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Inside Guillermo del Toro’s “CABINET OF CURIOSITIES,” Part Two

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Fantasy film fans looking for the ultimate coffee table should go no further than GUILLERMO DEL TORO CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: MY NOTEBOOKS, COLLECTIONS, AND OTHER OBSESSIONS (Insight Editions), the sumptuously illustrated exploration inside the films (and mind) of the master fantasist. Boasting scores of personal sketches, designs, rare photos and artwork from del Toro’s amazing body of work, home and journals, plus written contributions from James Cameron, Tom Cruise, John Landis, Ron Perlman and many others, CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is an embarrassment of riches. In part one of this exclusive two-part interview (see here), del Toro talked about the creation of his gargantuan tome. Today, the director of CRONOS, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, PAN’S LABYRINTH and the HELLBOY movies spills the beans on his exciting future projects.

FANGORIA: You spent two years working on THE HOBBIT. Was it frustrating that you couldn’t include anything from that in the book?

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: No, it was pre-arranged when I left the project. We talked about it, and there was no way we could have it there. I think it’s a fair [decision]. It’s wise not to juxtapose what would I have done with [THE HOBBIT]. It’s disrespectful. So I agreed from the get-go, let’s wait a few years after the movies have come out, I can publish some of my sketches and concept art then. But I agreed that it would be arrogant and disrespectful to do it at any other time.

FANG: If I have one quibble with CABINET OF CURIOSITIES it’s that I wanted to see more of the monsters from PACIFIC RIM in there.

DEL TORO: We thought long and hard about it, and the fact is that the same editor put out the most amazing PACIFIC RIM [coffee table] book. We would be repeating the same things that are in there. It’s one of the best making-of books ever. We decided let’s keep it at that balance.

FANG: You just directed the pilot episode of THE STRAIN series. Do tell.

DEL TORO: Directing the pilot was amazing. We had a blast. We have a great cast, Corey Stoll from HOUSE OF CARDS is Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, and we had about 20-something days to shoot the pilot in Toronto, which for me is super short. For TV, it’s quite long. For me, even CRONOS, I shot in 40 days. It was great, a different set of muscles were flexed and I’m super proud of it. It’s super crazy and fun. It’s a great translation of the novel. So I’m very eager to see what the fans think.

FANG: And now you are going to pass the subsequent episodes to other directors?

DEL TORO: Yes. We have a really amazing group of directors, including Peter Weller and Keith Gordon. There are others that are coming through, who are genre favorites. I’m incredibly enthusiastic about it. And other than PACIFIC RIM, this has been the most fun I’ve ever had shooting anything. It’s so much fun to see the characters and the Master come to life.

FANG: When is FX going to air THE STRAIN?

DEL TORO: They’re going to watch the pilot in a couple of weeks, and then they’ll decide if they pick up the series. That is a decision that is way above my pay rate.

FANG: Is season one going to be devoted to the first book? Then season 2 the second book?

DEL TORO: Seasons two and three are the second book. Because the second and third books were sort of compressed and structurally altered to fit into the trilogy. We thought the second book is very abundant, and we can go into the past a little more and flesh it out. Hopefully at that point the audience will be curious enough. I think we’re going to get four or five seasons out of the three books and that’s it, then it stops.

FANG: Do you have a lot of freedom working in cable?

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“The Devil’s Backbone”

DEL TORO: Amazing. The day before I started shooting, I got my final call. John Landgraf, the head of FX network, said, “I want to let you know, we hired Guillermo del Toro, the guy who did THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE and PAN’S LABYRINTH, and we want you to be as crazy as you want, as free as you want and do whatever you feel you need.” I shot, and there was not a single note in the entire shoot about anything. They love it.

FANG: And the budget wasn’t constraining?

DEL TORO: The budget and the schedule are if you compare them to a big movie, yeah. If you look at my filmography, I shot DEVIL’S BACKBONE for $4 million, I shot CRONOS for around $2 million. I really wanted very much to prove to myself that after PACIFIC RIM, I could go back small and deliver something that I was proud of and is great, and I’m happy to report that I’m proud of it and it’s great.

