Guillermo del Toro is known for moving between smaller, weirder, creepier movies (like The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth) and bigger blockbuster-type films (like Hellboy or Pacific Rim). His upcoming movie, Crimson Peak, is sort of a mix of the two styles. While the tone is very reminiscent of his old school horror movies, the actors are big – among them, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain – and the production values are through the roof.
We had the opportunity to interview del Toro recently and talk about his work on Crimson Peak, which in many ways feels like a throwback to old-fashioned gothic romance. Along the way, we talked about the status of Pacific Rim 2, whether or not he’d be interested in returning to Justice League Dark now that PC2 is delayed, his favorite films of 2015, and more.
Screen Rant: Crimson Peak was gorgeous. It almost looked like Technicolor at times, and more generally, it felt like a Hammer Horror version of Rebecca meets Notorious.
Guillermo del Toro: Yeah, yeah. Yes.
SR: What movies were you inspired by when you were making it?
GDT: Actually, an old movie with Vincent Price called ‘Dragonwyck,’ there’s a quote from it in ‘Crimson Peak.’ ‘The Innocents’ by Jack Clayton. ‘Great Expectations’ by David Lean. ‘Rebecca,’ for sure. ‘Jane Eyre,’ the Robert Stevenson version with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. You know, some of the classic – ‘The Spiral Staircase’ with Dorothy McGuire. All of those classic Hollywood…lavish productions, because what I wanted to do was bring this sort of Technicolor sense – almost like a throwback to Hollywood big productions – and make it gorgeous, but also make it creepier than scary, and a little more violent, a little more sexy than normal.
SR: Well, it looked great. A lot of people decry the use of CGI in modern horror, and while actual people were on set playing the ghosts of Crimson Peak, they were very much augmented digitally, too, right?
SR: I’m curious what your take is on that. How do you go about making computer effects legitimately scary?
GDT: Well, the ghosts are physical in ‘Crimson Peak.’ They are actors in makeup, with head-to-toe bodies and prosthetics and all that. And then we add the floating elements and stuff like that, and the translucency, because I haven’t met a translucent actor yet. And we put a skeleton inside and all that. Other than that, they are physical, they are there. And I think it’s important to – as proven by the fact that we built a 3-and-a-half story house, and it’s not a green screen act of digital magic – I believe in the physical. And I believe that the physical effect, the physical set, whenever you can, is ten times better than the digital effect.
SR: I agree. I know that you dropped out of Justice League Dark/Dark Universe because it conflicted with Pacific Rim 2. Now that that sequel has been delayed a bit, might you return to the DC Universe?
GDT: I feel like I’m going to do a little weird movie. I feel like going back to something smaller, weirder, and then, you know, if ‘Pac Rim 2’ happens, that’s fantastic. We’re going to turn in the final script and final budget in three weeks, so it’s not by any means canceled. We need to present the studio with our gameplan, budget, and a script that match, and they’ll decide.
SR: Obviously, you’re a big movie buff. That being the case, what are your favorite movies of 2015 so far?
GDT: Whew. [Pause] I love ‘The Lobster,’ the Greek film. I absolutely am crazy for it. I love a French movie called ‘The Measure of a Man.’ ‘Dheepan.’ I saw all of these at Cannes. But, you know, on a more escapist note, I was so happy with ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.’ You know? And I love ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ I thought it was full of humor. So, you know, there’s a great variety. I can go from the really obscure to the really popular.
Crimson Peak hits theaters October 16th, 2015.