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Capone chats to Guillermo Del Toro about DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, THE HAUNTED MANSION, and not directing THE HOBBIT!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. Of all of the regular writers at Ain't It Cool News, I know Guillermo del Toro the least well. But that didn't stop him from giving me one of his patented bear hugs when we were reunited for the first time face to face since I first interviewed him in Chicago when he was promoting Pan's Labyrinth. This time, I caught up with Del Toro shortly after his triumphant and quite scary San Diego Comic-Con panel for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which he produced and co-wrote, and is directed by Troy Nixey. The day before Del Toro made a surprise appearance during the Disney panel to announce he would be writing and producing a new adaptation of The Haunted Mansion for the studio. So it was a good week for him. Still fresh from having walked away from directing The Hobbit films (although Del Toro has by no means left the project entirely, as he explains) due to countless delays in shooting, we sat down to discuss all of his upcoming projects, he disappointment about and hopes for The Hobbit, and his then-secret upcoming project as director, an adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness, with James Cameron as producer, a huge budget, shot in 3-D, and a guaranteed R rating. I'm crapping myself with anticipation. You know him, you love him, and the idea of him back in the director's chair is something I've been eagerly awaiting for far too long. Please enjoy Guillermo del Toro…

Capone: Hey, it’s good to see you again. It’s been a while. How are you doing? Guillermo del Toro: Good What was I reading that you wrote? Capone: Reading of mine? GDT: Didn’t you write something a few days ago? Capone: Maybe. I put up a bunch of reviews this morning. That’s about it, but before that, I don’t know. GDT: I'm so tired, my friend. It’s been a long day. Capone: For you, yeah. GDT: I went onto the floor at 7:30. Capone: Was there even anybody there at 7:30? GDT: No, but I tried to shop as much as possible with whoever was there. There were a few guys. Capone: So I’m realizing now that you like to scare little kids. GDT: I like to scare the little kids and people. That was my childhood. Capone: The little kids are always there being scared. The setup for DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, in particular--just something scary in your own house--that is THE age-old childhood nightmare. And it's something that many of us carry from our childhood into adulthood. GDT: What is funny is that the idea with the blankets, the scene that we shot which is her going under the blankets of the bed… Capone: I have to admit, because I was trapped here, I did not see what you guys played today. GDT: Well we showed one scene. Capone: You’ve got to show it to me later. GDT: Gladly. This classic moment is a moment that I lived many times as a kid, but I didn’t write that. They day or the day before Troy [Nixey] was going to shoot that scene I went to him, and I said, “Let’s change it. What do you think about this? Let’s have the girl find something under her bed sheets, you know?” It’s a terrifying thing. I think that most of my imagination was shaped as a kid, so it obviously permeates my movies. But I really love the idea that fear can make you go back to your childhood and make you vulnerable and make you susceptible to really not just the sophisticated world, but the world of the otherness and the beyond, you know? Capone: What was your particular fascination with this movie [DON'T BE AFRAID is a remake of a 1973 made-for-television movie], this story, and the way it was told? GDT: There's something really primal about things that are tiny, but incredibly wickedly smart. They are not giant monsters. They are not the werewolves. They are not the large creatures, they are tiny evil things. That is fascinating to me, be it the Zuni fetish doll in TRILOGY OF TERROR… Capone: That's the first thing that popped into my mind. GDT: …or these creatures or many others. The Devil doll or whatever you want, you know. It is utterly fascinating--little things being smart enough to kill big things. That stuck with me, but the other thing that stuck with me is a whole element of magical lore that was never explained in the original, that was never talked about in the original, and that turns out when I saw it again as an adult was never in the original. So I realized I had entirely imagined another movie in the 15 or 20 years that I didn’t see it. Capone: You personalized it, I guess. GDT: Yeah, but it became a childhood memory and like all memories it changed. When I saw the original, I thought I loved the original, but it’s not the movie I remembered. So I wanted to make the movie that I remembered and I wrote it for me to direct in 1998 with Matthew Robbins [who co-wrote the screenplay with Del Toro], and as luck had it, we never got it off. It was at Miramax with Bob Weinstein, and we never did it, and years before and years after I was able to wrangle it back and do it. But I never gave up. This is the thing, this movie, in 13 years, we never gave up on it. Capone: [Laughs] You do that a lot. GDT: I do that a lot, yes. Capone: You hold on to a lot of things. GDT: Yeah.

Capone: When you first wrote the screenplay had you always made it a younger girl? GDT: Yeah, because I think that kids are horribly out of place in the real world, and as a kid I couldn’t have felt more ostracized, you know? And most kids, when they are written in movies, they are written really--either you don’t believe they could die, because they are written like smart sassy kids that mouth off smart pieces of dialogue or use skateboards to escape the monster and this whole thing. And I find that far more tragic than writing a kid that is melancholic and a loner and that understands the function of fear much better than adults. Ultimately, the kid is very consistent with the kids in DEVIL’S BACKBONE and PAN'S LABYRINTH, because they are braver and smart than the adults, and I think kids are braver and smarter. Capone: Was your role as a producer on this film more or less what you did with the gentlemen who made THE ORPHANAGE? GDT: It was very different. First of all because I co-wrote the story with Matthew, and second, because I needed to really find a great crew to surround Troy. We went about selecting a really experienced cinematographer [Oliver Stapleton], a really experienced production designer[Roger Ford,] a great editor [Jill Bilcock], and so on and so forth. So I was much more careful, because with [director Juan Antonio] Bayona and THE ORPHANAGE, he had under his belt thousands of hours of video clips and commercials, and Troy had done just one short, so I became much more available. I was in New Zealand, he was shooting in Australia, and I would go there as often as he needed me and it was a completely different experience. Capone: I was actually just telling Troy, I had seen his short LATCHKEY'S LAMENT at a festival, so I knew it and loved it. GDT: It’s fantastic. May I urge your readers to check out his short?

