There are almost too many things to look forward to in the world of Guillermo del Toro.
On Saturday night of the LA Times Hero Complex Film Festival, del Toro gave us talk of Justice League Dark, his (hopeful) HBO adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster manga series, and an epic new trailer for Pacific Rim; all book-ended by his classics, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.
“When I did [Cronos], it was 60% or 50% what I wanted. Then Mimic was like being in prison, and picking up the soap in the shower,” Del Toro said, of his early struggles with mainstream directing. “I came out of that really thinking… there couldn’t be joy in it again. And when I did Devil’s Backbone all that joy came back.”
I went into the first screening of the night, The Devil’s Backbone, confident in my manhood and not afraid. I mean, how scary can a lower budget foreign horror movie be? Answer: Very. The oft-morbid creator called Backbone his “dearest film.”
Well, thanks, man. This “dearest film” of yours gave me nightmares, and I know.. just know you’re over there smiling about that.
Following all these new-found shivers in my Chinese Theater-going backbone, we were treated to a surprise new trailer for Pacific Rim . The new footage (which is practically a contextualized version of the WonderCon footage posted below) put the focus on the large-scale monster vs. robot fights. Translation: It was bad-ass. The audience loved it, The Christian loved it, and Guillermo was excited to talk about it when he came to the stage. The man loves giant robots.
“Both my daughters and my wife are in love with robots. They see a robot and it’s like a beefcake,” del Toro said. “If the 16 year old shows up with a 25 story robot, I’m okay.”
With Cronos, Hellboy, and Pacific Rim coming up pretty frequently, we were bound to hear a little about the “Sons of Anarchy” big bad biker, Ron Perlman. When asked about the director’s relationship with Perlman, he had nothing but praise to say. Which is obvious, since you can tell by any of the movies they’ve done together that these two have a pretty awesome bromance.
Perhaps del Toro described it best with, “I’ve known [the actor] now for 23 years, and the worst things you can know about Ron Perlman I know.” The crowd erupted with laughter, which at this point was becoming the norm for del Toro’s stories.
Probably the greatest moment of the night came when a fan asked del Toro about next years’ Godzilla. Wondering, “what your thoughts on [Monsters director Gareth Edwards’] Godzilla coming out when your film already looks so much better?” Now, at first glance, it sounded like a compliment, but the real treat was del Toro’s reaction. He practically jumped, surprised, out of his seat, as much as a man of his size can at least, and responded.
“I want to see Godzilla… I think it will kick ass!” And continued to shout, “I want to see it destroy many cities!”
When a fan asked about his upcoming project, Justice League Dark, we got a lengthy glance into why he is the perfect person to take on the project; talking about his obsession with the darker side of comics and the villains as if they were his children — his screwed in the head, edgy, supernatural children.
“I was in love with all the monsters of DC. I was never really a superhero guy. I loved Batman and Spider-Man ’cause they were kind of f***ed up, though,” said del Toro.
The director reflected on what it was like as a kid, when he would go down to the store to grab the new Swamp Thing comic and would stop halfway home to read it. He would obsessively draw the monsters he read about.
Del Toro is seemingly our best bet to get an outstanding Justice League Dark movie — especially if the primary J.L. idea sits forever in the dust — much in the same way that Joss Whedon was the best person to bring us The Avengers. To make a great comic book movie, it’s quite obvious you have to be a a huge fan of the material. Schumacher not.
It’s been incredible to see Hollywood finally getting its own head out of its ass and realizing that more and more.
Side note: del Toro listed off a few characters he is definitely including in the “dark” Justice League adaptation, such as Constantine (without Keanu Reeves, we hope), Deadman, Etrigan, Swamp Thing and Floronic Man. He also added that “there are a couple of characters that would be spoilers if I told you they were there.”
Then, came the question about del Toro’s involvement with the HBO adaptation of Monster. Anime nerds’ (myself included) ears perked up.
“You cannot compress Monster into a feature,” said del Toro
Hey, he’s right. Naoki Urasawa’s manga is expansive, thematically complex, and surprisingly smart. To condense all that is Monster into a sole feature could very easily compromise the integrity of the original material. And, if there’s one thing that del Toro seemed to pride himself on, it was the fact that he wanted Naoki Urasawa to respect the work he would do on the project if and when it got made.
As del Toro said, definitively, “It’s not going to be sped up, not going to go five more seasons than it needs to. It’s going to be the book.”
Before taking off, del Toro fielded one last fan question leading perfectly into our viewing of Pan’s Labyrinth. “Was everything [in Pan’s] reality or a figment of her childhood imagination to escape?”
Del Toro answered, as if to mimic the eloquence that is Pan’s Labyrinth, “to me, there is no difference. To me, what you believe in is real.”
- I have to give it to the guy, del Toro gets great performances out of children, which is really no easy task when you’re as specific of a filmmaker as he is. He gave a few tips on working with kids, the most important of which was to talk to them like they are actors and not children. His mockery of how most people talk to child actors (as if they are 2-year olds) is something the entire world needs to see. Del Toro also spent a minute recounting a time on set that he took the child actor playing Santi in The Devil’s Backbone and used him as a puppet to get timing on a “jump-out-of-your-seat” moment just right.
- The choice of showing both The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth in a row, had to have been on purpose. They deal with similar themes (pain, suffering, obedience, conformity, and authority, just to name a few) and are a clear example of del Toro’s evolution as a filmmaker. As he said when discussing Pan’s, his outlook on these themes had changed between the two films. Smart choices, Hero Complex. Kudos.
- As you may know, del Toro produced first time [mainstream] director Andrés Muschietti‘s horror film Mama. Del Toro said he will continue to produce first time directors like Muschietti because of what Pedro Almodóvar did for him with Backbone. After seeing Cronos, Pedro came up to del Toro, saying “I just saw Cronos and I’d like to produce your next movie.”
- “I wanted to make a movie for kids, that would screw their brain,” said del Toro of his remake of Are You Afraid of the Dark.
- A fan at one point asked if del Toro would consider making a live action Spirited Away, to which del Toro replied “I think that if something is already perfect, why f*** with it?”