It seems that a taxi driver is to thank for the manufacture of Guillermo del Torois a three-time Oscar winner Pan’s Labyrinth.
On Wednesday evening, del Toro joined the Academy Film Museum for a 15th anniversary celebration screening and Q&A on the film. The acclaimed Mexican writer-director revealed that before making the film, he was approached to work on big-budget superhero films for Marvel.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
“After Hellboy and Blade II were successful, I was offered all the superhero movies — they were starting to pick up,” del Toro recalled. “I thought about it because it was very tempting and I said, ‘Do I Pan’s Labyrinth or am I making a big movie?’”
Unsure whether or not to take the opportunity of the superhero movie, del Toro ended up forgetting his notebook full of ideas one day in a cab in London. When the taxi driver was able to return it to him, the director took it as a sign to carry out his passion project.
“I said, ‘I understand Lord, I’m going to do Pan’s Labyrinthbut give me back my notebook.
When the film was screened in Spanish at the Academy Museum’s new David Geffen Theater, the ensuing Q&A also included cinematographer Guillermo Navarro – who won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 2007 – and Doug Jones, who played The Faun and The Pale Man in the film. Both Navarro and Jones are frequent collaborators with del Toro, with Navarro having worked on Cronus, Hellboy and The Devil’s Backboneand Jones having appeared in Imitate, Hellboy, Crimson Peak and The shape of water.
Shot in del Toro’s preferred 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Pan’s Labyrinth came just two years after the director’s success with a demon-superhero film Hellboy.
“I like going from big movies to little movies,” del Toro said. “I like it because it keeps you honest and it scares you. Both things are very important. But anything that could go wrong Pan’s Labyrinth went wrong. And the crew also thought we were crazy. The Spanish crew thought I was a complete idiot up in the mountain shouting nonsense.
He continued: “The first day [Doug] appeared…they were like, ‘What is this American dressed as a faun doing in a film from the fascist period?’ »
Said Jones of the film, “Guillermo del Toro is the only person who could have pulled it off. I knew that since Hellboywhich was a big studio [production with] multi-layered makers, at that – it was his movie. To him and to him alone. So I knew we were in very good hands.
Navarro added, “Here in this world, you have creative control over what you do. You don’t need to be approved, discussed, questioned. We were really alone, so it’s really a product of us.
Following the film’s acclaim and critical success, del Toro said he never knew which of his films would resonate with audiences.
“I thought I was doing [Pan’s Labyrinth] for a very small audience, the same for The shape of water. I didn’t realize anyone wanted to see the fish go funky,” del Toro joked. “The movies I try to make never make sense. I’ve never pitched a movie, and someone said, ‘Oh, wow.’
Del Toro also pointed out that the budget for Pan’s Labyrinth was exactly the same for The shape of water – $19.3 million, largely due to the practical sets and effects used throughout the film, and keeping it under $20 million was important to the director. When the producers told del Toro that it would be impossible to make the film on such a limited budget, the director said, “I’m going to find someone who likes 19,” which he eventually did.
“We know the job and we know what it takes to do it,” Navarro added, regarding the budget.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
In contrast to the film’s dark conflict between the Falangist Captain Vidal and the Spanish Marquis battling the Spanish Franco regime, the story’s fairytale elements take place in the maze where the young protagonist Ofelia (played by Ivana Baquero) meets the Faun (played by Jones).
As for general dark fantasy themes, del Toro touched on the meaning behind the magical elements.
“Only those who know how to look will find magic in this world because there is none if you don’t know where to look,” he said. “I thought about the movies that made me survive this life as a kid because movies saved my life and my sanity a few times. People who love my movies, I have the luck that they connect to them in the same molecular way that I connected with the things I loved as a kid.
“It’s been 15 years,” del Toro thanked the audience. “Thank you for this celebration. It’s the best anniversary this film can have.
Having scored a best nod this year for his recently released alley of nightmaresdel Toro now has a total of six Oscar nominations under his belt, with two wins for Best Director and Best Picture for The shape of water in 2018.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
The best of The Hollywood Reporter