Inside Guillermo del Toro’s “CABINET OF CURIOSITIES”, Part OneBooks/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Tony Timpone
The lavishly illustrated GUILLERMO DEL TORO CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: MY NOTEBOOKS, COLLECTIONS, AND OTHER OBSESSIONS is the ultimate coffee table book for fans of the master Mexican filmmaker. Along with writer/collaborator Marc Scott Zicree, del Toro unveils drawings, production art and sketches from his private journals and filmmaking diaries, providing a running commentary on the creation of his wonderful movies CRONOS, MIMIC, BLADE II, the HELLBOY duo, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, PAN’S LABYRINTH and PACIFIC RIM. Plus we also get a photo tour of geek heaven, del Toro’s memorabilia-laden Bleak House. Also displayed: designs from his intriguing unproduced films, like the Lovecraft epic AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. In a nutshell, Del Toro leaves no stone unturned.
In this two-part exclusive interview, del Toro talks about the genesis of the book (now available from Harper Design; put it on your Christmas list!), and in part two (out next week), he gives us the scoop on his new projects: the ghost story CRIMSON PEAK and the TV version of THE STRAIN!
FANGORIA: If the New York City subway system is any indication, your new book is gonna be a best seller. As I read CABINET OF CURIOSITIES on the train, everyone was looking over my shoulder asking about it.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO: Really? If they display it in the bookstores, it will sell. It’s beautiful and a very handsome book. If this works well, we’re going to do a second volume.
FANG: I got a hernia carrying this thing around, and you say that you only have a fraction of your collection in there?
DEL TORO: Yes, a fifth of my notebooks.
FANG: Was it difficult to pick and choose?
DEL TORO: Insight Editions’ editors did it. It was their picks. If I did it myself, I would self-censor myself. I would start saying, “This is too personal. This is too weird. This is too whatever.” So I said, “Why don’t you do it, and I’ll groom what you choose.” I was very careful about having stuff stay that I wasn’t comfortable with, because I didn’t want to sanitize it. So there’s some stuff there that may be too personal or may be too this or too that, and I thought, “You know what? Other people find it interesting, I’m gonna let it stay.”
FANG: How did the idea of CABINET OF CURIOSITIES come about in the first place?
DEL TORO: In every book signing I do, people started to ask if they could see my notebook, which I always carry with me. And I started putting it on the DVDs and Blu-rays, but people wanted a book on the book. And I thought, “Well, we can do that.” Insight Editions approached me on that and said, “We want to do this.” So for the book, we started the process of what I read, what I watch, what I think of this or that, like a real conversation. This is better then having dinner or lunch with me. Marc Zicree, the author of the TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION and all that, came and interviewed me. He wrote beautiful chapter introductions to everything. He’s brilliant, and since he’s a creator in his own right, he was able to interview me from a very minutiae point of view.
FANG: What led you to choose him as your collaborator?
DEL TORO: Well we liked the idea of him just as a personality in the field and the genre. He’s such an erudite and charming guy and a very accomplished writer in his own right. He did an amazing job and interviewed me for a few weeks, which is a lot of time and that’s where it began.
FANG: What led to the creation of the notebooks?
DEL TORO: You know, my screenplay teacher used to say, “Always keep a journal. Always keep a field diary.” Great writers always kept a diary, and they would go somewhere and always annotate little vignettes on daily life. And when I started preparing CRONOS, I had my diary and I was writing and it stayed. It just stayed little by little. Unfortunately, the pages from CRONOS I can’t find because I gave that diary to Jim Cameron and he hasn’t found it yet. We went to an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica and ordered a little too much wine, and I’m pretty sure that same night he said, “I’m going to put it here….”
FANG: Speaking of Cameron, who wrote the book’s wonderful introduction, he says in another life you would’ve been Leonardo da Vinci.
DEL TORO: I would’ve loved to be Leonardo DiCaprio! [laughs] Either Leonardos are out of my reach. The only thing I can claim in common with anyone is curiosity, and that’s the key. The CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is very, very telling, because it really speaks of my curiosity. The things I’m curious about. The way we understand knowledge and the way they understood knowledge in the time that the cabinets were in vogue, we think of knowledge as something dead, something that you find in books. What was great about the cabinets of curiosities is that they were wonders. They were also called cabinets of wonders, and it’s because curiosity makes the world wonderful. What I tried to represent in the book is that the main element of life is curiosity. The main element of imagination is curiosity. Not knowledge. You can know a lot about movies, but if you’re not a fan hungry for more, you feel like everything is done—“I hate the new movies”—you’re dead. The key is to keep loving them. If you only dissect the past, that’s knowledge. If you’re hungry for the future, that’s curiosity.
FANG: I love the untold stories you tell about the creation of your films. For instance, with MIMIC, you go deeper into the controversy and what your original vision was. Is your recent director’s version closer to that?
DEL TORO: It’s as close as we’re gonna get. I’m proud to have my name on MIMIC. Is it a perfect film? No. Is it a fun film? Absolutely. But is it a better film than before? Yes. Is it ever going to be the movie I wanted it to be? No. But even on movies I don’t like to talk about, I meet guys in the field who were 10-years old when they saw MIMIC, and they loved it in the same way my generation loved some obscure B movie or the lesser efforts of some Italian gore master or whatever. I hit them at the right time, and it’s in their memories. I’m happy that some people like MIMIC and [the director’s cut Blu-ray] is the better version of it.
FANG: A theme that comes through in the book is that you’re the ultimate recycler. You take ideas from your films that were never produced or even films that were and keep evolving them from to film to film to film.
DEL TORO: Sometimes I even repeat them and get them right. Like if you watch the moment in CRONOS where Jesus Gris gets his hand clamped by the device, it’s basically the same moment as when the bug clamps Mia Sorvino’s hand in MIMIC. The Mia Sorvino moment is better. Better shot, better elaborated technically, and I repeated it, because I thought, “Oh, I didn’t get it right.” And I do that, if you watch the movies carefully, there’s a lot of that. Hitchcock did it too. He did THE 39 STEPS and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, which is the evolution of THE 39 STEPS. If you read all of Raymond Chandler, you literally read the exact same phrase with one word changed. One word. The same description exactly in a later novel, and you go, “Oh, he got it right.” It’s great to see. Painters do it, all the artists do it.
FANG: Bleak House, your man cave, every fan boy’s dream home, would you ever open it to the public like Forry Ackerman did with his Ackermansion?
DEL TORO: What I want to do is not quite like that. If somebody visits, I’ll do a tour, you know for you or somebody else like Matt Groening, Tom Cruise, Jim Cameron, etc. I do the tour, and then at the end I stop at my bookshelf of triplicate books, and I say, “Choose any one that you want.” And what I would like to do is open the house to writers and directors and have a large section of the house where they can actually take something from it. And after I die, I’d like to open a writer in residence program in the house where there is a committee that judges different works in the genre by young authors or young directors and they can live in the house for six months. I would leave a section of the house where they can take a book or a movie or a prop or a toy on the way out. When I go to a signing, I try to spend as much of the time as I can with the fans and, ultimately, I do want the house to be something that fans can enjoy.
FANG: The book has some cool stuff on films that never happened, including your dream project, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. Tom Cruise, your potential star, wrote your afterword and he strikes a very encouraging note that the film will get made some day.
DEL TORO: I agree with him. I didn’t agree with that idea a few years ago, but I agree with him now. We’re gonna make it. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but we’re gonna make it.
TO BE CONTINUED