was all made with puppets! (laughs) I think it’s all that idea of “What is going to happen?” for the first time in my life and it is kind of unnerving.
Quint: Just telling you from everybody that I have heard of. I knew people that were in the very first studio screening, when the studio saw it and they flipped for it. I didn’t even know ROTTEN TOMATOES were getting reviews in already.
Guillermo Del Toro: I know, because I checked five minutes ago, like “Just a second Darling, I’m checking ROTTEN TOMATOES! Dinner is served.”
As always, it was a pleasure speaking with Guillermo. Even at this point in the billions of press he’s done for the film, he was still attentative, personable and filled with his unique enthusiasm.
Thanks to Muldoon for the last minute transcription on this. He’s also working on getting out my 1 on 2 interview with Doug Jones and Mike Mignola, so look for that this weekend! Lots on the docket, squirts… I had hoped the week before Comic-Con would be easy, but it seems that more and more is locked down… I’ve done 6 interviews (no shit) since the Hellboy ones, so keep an eye out for more stuff in the days leading up to the con.