FANG: Talk a little about your next film, CRIMSON PEAK. The storyline, when you hope to shoot it…

DEL TORO: It’s funny, if you remember the first place I announced CRIMSON PEAK was at the Fango convention in ’07 or ’06. Really, really a long time ago, and it is something I wrote right after PAN’S LABYRINTH. But I’ve had it for awhile in my head, and it’s the idea of making a Gothic romance in turn of the century. I’ve always been intrigued by the Victorian ghost story. I wanted to do something classic that was not in modern times. This is why I wrote it with Matthew Robbins. The cast is fantastic; there’s Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam. It is really a powerful cast.

FANG: How is it similar to your previous ghost movies, both the ones you directed and the others you produced?

DEL TORO: I really don’t think like that. I really don’t think like, “Oh, this is so cohesive.” It is, because it’s me. I know the ghosts we’re creating are unique. That I can tell you as a fan and a scholar of horror films. I’ve run through every horror movie ever made about the ghost genre. I am pretty secure in saying that you’ve never seen ghosts like this one.

FANG: Are we going to get any translucent ghosts?

DEL TORO: I’m not saying anything else.

FANG: You keep returning to ghost stories and so much of your childhood was immersed in that.

DEL TORO: Other than one UFO, the only extraordinary thing I’ve experienced in my life was ghosts. The first was the ghost of my uncle who sighed next to my ear, which I used in DEVIL’S BACKBONE. The second ghost that I saw was when I was scouting for THE HOBBIT. I was in a haunted hotel in Waitomo, and I heard what I thought was a murder. We were only eight people in the hotel. It was straight out of a horror novel. The hotel was closed because it was out of season, but they opened it to us. The manager couldn’t have been more disinterested when I asked, “Can I get a haunted room?” So I got the haunted room, and sure enough, I heard a murder in the middle of the night. Screams and sobs and no one else was in the hotel.

FANG: So I take it you’re a believer.

DEL TORO: I am a believer. I think there is a perfectly reasonable explanation in 50 years. Right now we don’t have one. But they exist, I have no doubt they exist. And I have no doubt they are objectively there. They’re a rarity, but they are a phenomenon of perception. I don’t think everybody sees ghosts. I think only if you’re tuned a certain way. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, that doesn’t mean you’re right. It’s just some people are color blind, and there’s a chance that most of us are color blind. There are few people who see in color and they see ghosts.

FANG: Do you believe in the afterlife as well?

DEL TORO: I have a hard time figuring it out. I don’t know if ghosts are just like a loop. I don’t know if I believe ghosts are intelligent. I believe in ghosts as an impression. I’m not sure they are thinking entities.

FANG: Getting back to CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, you don’t have anything from some of the films you produced like DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK and MAMA. Was that just because that material didn’t fit?

DEL TORO: No, I’m very careful not to pin those movies for me. Some producers claim the movie for themselves. Those movies have directors, they are Andrés Muschietti [MAMA], Antonio Bayona [THE ORPHANAGE]. I love my movies. I’m not the guy in the football field, I’m the coach. The coach can’t claim the ball.

FANG: So what’s next after CRIMSON PEAK?

DEL TORO: I’m still trying to raise the money for PINNOCHIO; it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know what’s next. I’m very fortunate that I have my next movie. That’s a blessing. That rarely happens, so I’m gonna stick to that.

FANG: So can you create more CABINET OF CURIOSITIES for us?

DEL TORO: If you guys like it, we will do another volume, because Bleak House has so many more rooms to go through. What I would love is to talk about each artist who is in Bleak House. I’ll talk about Edward Gorey, Moebius, Richard Corben… there’s over 500 pieces of original art in Bleak House.

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About the author
Tony Timpone
FANGORIA Editor Emeritus Tony Timpone helps manage the company’s VOD, DVD and digital divisions. For nearly 10 years he served as a Vice President of Acquisitions for FANGORIA’s three separate home video labels, and co-created FANGORIA’S BLOOD DRIVE short film DVD collection, hosted by Rob Zombie. For TV, Timpone was a Co-Producer of cable’s FUSE/FANGORIA CHAINSAW AWARDS and a Consulting Producer to the HORROR HALL OF FAME special. Since 1998, Montreal’s Fantasia film festival has engaged Tony as Co-Director of International Programming.
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