Caliburn24 here with the Hero Complex screening of Devil’s Backbone (El espinazo del Diablo) and Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) at the Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood on May 11. The night begun with the screening of Devil’s Backbone which had some unusual sub-titles, “The Ghost that Sights.” Next, a new trailer for Pacific Rim showed the first kaiju (giant monster) attacks were at San Francisco, Manilia, and Cabo. There is also a scene explaining the two pilots for the Jaegers (giant robots) are synched up. They show the Jaegers dropped into the sea and they start walking. Then, Hero Complex editor Gina McIntyre brought the night’s guest, Guillermo del Toro. He has proven perfectly capable of discussing his films to fans, revealing personal details, and making the audience laugh through his colorful language.
McIntrye asked Guillermo del Toro about the Pacific Rim clip. He replied, “Do you remember the Douglas Trumbull movie? The one with the guy who has all of the orgasms that put them all in his head. (he is informed by the audience that the title is 1983’s Brainstorm). If I had edited in all of the money shots from the movie, it would have a 70 minute orgasm. It really has a lot of good stuff, beautiful, and crazy. I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been.” She also asked del Toro about Devil’s Backbone being a personal film for him. “It was the first movie I wrote before Cronos (released in 1993). The first version of it was done before Cronos. It was very different, it was in the Mexican Revolution, the story had similar points, but it was very different. I gave up on it, originally because when I wrote the screenplay, my screenplay teacher, by then there was no computers, the maximum you could do was word processors that gave you eight pages at time. You went there are eight pages! I had done the first draft, my teacher said the margins are wrong and tossed it in the waste basket. I had no copies. He said you will write it again, take your carbon copy and start over. I wrote something else and I wrote Cronos. I’ve been trying to write Cronos for a long time.
It’s a very personal movie. I say Devil’s Backbone is my first film because Cronos was difficult to make in experience, lack of money, this and that. And when I did it I felt it was 60% or 50% of what I wanted it to be. Then, Mimic (1997) was like being in prison and taking out the soap in the shower. A very harrowing experience. I came out of that really thinking I didn’t know what to make about making movies after Mimic. I didn’t feel there could be joy again and when I did Devil’s Backbone all that joy came back and all the freedom and artistic liberty came back. It’s my dearest film. Del Toro was then asked by McIntyre about working on the screenplay: “It was curious because I met (Pedro) Almodovar when I was touring with Cronos. He met me and he did something that I’ve been trying to pass on. He met me and he said, `Are you Guillermo del Toro?’ I said yes. I turned and it was Pedro Aldomavar (influential Spanish director of the Academy Award winning All About My Mother (1999), Volver (2006), and other films). I was very shocked when he said I love Cronos and I would like to produce your next movie like that. I couldn’t believe it, but it saved my life basically after Mimic. I said when I find something appropriate I would go to you. I went to him during the kidnapping of my dad which was right after Mimic. So it was brutual, Mimic and then that. Pedro came during the kidnapping, I told him what I wanted to do, I pitched him Devil’s Backbone the way I wanted to do it, and we went on and did it. It was because I found a screenplay from which we took the bomb and the Professor Caesares character (played by Federico Luppi), and Jacinto the caretaker (played by Eduardo Noriega), and the rest was refurbishing, recreating, creating new from old stuff. I acquired the screenplay and wrote the new Devil’s Backbone with two Spanish writers and I.”
Guillermo del Toro was then asked by McIntrye about working in Spain on Devil’s Backbone after Mimic. “In fact, what happened was Blade 2 was ready to go and I knew I didn’t want to go. I said well the best case scenario is that I do Blade 2 and have a blast. Worst case scenario is Mimic 2.0. So I said I’m not going to go through that. So I went to New Line and said that I’m going to do a little movie in Spain. They said no, no, no, we need the movie for release so and so date. So how much would it cost to buy that movie out. I said I don’t want to do it before [Devil’s Backbone]. I was always very stubborn and I said if you really want me for Blade you’ll wait for me and if you don’t want me for Blade then it was not mine. What they did they said we’ll do it, but you will need to post Devil’s Backbone very fast. We were cutting the negative Devil’s Backbone twelve weeks after shooting which is super fast. It was a mistake because I could not travel with the movie to promote it. It’s the least known of my movies even though it’s my most dear one. It opened at Toronto’s film festival September 9th and I was on a plane September 10th full of happiness and all that, oh my movie!, looking at my belly button. And then Septermber 11th came and it just transformed the world. Including the fact that you saw how silly it was when things like that happened. The movie came out a few months later and of course at that time there was no demand for war movies with children dying.”
The questions were opened up to the audience and del Toro was posed a question about setting the film in Spain. He notes the Spanish Civil War which took place from 1936 to 1939 fought between the Republicans and the Nationalists led by General Franco. This was the setting of Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. “On Devil’s Backbone the story when I bought the screenplay with the bomb and Jacinto, the writers were Spanish and they had set it in Eastern Europe. They had it somewhere in Eastern Europe and I hate those movies. I hate those movies that happen somewhere because that they happened nowhere. Hitchcock used to say if you want to be universal, you have to be specific. Vertigo? San Franscisco. All of the Eurocrap that is produced with actors that were in a tv series in the 80’s all that happens `Somewhere in America.’ Which is really a European city with a Mustang. When we went to do Blade 2 the mandate from the studio was to go to Prague and make it look like Pittsburg. I said that’s the most stupid thing that you can do. That is Prague set it in Prague. The last scene of the first one was in Russia, he’s looking for Whistler.
Lastly, del Toro returned to the question about the Spanish setting in Devil’s Backbone: “The first thing that I said was I want to do it in Spain because the Spanish culture that came to Mexico after the civil war who were seeking exile, they shaped the arts in my country. They were great dramaturges, they did theater, they did set design, wardrobe design, directors, actors, some of the best actors in Mexican cinema came from Spain. One of my mentors was an exile guy. He came to Mexico when he was eight years old. He used to tell me about the civil war and I realized how little we knew about the civil war in my generation. Generalismo Franco had become a punchline for Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live. I was just feeling that anxiety. I thought I wanted a war movie where we don’t show the war that much, where the war happens inside the house, that was Devil’s Backbone. That’s when Pedro and the other two co-writers helped me a lot with the Spanish from Spain, because obviously my Mexicanisms would appear. Pedro is like this (snaps fingers) with dialogue. I was saying `How do I say something about her leg having the gold?’ and he says, `It feels heavier than ever.’ He’s a genius.” Guillermo del Toro was open to answering questions about his personal life and films. The next part will deal with his upcoming projects.