Oscar Directors: Del Toro, Benicio–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

Guillermo del Toro August 26, 2020

Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance:

Social Class:

Nationality: Mexican

Education:

Training:

First Film: Cronos, 1993; age 29

First Oscar Nomination: Shape of Water, 2017; age 53

Other Nominations:

Other Awards: Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006; aged, 42

Genre (specialties): horror

Collaborators: Ron Perelman; Doug Jones

Last Film:

Contract:

Career Output:

Career Span: 1993-

Marriage:

Politics:

Retirement: NA

Death: NA

 

Guillermo del Toro Gómez (born October 9, 1964) is a Mexican filmmaker, author, actor, and former special effects makeup artist. He is best known for the Academy Award-winning fantasy films Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Shape of Water (2017), winning the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture for the latter.

Del Toro has shifted between personal, lower-budget Spanish language films, such as Cronos (1993) and The Devil’s Backbone (2001), and Hollywood tentpoles, including Mimic (1997), Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004) and its sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Pacific Rim (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015). As a producer and/or writer, he worked on The Orphanage (2007), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010), The Hobbit film series (2012–14), Mama (2013), The Book of Life (2014), Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018), and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019).

With Chuck Hogan, he co-authored The Strain trilogy of novels (2009–2011), later adapted into a comic-book series (2011–15) and a live-action television series (2014–17). With DreamWorks Animation, he created the Netflix animated series Trollhunters (2016–18), 3Below (2018–19), and Wizards (2020), the three installments of the Tales of Arcadia trilogy, based on the 2015 novel he co-wrote with Daniel Kraus. Also with DreamWorks, he executive produced Puss in Boots (2011), Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), Rise of the Guardians (2012), and Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016).

Del Toro’s work has been characterized by a strong connection to fairy tales and horror, with an effort to infuse visual or poetic beauty in the grotesque.[4] He has had a lifelong fascination with monsters, which he considers symbols of great power.[5] He is also known for his use of insectile and religious imagery, the themes of Catholicism and celebrating imperfection, underworld and clockwork motifs, practical special effects, dominant amber lighting and his frequent collaborations with actors Ron Perlman and Doug Jones. He is good friends with fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and they are collectively known as “The Three Amigos of Cinema.”

Del Toro was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, the son of Guadalupe Gómez and Federico del Toro Torres, an automotive entrepreneur.[9] He was raised in a strict Catholic household.[10] Del Toro studied at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Cinematográficos, at the University of Guadalajara.

When del Toro was about eight years old, he began experimenting with his father’s Super 8 camera, making short films with Planet of the Apes toys and other objects. One short focused on a “serial killer potato” with ambitions of world domination; it murdered del Toro’s mother and brothers before stepping outside and being crushed by a car.[12] Del Toro made about 10 short films before his first feature, including one titled Matilde, but only the last two, Doña Lupe and Geometria, have been made available.[13] He wrote four episodes and directed five episodes of the cult series La Hora Marcada, along with other Mexican filmmakers such as Emmanuel Lubezki and Alfonso Cuarón.

Del Toro studied special effects and make-up with special-effects artist Dick Smith.[15] He spent 10 years as a special-effects make-up designer and formed his own company, Necropia. He also co-founded the Guadalajara International Film Festival. Later in his directing career, he formed his own production company, the Tequila Gang.[16]

In 1997, at the age of 33, Guillermo was given a $30 million budget from Miramax Films to shoot another film, Mimic. He was ultimately unhappy with the way Miramax had treated him during production, which led to his friend James Cameron almost coming to blows with Miramax co-founder and owner Harvey Weinstein during the 70th Academy Awards.

