NEW YORK — Terms like “visionary” and “imaginative” are thrown around for a lot of directors nowadays, but Guillermo del Toro has earned those labels like no one else. In films like “Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the self-professed big kid has brought to the screen creeps and creatures you’d usually only find in your nightmares.
On a break from finishing up “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” del Toro stopped by MTV headquarters to discuss the new horror flick he produced, “The Orphanage,” which follows a woman haunted by her past, as she searches for her missing son and the secrets that lie in the orphanage where she lived as a child. Del Toro also told us why he’d like to see monsters on the loose in our world, how he was scarred as a kid, and how much “monster ass” Ron Perlman is going to be kicking this summer.
MTV: You’re presenting and producing “The Orphanage.” … Tell me why this film earns the presentation “from Guillermo del Toro.”
Guillermo del Toro: Producing is like dating, and presenting is like marriage. … It was the first time I wanted to do it. I have produced other films … but I felt thematically the movie was so close to things I’m interested in. … It is really good. I assure you! … If you’re into torture porn with trash metal in the soundtrack, you may not dig it. But if you’re into a more classic form of ghost story, one that creeps in with a lot of atmosphere and a couple of really good jolts, [this] is the movie you want to see.
MTV: The film … skirts this line between — all the way up till the end — are we seeing something supernatural here, or is it not? … Your stuff usually [goes in the fantastic direction].
Del Toro: I openly like to embrace the fantastic. Actually, I try to give the fantastic a very mundane feeling. I would love monsters to exist. … I would love to see Godzilla on my way to work, destroying a city a mile or two away. I would love that.
MTV: Why do you think so much great horror … revolves around the child in jeopardy?
Del Toro: You’re never as open to wonder and horror as when you’re a child. When you’re a child, you can really be enthralled and reach an absolutely ecstatic stage of joy with any wonder in the world. And by the same token, you can reach an incredibly deep paroxysm, like a panic of horror, deeper than any adult. It takes a lot for an adult to regress to those intense emotional stages. And in the movies, obviously, the best way to present a fable or a myth is through the eyes of somebody that can experience it fully.
MTV: When you think back to your own childhood, what films left a [psychological] scar?
Del Toro: Many. When I was growing up … one of the most horrifying moments was with a TV series called “Night Gallery.” … I was about 7. I watching an episode called “The Doll,” and when the doll shows up, it’s this destroyed porcelain doll with huge teeth. And … like a hose, I lost control of my [bladder], and I peed all over, and I was screaming. So, when people say, “I peed in my pants,” I peed my pants — literally. My father was like, “This kid has a problem.”
MTV: Can movies today still scare the hell out of you?
Del Toro: Yeah, rarely but they do. We got together in preproduction, and we had one meeting to put the screws on the jolts, and we talked about the jumps in the movie. This is really perverse, because as a director I don’t like shooting jump moments, but as a producer, I can vicariously come out of the closet and make people jump. There’s nothing better than being in a full theater and see the entire theater levitate about a meter above the ground when the scare comes — and the giggle and the murmurs come. When you grow up being a kid in control of nothing and all of a sudden 500 or 2,000 people all react as you thought they would, it’s a completely perverse way of going about life.
MTV: You’ve wrapped filming [“Hellboy II”] by now. So where are we?
Del Toro: I’m very happy with the movie, and it’s an exponential growth from the first movie. I think it’s [looser]. It has more fun with the characters, and it has more fun with the world. … The ratio of monster-to-monster action has grown. We have seven monsters in the first movie. We have about 30 in this one. Hopefully, the thing you want to see is the characters interacting, and Ron Perlman kicking a lot of monster ass. So that’s what we endeavored to provide.
MTV: That’s all you need in entertainment, right?
Del Toro: Of course. That and a beer.
MTV: What’s this I hear about a troll market [in the film]?
Del Toro: There is a troll market. I like the idea of saying that the fantasy creatures are an endangered species, so there are these coral reefs … where these creatures dwell, and there are troll markets that are under bridges. It’s a sanctuary for these creatures.
MTV: Is it sort of like the cantina in “Star Wars”?
Del Toro: It’s a more sprawling setup. … We were actually very consciously trying to avoid showcasing every monster. We don’t want to do the two-shot of the two guys with the rubber masks. … We treat them as extras. You have them as background. It’s like you’re shooting on a real location. We went to the length of creating 15 or 20 creatures … that are going to be there for two seconds, and they’re fully animatronic, and they’re really sophisticated.
MTV: There’s also talk that … you’re already thinking “Hellboy III”?
Del Toro: I’m thinking about it … but physically and mentally I’m not sure I want to think about it right now. It was a very grueling shoot. It was six-day weeks for over 130 days. … Right now we all want to rest. I think Ron Perlman has the skin of a 95-year-old billionaire now. It’s all wrinkled and full of scars.
MTV: So there’s not like an “Empire Strikes Back”-style cliffhanger that leads to the third film?
Del Toro: No. The idea is each film should resolve. There are threads that are thrown out where they say, say, “We’ll meet again” … and things like that, but the movie completely resolves. It’s not like somebody drives away with Selma Blair in the trunk of a car. car. [He laughs.]
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