Guillermo del Toro is officially the busiest director in Hollywood today. A few years ago he was known merely to film buffs – those not averse to reading subtitles while watching their movies. In 2006 he came out with the Oscar-winning masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, and suddenly the sci-fi/fantasy-loving mainstream folk were paying attention to the del Toro who’s first name isn’t Benicio.
Those who check film credits as part of their movie-watching routine know that prior to Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo helmed the excellent and under-talked-about Hellboy (and, of course, its sequel, The Golden Army). He’s went from being known simply by the more avid fan, to getting the full attention of film fans everywhere, particularly when Peter Jackson handpicked him to helm the upcoming two-part adaptation of The Hobbit, arguably the most anticipated film project of any that’s upcoming.
On top of The Hobbit – which is going to be one time-consuming, exhaustive challenge to say the least (just think about the pressure he’s under to “get it right”) – he also has found the time to plan and start writing a trilogy of vampire novels, has a four-picture deal with Universal to make a Frankenstein movie, an adaptation the classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie, and an adaptation of the vampire novel Drood. After that, Universal hopes to pin him down for his “pet project” At the Mountains of Madness. To put it simply: He’s booked solid until at least 2017.
Most directors don’t even know what their next movie is, never mind what they’ll be juggling eight years down the line…
Even with the amount of stuff del Toro has on his plate, he still finds the time to do interviews to let us eager fans in on what’s he’s up to and how far he is along with the stuff he has upcoming. In an interview with Wired, del Toro talked about various different things including his movies up until this point, his upcoming mammoth-project The Hobbit and other future works, and the nature of future storytelling.
In talking about his vampire novels (planned as a trilogy), del Toro reveals it wasn’t originally intended to be in book form:
“I originally wrote a very long outline for a TV series I wanted to do called ‘The Strain.’ And then the network president at Fox said to me, ‘We do want something with vampires-but could you make it a comedy?’ Obviously, I responded, ‘No thank you’ and ‘Can I have my outline back?’”
Del Toro talked about how some people view him because of his love for genre cinema:
“People think because you love genre [cinema] you don’t know anything else. It’s condescending. If the emotion is provoked and the goals are achieved, what does it matter? Is Thomas Pynchon a more worthy read than Stephen King? It depends on the afternoon.”
“With Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, which is a less well-known film, I was trying the same thing, in a way. And with my first feature, the vampire fable Cronos, too. I tried to take genre premises and explore them obliquely, where the fantastic is either tangential or illuminates reality in a different way.”
In talking about his busy work schedule for the next 10 years (basically), he made mention how we experience entertainment is going to change:
“In the next 10 years, we’re going to see all the forms of entertainment-film, television, video, games, and print-melding into a single-platform “story engine.” The Model T of this new platform is the PS3. The moment you connect creative output with a public story engine, a narrative can continue over a period of months or years. It’s going to rewrite the rules of fiction.”
“Think about the way oral tradition became written word-how what we know about Achilles was written many, many years after it made its way around the world with different names and different types of heroes. That can happen when you allow content to keep propagating itself through different kinds of platforms and engines-when you permit it to be retold with a promiscuous form of mythology. You see it when people create their own avatars in games and transfigure their game worlds.”
With the types of movies that del Toro makes, in particular Blade II and the two Hellboy movies, you’d think that he’d be very much in favor of the world of video games. And yet that’s not entirely the case:
“Unfortunately, I’ve found in my video game experience that the big companies are just as conservative as the studios. I was disappointed with the first Hellboy game. I’m very impressed with the sandbox of Grand Theft Auto. You can get lost in that world. But we’re using it just to shoot people and run over old ladies. We could be doing so much more…. In the next 10 years, there will be an earthshaking Citizen Kane of games… I’ll be trying to make it. But I won’t be trying until after The Hobbit.”
To borrow a question from the interviewer: Is this another Barrack Obama-type case where del Toro is trying to do everything at once? I mean, I know he’s passionate about making movies, and he certainly has the expertise and skill to make them all quality stuff, but the sheer amount of projects he has lined up is bound to take its toll on anybody.
By the third of fourth project in, will he be so burnt out that he’ll be changing his tune of working pretty much non-stop for 10 years?
Despite this, I still have faith in the man to pull off all he has committed himself to. Like I said, he certainly has the talent as a filmmaker to pull it all off, we’ve seen that with the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth (which, if you haven’t seen already, do so ASAP – it really is that good), Hellboy (not so much with the sequel, although it was still a fun watch) and The Devil’s Backbone.
Not only does he have the task of adapting The Hobbit – the prequel to the mega-success that was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he’s making two movies out of it. Most likely they will be shot simultaneously (as all of the Lord of the Rings movies were), but it’s still an extra bit of weight on his shoulders.
That’s on top of the pressure of not disappointing people with what he ultimately makes of The Hobbit book. Much like the stories which it precedes, it’s extremely popular, and people will be scrutinizing every second of the two-part Hobbit’s run-time.
I find what del Toro is saying about entertainment and storytelling interesting. He is sounding more ambitious than pretty much any other director out there, not only talking about his own future stories but the very nature of storytelling and entertainment in general within the next decade. I’m not sure about his comment regarding the PS3, where he basically says that it is the be-all-and-end-all of systems to bring us the ultimate narrative experience, he still seems awfully sure in all of what he’s saying.
How he finds the energy to give answers that are as well thought out, as well as thinking about his sky-high workload, I’ll never know…
What do you make of what del Toro has said in this interview? Are you looking forward to what he has in store for us, particularly the two-part Hobbit movie?
Part 1 and Part 2 of The Hobbit are due out in December 2010 and December 2011, respectively.