“You’re going from being a moron, to being a genius, to being a moron back again.”
Surviving in the hostile enviroment of the movie industry isn’t something people should take for granted. With all its ups and downs, it is a rare thing that someone climbs to the top and remains an integral part of the system for over 20 years. Especially if you are a so called aficionado of the strange and macabre genre of horror and fantasy like filmmaker Guillermo del Torro.
An industry where taking risks isn’t always rewarded, but that’s the conundrum of a craft where art and business come together.
After finishing his first movie “Chronos”, he met fellow film director James Cameron (Terminator, Avatar) for the first time, lining up for a barbecue. Cameron asked him “So I heard you shot your first movie”. Del Toro answered “Yes”. “And..”, continued Cameron. “I heard you mortgaged your house?” “Yes” Del torro answered beck. “So you know the movie is going to be a success?” added James Cameron.
Even before his first movie, when he was working at his self established special effects company called Necropia. Daytimes he would sell real estate, and after dark designing and building props for low budget Mexican horror flicks. That’s where he learned the value of hard work. But, only when it serves his own artistic desires.
At the end of the night, he is a genre filmmaker, and embraces that with every undead or paranormal fibre in his body.
“I like to connect with audiences who like what I do, even if the audience at large does or doesn’t like it. I make weird movies, no matter what size the movie is. Genre is the bastard child of prestige.”
Playing with monsters can be messy at times, and violence, blood and sometimes even gore is part of the gameplay. R-rated properties aren’t necessarily a thing big studios or big audiences seem to have an antenna for. Toning it down is a request Guillermo is all to familiar with.
“Each movie has its audience. I don’t even want a wider audience that doesn’t appreciate what I’m doing. I want ‘THE’ audience for my movie.”
Doing his own thing is Del Toro’s main drive, and maybe the main reason for his success. Doesn’t matter how someone determines success. Other filmmakers can put themselves and their skills at the disposal of a film studio. Even if that means they have to give up control, and sacrifice the very essence why they became filmmakers in the first place.
Especially today, with CGI becoming more and more prevalent, and practical effects are seen as to tedious and time consuming.
“I try to guard the art of physical make up and effects, and set constructions. I want to keep making hand made movies. I do so because i want to meet the characters I create and to be in the places I write about.”
Today he has maneuvered himself in such profitable position for himself, that if the project he is pitching for doesn’t get greenlit immediatly, it eventually will. Or he just pulls another idea out of his dark wizard filmmaker hat, and this or another studio will pick it up. A luxury most other directors and writers are only dreaming of.
Except for one of his most beloved baby projects. And maybe the one (almost) franchise with the most loyal fans behind it. Unfortunately not enough loyal fans, at least not from the point of view of Legendary Film Studios. A third Hellboy movie just wouldn’t pay off according to Legendary. Especially with all the financial demands Guillermo has regarding the final part of his saga.
“That’s why I try to do both, small and big movies. If you do a smaller movie, you may suffer from the budget, but you have complete freedom. You can do whatever you want, and that’s what keeps you alive.”
Believing in his own properties, creations and even his adaptations from other artists is the fuel for the magical engine that keeps the man going. The movie business is a wild river with many rocky streams, that turn to soft flowing shallow parts, which again turn to a wild rocky stream after some time.
Ones Picasso is the others scribble on a napkin. Although he made himself a household name in the business, he still has to pitch his ideas to the suits. Especially when he goes into uncharted territory, which is a given if you’re name is Guillermo del Toro. It took ten years for his Emmy award winning show “Troll Hunters” to see the light of day. But having that reputation, he at least gets the chance to present his strange goods to the various studios and executives. Even if they get rejected from time to time.
“You’re going from being a moron, to being a genius, to being a moron back again. You’re going up and down, that’s the nature of story telling.”
A reputation younger filmmakers just starting their career, but also older, more experienced ones would kill for. Some of whom would gratefully accept to be called moron from time to time, if they would just get as many chances to proof themselves.
There is a whole new generation out there, which grew up with movies or TV shows, written, directed or produced by Del Toro. And they all want to make their mark, slay the dragon and show their worth.
And of course these uprising movie makers want the magic bullet to make it in this industry. Especially those at the very beginning, who don’t have much to work with. Who’s salary from last weeks Burger flipping is all the budget they could muster.
“Do what you can do with what you have. If you have a middle class home, make a movie about a vampire in a middle class home. Or a movie about a Werewolf in a middle class home, and speak of your own experience.”
“Try to make movies that speak to someone else in the same fetishized way you were spoken to, by people who got high on their own supply, I know I get high on my own supply.”