Del Toro has directed a wide variety of films, from comic book adaptations (Blade II, Hellboy) to historical fantasy and horror films, two of which are set in Spain in the context of the Spanish Civil War under the authoritarian rule of Francisco Franco. These two films, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, are among his most critically acclaimed works. They share similar settings, protagonists and themes with the 1973 Spanish film The Spirit of the Beehive, widely considered to be the finest Spanish film of the 1970s.[18]

I cannot pontificate about it, but by the time I’m done, I will have done one movie, and it’s all the movies I want. People say, you know, “I like your Spanish movies more than I like your English-language movies because they are not as personal”, and I go “Fuck, you’re wrong!” Hellboy is as personal to me as Pan’s Labyrinth. They’re tonally different, and yes, of course you can like one more than the other – the other one may seem banal or whatever it is that you don’t like. But it really is part of the same movie. You make one movie—Guillermo del Toro, Twitch Film, January 15, 2013

Del Toro views the horror genre as inherently political, explaining, “Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and antiestablishment.”[19]

He is close friends with two other prominent and critically praised Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu.[20] The three often influence each other’s directorial decisions, and have been interviewed together by Charlie Rose. Cuarón was one of the producers of Pan’s Labyrinth, while Iñárritu assisted in editing the film. The three filmmakers, referred to as the “Three Amigos” founded the production company Cha Cha Cha Films, whose first release was 2008’s Rudo y Cursi.[21][22]

In April 2008, del Toro was hired by Peter Jackson to direct the live-action film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. On May 30, 2010, del Toro left the project due to extended delays brought on by MGM’s financial troubles. Although he did not direct the films, he is credited as co-writer in An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies.

On December 1, 2008, del Toro expressed interest in a stop-motion remake to Roald Dahl’s novel The Witches, collaborating with Alfonso Cuarón.[25] On June 19, 2018 it was announced that Del Toro and Cuarón would instead be attached as Executive Producers on the remake with Robert Zemeckis helming the project as Director and Screenwriter.

Ivana Baquero and Guillermo del Toro receive a standing ovation after the North American premiere of Pan’s Labyrinth at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival
On June 2, 2009, del Toro’s first novel, The Strain, was released. It is the first part of an apocalyptic vampire trilogy co-authored by del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The second volume, The Fall, was released on September 21, 2010. The final installment, The Night Eternal, followed in October 2011. Del Toro cites writings of Antoine Augustin Calmet, Montague Summers and Bernhardt J. Hurwood among his favourites in the non-literary form about vampires.[27]

On December 9, 2010, del Toro launched Mirada Studios with his long-time cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, director Mathew Cullen and executive producer Javier Jimenez. Mirada was formed in Los Angeles, California to be a collaborative space where they and other filmmakers can work with Mirada’s artists to create and produce projects that span digital production and content for film, television, advertising, interactive and other media. Mirada launched as a sister company to production company Motion Theory.[28]

Del Toro directed Pacific Rim, a science fiction film based on a screenplay by del Toro and Travis Beacham. In the film, giant monsters rise from the Pacific Ocean and attack major cities, leading humans to retaliate with gigantic mecha suits called Jaegers. Del Toro commented, “This is my most un-modest film, this has everything. The scale is enormous and I’m just a big kid having fun.”[29] The film was released on July 12, 2013 and grossed $411 million at the box office.

Del Toro directed “Night Zero”, the pilot episode of The Strain, a vampire horror television series based on the novel trilogy of the same name by del Toro and Chuck Hogan. FX has commissioned the pilot episode, which del Toro scripted with Hogan and was filmed in Toronto in September 2013.[30][31] FX ordered a thirteen-episode first season for the series on November 19, 2013, and series premiered on July 13, 2014.[32]

After The Strain’s pilot episode, del Toro directed Crimson Peak, a gothic horror film he co-wrote with Matthew Robbins and Lucinda Cox. Del Toro has described the film as “a very set-oriented, classical but at the same time modern take on the ghost story”, citing The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining as influences. Del Toro also stated, “I think people are getting used to horror subjects done as found footage or B-value budgets. I wanted this to feel like a throwback.” Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, and Charlie Hunnam starred in the film.[33][34] Production began February 2014 in Toronto, with an April 2015 release date initially planned. The studio later pushed the date back to October 2015, to coincide with the Halloween season.[35]

