Guillermo Del Toro Talks 'Pan's Labyrinth' Musical Plans, 'Pacific Rim' 2 Casting, More
On location for his latest movie, 'The Shape of Water,' the writer-director also shares his thoughts on when FX's 'The Strain,' will end and why 'Hellboy 3' "is a wish that will never be fulfilled."
Comic-Con without Guillermo Del Toro makes about as much sense as Hellboy without mutton chops. But the 51-year-old horror maestro couldn’t make it to San Diego this year because he’s in Toronto about to begin shooting The Shape of Water, a supernatural drama set during the Cold War starring Michael Shannon, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg. Del Toro, however, will be zipping back to LA on July 30 to help open his exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "At Home With Monsters," a sampling of ephemera, mementos, books, art, models and film props from Del Toro’s personal collection (so vast, it occupies two entire houses on the outskirts of LA). “To me, this is a spiritual calling,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of his penchant for hoarding horror props. “I love monsters the way people worship holy images. They really connect in a very fundamental way to my identity.”
The exhibit includes a stuffed werewolf Del Toro constructed when he was only seven years old. But the tour — which will remain at LACMA until Nov. 27, then move onto the Minneapolis Institute of Art — also contains more recent Del Toro creations, including pieces from his 2013 monster movie Pacific Rim, which is currently casting for the sequel, Pacific Rim: Maelstrom (Del Toro is producing, not directing) as well as being turned into an animated series. There are also props from The Strain, his FX series now nearing the end of its run (maybe). And even a few objects from Pan’s Labyrinth, the dark fairytale that won three Oscars and is currently working its way to the stage as a musical.
THR spoke to the filmmaker about his various ongoing projects.
What’s going on with cast for Pacific Rim 2? You haven’t brought back actors Charlie Hunnam or Rinko Kikuchi?
That’s not entirely true. As a producer I learned not to declare anything about a movie I’m not directing. I can tell you this — a lot of the cast from the first movie is coming back. I leave those communications to Steven DeKnight. He’s not only a director, but he’s actually a guy I respect and admire and it’s his movie.
Do you weigh in on casting? Can you talk about attaching John Boyega?
I admire him tremendously. The idea for me is that this is a continuation of the great leadership character that was Idris Elba. It’s a very different character but I love the idea of having a main character who is not a white Anglo-Saxon guy. Before the heated conversation about diversity in film started we were doing Pacific Rim. And I think that universe is a huge proponent of that.
How are you expanding the universe through this film and the Pacific Rim animation series?
If and when the animated series happens, we are mixing them. In fact the sequel takes some ideas that we created for the animated series originally. I think we need to let the live-action lead. When we went with Steven we showed him everything we were developing and he said, ‘I like this from this universe, I like this from this element, I want to bring them into the movie.’ It’s easy to expand cause you have not only the Jaeger-human universe and the Kaiju-alien universe, but (also) the fact that you are now able to play in a very history-filled universe. We started the war with the Kaiju, we won the war with the Kaiju and now it’s a postwar of those two universes.
You’ve been very active on the small screen as well. Will The Strain go to five seasons?
We always planned it to last four or five seasons. I don’t think we’ll go beyond that because we’re going to finish more or less on the structure of the books. Carlton (Cuse) has taken liberty with the books cause he is the showrunner but I do think the shape is going to be about the same. So we’ll stay between four or five seasons.
But you don’t know which, four or five?
We’re thinking about doing one more season for sure, then in the writers room, which already is active, we’re going to see how it lays out. It’s one thing to talk about 400 plus minutes of screen time, and another thing to really lay them out. If it leads to two seasons it’s great, if it lead to one it’s fine.
You’ve been talking about resurrecting Hellboy for a third installment.
Hellboy 3 is a wish that will never be fulfilled cause the first two movies made really good profits on a market that doesn’t exist anymore. The reason there’s a Hellboy 2 is not because the studios were passionate about the first one, it’s because the numbers made sense. Hellboy 1 was such a huge, huge over-performer on Blu-ray and ancillary markets. It was one the first movies on Blu-ray, it has multiple editions, all the ancillary markets over performed everywhere. And the second one did good on all ancillary markets, which now do not exist. It’s very hard to convince a studio when you’ve lost that stream of revenue. Theatrically, they basically broke even or came to a place where it made sense to make a sequel. It’s very hard for them to think with that arm gone it would still make sense.
How’s progress on Pan’s Labyrinth the musical?
We have been working for four years with Robert Fox in London and Paul Williams and Gustavo Santaolalla for this stage play. We have, over the years, developed the entire libretto. We have all the songs, and we are going to announce a very interesting, very beautiful partnership, which will make it a reality in the next couple of months.
You’ll open in London? New York?
We would start in Europe. I don’t know if we will start in Berlin or London for the trial and then it will make its way to America.
You’re just about to start shooting The Shape of Water in Toronto. How does it feel returning to smaller-budget projects?
What was important was to draw back to a smaller budget with more freedom. Since 1997 I haven’t had censorship problems at all. But with great budget comes great responsibility. This is the same scale, exactly, as Pan’s Labyrinth and I wanted to feel the same freedom where I could try to tell the story with whatever emotional logic I want to follow. It’s a very personal movie. My view of the creature is very personal. We have spent nine months creating and designing this creature, which is the longest time I’ve spent, ever, designing any creature, and I’m very much in awe of it.
And Michael Shannon plays the creature?
Obviously you didn’t make Comic-Con this year.
I’ve been going since the '90s. It’s been 20 years or more of visits to Comic-Con. I know a lot of the people that have booths there. It’s a very social reunion for me. I’ve seen it grow and grow and grow but if you talk to the real core of that convention, they still go for the same reasons they did in the beginning, which is passion for these characters. Every time I go it’s a very emotional feeling.