During production on his latest sci-fi love story, The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro nearly died. He was in the middle of shooting a scene involving Michael Shannon, which required the actor to park a car and exit. Only, Shannon had trouble controlling the car, and it subsequently rolled through the set, nearly crashing directly into the film’s director.
Del Toro told the story during one of THR’s annual Roundtables segments. Host Stephen Galloway interviews actors, directors, screenwriters, and the like in group conversations focused on their respective craft. In this year’s “Directors” portion, Galloway asked, “What was your worst day on Shape of Water?” Del Toro’s answer was surprisingly intense. Here is his complete response:
“I had a first day that I cannot think about. The second day was worse. In 65 days [of shooting], we had 64 really difficult days. There was a moment when Michael Shannon parks, stops, runs up the stairs. So Shannon parks the car, gets out — and the car stays on drive. It’s an old car. The car continues going. Michael runs to try to stop the car. The car drags Michael in the middle of the rain. It hits the first post. Shower of sparks. Goes for the second post and it’s coming straight for the video system. Everybody says, ‘Run!’ Now, I never run for anything in my life! And I go, ‘I am going to die.’ And the car stops at the second and final post, which is anchored to the ground. Everybody was horrified. And I say, ‘Now I can make my shot.”
As it turns out, this was del Toro’s first life-threatening experience on a film, but not necessarily his greatest struggle. Earlier in the interview, he addressed his “single bad experience” while shooting a film (and it surprisingly wasn’t the near-death experience). He explains that while filming 1997’s Mimic – which is an early del Toro picture, but still reflects quite a bit of the filmmaker’s future fantastical trademarks – he learned a harsh truth about Hollywood: “no” is a popular word. He said, “I learned that great word, which was ‘no,’ which is the same in every language, but I learned it.”
Mimic was del Toro’s first movie made in the US, following his Mexican horror film Cronos. Since those films, del Toro has earned mass appeal through his first two Hellboy movies, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim (which has a sequel hitting theaters in March 2018, though he will only be producing). The Shape of Water is his 10th feature length film.
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