Guillermo del Toro in Annecy in 2016
He was selected to be on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Del Toro directed the Cold War drama film The Shape of Water, starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Shannon.[38]

Filming began on August 15, 2016 in Toronto,[39][40][41] and wrapped twelve weeks later.[42]

On August 31, 2017, the film premiered in the main competition section of the 74th Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded the Golden Lion for best film, making Del Toro the first Mexican director to win the award.[43][44] The film became a critical and commercial success and would go on to win multiple accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, with del Toro winning the Academy Award for Best Director.

Del Toro collaborated with Japanese video game designer Hideo Kojima to produce P.T., a video game intended to be a “playable trailer” for the ninth Silent Hill game, which was cancelled.[45] The demo was also removed from the PlayStation Network.

At the D23 Expo in 2009, his Double Dare You production company and Disney announced a production deal for a line of darker animated films. The label was announced with one original animated project, Trollhunters.[46][47] However, del Toro moved his deal to DreamWorks in late 2010.[48] From 2016 to 2018, Trollhunters was released to great acclaim on Netflix and “is tracking to be its most-watched kids original ever”.[49]

In 2017, Del Toro had an exhibition of work at the Minneapolis Institute of Art titled Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, featuring his collection of paintings, drawings, maquettes, artifacts, and concept film art.[50] The exhibition ran from March 5, 2017, to May 28, 2017.

In 2019, del Toro appeared in Hideo Kojima’s video game Death Stranding, providing his likeness for the character Deadman.

In 2008, del Toro announced Pinocchio, a dark stop-motion film based on the Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio, co-directed by Adam Parrish King, with The Jim Henson Company as production company, and music by Nick Cave.[51] The project had been in development for over a decade. The pre-production was begun by the studio ShadowMachine. In 2017, del Toro announced that Patrick McHale is co-writing the script of the film.[52] In the same year, del Toro revealed at the 74th Venice International Film Festival that the film will be reimagined during the rise of Benito Mussolini, and that he would need $35 million to make it.[53] On November 2017, it was reported that del Toro had cancelled the project because no studios were willing to finance it.[54] In October 2018, it was announced that the film had been revived, with Netflix backing the project. Netflix had previously collaborated with del Toro on Trollhunters. Many of the same details of the project remain the same, but with Mark Gustafson now co-directing rather than Adam Parrish King.

In December 2017, Searchlight Pictures announced that del Toro would direct a new adaptation of the 1946 novel Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham, the screenplay of which he co-wrote with Kim Morgan.[56] In 2019, it was reported that Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and Rooney Mara had closed deals to star in the film, which went into production in January 2020.

He was married to Lorenza Newton, cousin of Mexican singer Guadalupe Pineda. They have two children. He started dating Lorenza when both were studying at the Instituto de Ciencias in Guadalajara. Del Toro and Newton separated in early 2017, and divorced in September of the same year. He maintains residences in Toronto and Los Angeles, and returns to Guadalajara every six weeks to visit his family.[59][60]

He also owns two houses devoted exclusively to his collection of books, poster artwork and other belongings pertaining to his work. He explains, “As a kid, I dreamed of having a house with secret passages and a room where it rained 24 hours a day. The point of being over 40 is to fulfill the desires you’ve been harboring since you were 7.”[19]

Politics
In a 2007 interview, del Toro described his political position as “a little too liberal”. He pointed out that the villains in most of his films, such as the industrialist in Cronos, the Nazis in Hellboy, and the Francoists in Pan’s Labyrinth, are united by the common attribute of authoritarianism. “I hate structure. I’m completely anti-structural in terms of believing in institutions. I hate them. I hate any institutionalised social, religious, or economic holding.”[61]

