Watch the Transformation of 'The Shape of Water's' Fish-Man in Behind-the-Scenes Video

"The key of a movie is the actors. When I cast actors, I cast eyes," says director/writer/producer Guillermo del Toro.

"If I told you about her, the princess without voice, what would I say?" 

Guillermo del Toro's latest entry into the annual Awards race, The Shape of Water, harkens back to timeless love stories but with a fantastical twist. Sally Hawkins' Eliza Esposito, who works as a cleaner at an aerospace facility and was rendered mute from a childhood injury, falls for the facility's "asset," hailing from the underwater depths of South America, who del Toro said, "needed to have a nice butt" in order to entice his leading lady to fall for his charms.

The Hollywood Reporter has obtained three exclusive featurettes behind the making of the Oscar contender from Fox Searchlight. 

The first clip (above) highlights the set design of the film, which Hawkins describes as "taking her breath away." She continues: "And seeing the richness of it, the colors, are like being a part of a painting."

In order to craft a setting to bring his star-crossed lovers together during the tension and isolation of the Cold War, del Toro endeavored to give the film "a beautiful, fairy tale feeling so that the two most defenseless characters in the movie can fall in love."

Actor Doug Jones' transformation into the fish-man creature is shown in the clip below where he is seen putting on gills, makeup and prosthetics and filming in a water-filled set. "It's remarkable," says Hawkins. "You really do believe you're looking at a real life merman." 

The final clip focuses on del Toro's casting process. He describes his interest in the eyes of the actors bringing his characters to life and praises actors as key to a film.

"When I cast actors, I cast eyes. Whether it's the eyes of Sally [Hawkins], the eyes of Octavia [Spencer], the eyes of Michael [Shannon]...completely different eyes, and they suit the character," del Toro says.

The Shape of Water premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September and was awarded the Golden Lion, the festival's top prize, after its debut.

The Hollywood Reporter's review from Venice lauds the film as "a poignant story in which good and evil are represented in richly drawn figures played by a first-rate principal cast."

Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg, who is already garnering buzz for his work in Call Me by Your Name, help round out the principal cast in addition to Hawkins, Jones, Spencer and Shannon. Alexandre Desplat, who has been nominated for an Oscar eight times and won for his work on Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2015, provides the score for the film.