Capone: I’ll link to it. Can we talk a little about where you have just come from and where you are going next? I’m sure you have been asked variations of this, but how heartbreaking, really, was it for you to have to walk away from THE HOBBIT. GDT: Very, very. But you know, I have no uncertainty. I have no doubt about why I did it and I have no doubt that I made the right decision for myself and the project, by the way. I believe that. I tried to keep… My life was in progress when THE HOBBIT landed on my lap, and things were very complicated, but we juggled them around enough to create a space for me to shoot the movie and be able to re-engage. And in the [timeline] that we originally had traced, the time when I should have been done with shooting we were still writing, and many obligations came clashing in a horrible way, in a very difficult way, and I thought “Look, I cannot give the movie half of my attention or a quarter of my attention or three quarters. I’ve got to give this movie 110 percent of my attention,” and I could not do that. I think the time came where I needed to do that. Capone: And you'll still have a writing credit, correct? GDT: I will, yes. We co-wrote those screenplays, and those are the screenplays that are going to be shot, but I not only… It’s funny that you say this, because I cannot even talk about THE HOBBIT in the past; I can talk about THE HOBBIT in the present. I am involved in THE HOBBIT, I am involved. I am not directing and I have no illusions about that, but I am involved. I am a partner. I want Peter Jackson to direct it. I want those movies to happen and I am an active writer with them and I am an active partner in their quest and I wish them the best. But the fact is, I much say fortunately for me the movie that I’m about to announce as my next movie is very satisfying, so… Capone: I won’t tell anybody; you can tell me what it is. GDT: [laughs] We will turn the recorder off, but it is something I am very, very happy with, and the people that I am doing it with are truly great. So I think that for me it’s going to be, in terms of dream projects and powerful world creation is going to be apples for apples, in terms of size and scope and projection [compared to THE HOBBIT]. Capone: And you said 3D. I heard you say that earlier, as well. GDT: Oh yeah. See the thing with 3D is I sincerely could not be convinced that THE HOBBIT should be 3D, because it’s such a… first of all… [Del Toro is motioned to wrap up by his reps.] GDT: [To reps.] Give us another 10 minutes, please. He is my mentor. He is my nutritionist! We can't stop talking now. [Both Laugh] [The rep mentions “A few hundred people waiting to get posters signed.”] GDT: [Gestures to a nearby security guard] Take him. No one will notice the difference. What was I saying? Capone: THE HOBBIT in 3D, and how you didn’t want to do it. GDT: I didn’t want to do it in 3D, because I feel that it needed to be consistent with the trilogy and I believe that 3D is a great thrilling device, but somewhat instinctively, I thought it took a little bit away from the classicism of the tale, but I’m all in favor of 3D. I really want to explore it, so the next movie I do is going to be in 3D. Capone: And horror. GDT: Oh yeah! Which I haven’t attempted--cue the puns in the Talkack--I haven’t attempted a horror movie since MIMIC, because THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE diffuses the ghost; it makes him a victim. CRONOS, the vampire is the least of your worries. And in PAN’S LABYRINTH, ultimately, the creatures are less scary than the captain. I’m done with those subvertive genre movies; I want to go and do a good old scary movie. Capone: Then yesterday, you talked about THE HAUNTED MANSION, which clearly isn’t the movie you are talking about doing next. GDT: THE HAUNTED MANSION is something that I hope to direct down the line, but right now… Capone: So that still is a possibility? GDT: I would love to, but realistically I think I’m going to co-write it and produce it for sure. Realistically, I don’t know if the calendar and the things I have on the backburner are going to allow that to happen. I have to be realistic now and I will be very happy to produce it and co-write it, as I’m doing, but if the timing works, dude, you must visit my mancave and see my Haunted Mansion room. Capone: I would love that. GDT: Are you in L.A.? Capone: No, I’m in Chicago. You know that. GDT: I know, but are you in L.A. ever? Capone: Hardly ever. [Gesturing to my photographer] Although he lives in L.A., so I should come visit him. GDT: You’re a fucking hour away right now! Capone: I know, I know. I’ll come soon. What else do you have on your plate? GDT: I have a few surprises for next year and a few surprises for this year that are great. We are working actively now on preproduction on PINOCCHIO, the stop-motion PINOCCHIO, with music by Nick Cave. It’s a really beautiful--I wouldn’t say “dark,”--but it’s a much more somber, much more gothic take on the [Carlo] Collodi tale that preserves some of the darker moments in Collodi that were absolutely terrifying when you first read them as a kid. I am actively working on a series that will be announced very soon, a dramatic series for a cable company, and a few little surprises here and there and obviously following up with… Capone: Another book, right? GDT: Chuck [Hogan] and I are finishing the third "Strain" book ["Eternal Night," due in March 2011, which follows "The Fall," released September 21]. We are actively finishing for Universal the second draft for MAMA for Andy and Barbara Muschietti, the guys that did the short film.

GDT: Universal is moving ahead with a couple of properties that we have had in development with them for a few years. Capone: I can think of one right off of the bat… GDT: Taking care of the inventory. Capone: Right, well it’s good to hear that you are back on the boards. They are looking at me like they are going to strangle me, I should let you go. If you want to walk, I can walk. GDT: Let’s walk.
So it turned out that it wasn't quite time for Del Toro to leave the interview room, so he stayed, and I left, hoping one day to see his legendary Haunted Mansion room. In the mean time, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK is set for release January 21, 2011.
-- Capone Follow Me On Twitter

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