Religion
Del Toro was raised Roman Catholic. In a 2009 interview with Charlie Rose, he described his upbringing as excessively “morbid,” saying, “I mercifully lapsed as a Catholic … but as Buñuel used to say, ‘I’m an atheist, thank God.'” Though insisting that he is spiritually “not with Buñuel” and that “once a Catholic, always a Catholic, in a way.” He concluded, “I believe in Man. I believe in mankind, as the worst and the best that has happened to this world.” He has also responded to the observation that he views his art as his religion by saying, “It is. To me, art and storytelling serve primal, spiritual functions in my daily life. Whether I’m telling a bedtime story to my kids or trying to mount a movie or write a short story or a novel, I take it very seriously.”

Nevertheless, he became a “raging atheist” after seeing a pile of human fetuses while volunteering at a Mexican hospital. He has claimed to be horrified by the way the Catholic Church complied with Francoist Spain, down to having a character in his film quote what actual priests would say to Republican faction members in concentration camps. Upon discovering the religious beliefs of C.S. Lewis, Del Toro has stated that he no longer feels comfortable enjoying his work, despite doing so beforehand. He describes Lewis as “too Catholic” for him, despite the fact that Lewis was never a Catholic.

Del Toro isn’t entirely disparaging of Catholicism, and his background continues to influence his work. While discussing The Shape of Water, Del Toro discussed the Catholic influence on the film, stating, “A very Catholic notion is the humble force, or the force of humility, that gets revealed as a god-like figure toward the end. It’s also used in fairy tales. In fairy tales, in fact, there is an entire strand of tales that would be encompassed by the title ‘The Magical Fish.’ And [it’s] not exactly a secret that a fish is a Christian symbol.” In the same interview, he still maintained that he does not believe in an afterlife, stating “I don’t think there is life beyond death, I don’t. But I do believe that we get this clarity in the last minute of our life. The titles we achieved, the honors we managed, they all vanish. You are left alone with you and your deeds and the things you didn’t do. And that moment of clarity gives you either peace or the most tremendous fear, because you finally have no cover, and you finally realize exactly who you are.”

In 2010, del Toro revealed that he was a fan of video games, describing them as “the comic books of our time” and “a medium that gains no respect among the intelligentsia”. He has stated that he considers Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to be masterpieces.

He has cited Gadget Invention, Travel, & Adventure, Cosmology of Kyoto, Asteroids and Galaga as his favorite games.

Del Toro’s favorite film monsters are Frankenstein’s monster, the Alien, Gill-man, Godzilla, and the Thing. Frankenstein in particular has a special meaning for him, in both film and literature, as he claims he has a “Frankenstein fetish to a degree that is unhealthy”, and that it’s “the most important book of my life, so you know if I get to it, whenever I get to it, it will be the right way”.

He has Brazil, Nosferatu, Freaks and Bram Stoker’s Dracula listed among his favorite films.

Del Toro is also highly interested in Victorian culture. He said: “I have a room of my library at home called ‘The Dickens room’. It has every work by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and many other Victorian novelists, plus hundreds of works about Victorian London and its customs, etiquette, architecture. I’m a Jack the Ripper aficionado, too. My museum-slash-home has a huge amount of Ripperology in it”.

Around 1997, del Toro’s father, Federico del Toro Torres, was kidnapped in Guadalajara. Del Toro’s family had to pay twice the amount originally asked for as a ransom;  after learning of the kidnapping, fellow filmmaker James Cameron, a friend of Del Toro since they met during the production of 1993’s Cronos, withdrew over $1 million in cash from his bank account and gave it to Del Toro to help pay the ransom. After the ransom was paid, Federico was released, having spent 72 days kidnapped; the culprits were never apprehended, and the money of both Cameron and Del Toro’s family was never recovered. The event prompted del Toro, his parents, and his siblings to move abroad. In a 2008 interview with Time magazine, he said: “Every day, every week, something happens that reminds me that I am in involuntary exile [from my country).”

Recurring collaborators

Screenwriter
Matthew Robbins (Mimic, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Crimson Peak, Pinocchio)
Producers Bertha Navarro (Cronos, Under a Spell, The Devil’s Backbone, I Murder Seriously, Chronicles, Pan’s Labyrinth, Insignificant Things, Rage)
Alfonso Cuarón (Chronicles, Pan’s Labyrinth)
Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Mike Richardson (Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army)
Jon Jashni and Thomas Tull (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak)
J. Miles Dale (The Strain, The Shape of Water, Nightmare Alley)
Cinematographers
Guillermo Navarro (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pacific Rim)
Dan Laustsen (Mimic, Crimson Peak, The Shape of Water, Nightmare Alley)
Gabriel Beristain (Blade II, The Strain)
Composers
Javier Navarrete (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth)
Marco Beltrami (Mimic, Blade II, Hellboy, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark)
Fernando Velázquez (The Orphanage, Julia’s Eyes, Mama, Crimson Peak)
Ramin Djawadi (Pacific Rim, The Strain)
Alexandre Desplat (Trollhunters, The Shape of Water, Pinocchio)
Editors Bernat Vilaplana (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Crimson Peak)
Peter Amundsen (Blade II, Hellboy, Pacific Rim (with John Gilroy))
Sidney Wolinsky (The Strain, The Shape of Water)

Actors

Since del Toro’s first feature film Cronos, he has collaborated with Ron Perlman on 8 films and one TV series.
Federico Luppi (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth)
Ron Perlman (Cronos, Blade II, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pacific Rim, Book of Life, Trollhunters, Pinocchio, Nightmare Alley)
Norman Reedus (Mimic, Blade II, PT / Silent Hills, Death Stranding)
Doug Jones (Mimic, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, The Strain, Crimson Peak, The Shape of Water)
Fernando Tielve (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth)
Íñigo Garcés (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth)
Luke Goss (Blade II, Hellboy II: The Golden Army)
Karel Roden (Blade II, Hellboy)
Santiago Segura (Blade II, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pacific Rim)
Ladislav Beran (Blade II, Hellboy)
John Hurt (Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, The Strain)
Belén Rueda (The Orphanage, Julia’s Eyes)
Diego Luna (Rudo y Cursi, Book of Life, Trollhunters, 3 Below)
Jessica Chastain (Mama, Crimson Peak)
Javier Botet (Mama, The Strain, Crimson Peak)
Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak)
Burn Gorman (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, Pinocchio)
Robert Maillet (Pacific Rim, The Strain)
Leslie Hope (The Strain, Crimson Peak)
Jonathan Hyde (The Strain, Crimson Peak, Trollhunters)
David Bradley (The Strain, Trollhunters, Pinocchio)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak, Trollhunters)
Jim Beaver (Crimson Peak, Nightmare Alley)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water, Nightmare Alley)
Cate Blanchett (Pinocchio, Nightmare Alley)
Filmography

1993 Cronos October Films
1997 Mimic Miramax
2001 The Devil’s Backbone Warner Bros. Sony Pictures Classics
2002 Blade II New Line Cinema
2004 Hellboy Sony Pictures Releasing
2006 Pan’s Labyrinth Warner Bros.
2008 Hellboy II: The Golden Army Universal Pictures
2013 Pacific Rim Warner Bros.
2015 Crimson Peak Universal Pictures
2017 The Shape of Water Fox Searchlight Pictures
2021 Pinocchio Netflix
TBA Nightmare Alley Searchlight Pictures

Television

2014–2017 The Strain 20th Television
2016–2018 Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia Netflix
NBCUniversal
2018–2019 3Below: Tales of Arcadia
2020 Wizards: Tales of Arcadia
Bibliography
Year Title
2009 The Strain
2010 The Fall
2011 The Night Eternal
2015 Trollhunters
2018 The Shape of Water
2019 Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun
2020 The Hollow Ones
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