Del Toro's work is characterised by a strong connection to fairy tales and horror, with an effort to infuse visual or poetic beauty. He has a lifelong fascination with monsters, which he considers symbols of great power. Del Toro is 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.
Del Toro promoting his first feature film, Cronos, which was released in 1993
Del Toro was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. He was raised in a strict Catholic household. Del Toro studied at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Cinematográficos, in 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. 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. He also wrote four and directed five episodes of the cult seriesLa Hora Marcada, along with other Mexican filmmakers such as Emmanuel Lubezki and Alfonso Cuarón.
In 1997, at the age of 33, Guillermo was given a $30 million budget from Miramax Films to shoot another film, Mimic. During this time, his father, automotive entrepreneur Federico del Toro, was kidnapped in Guadalajara. Although Federico was eventually released safely, due to intense economic pressure from his captors, del Toro's family had to pay twice the amount originally asked. The event prompted del Toro, his parents, and his siblings to move abroad. In an interview with Time magazine, he said this about the kidnapping of his father: "Every day, every week, something happens that reminds me that I am in involuntary exile [from my country]."
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.
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."
He is close friends with two other prominent and critically praised Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu. 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.
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.
Guillermo del Toro
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.
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." 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. FX ordered a thirteen-episode first season for the series on November 19, 2013, and announced that the series will premiere some time in July 2014.
Del Toro is scheduled to direct three films for Universal: Frankenstein; a new adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five; and Drood, a film based on a Dan Simmons novel published in February 2009.Drood was expected to be his first project after the two films set in Middle-earth. These projects would have filled up his schedule until 2017. Part of the Universal deal entails continuing research and development for the creatures in At the Mountains of Madness. In June 2009, Del Toro said he would only direct Frankenstein. Del Toro is also in the early stages of development of Saturn and the End of Days.
Del Toro said his Frankenstein would be a faithful "Miltonian tragedy", citing Frank Darabont's "near perfect" script, which evolved into Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein. Del Toro said of his vision, "What I'm trying to do is take the myth and do something with it, but combining elements of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein without making it just a classical myth of the monster. The best moments in my mind of Frankenstein, of the novel, are yet to be filmed [...] The only guy that has ever nailed for me the emptiness, not the tragic, not the Miltonian dimension of the monster, but the emptiness is Christopher Lee in the Hammer films, where he really looks like something obscenely alive. Boris Karloff has the tragedy element nailed down but there are so many versions, including that great screenplay by Frank Darabont that was ultimately not really filmed." He has also cited Bernie Wrightson's illustrations as inspiration, and said the film will not focus on the monster's creation, but be an adventure film featuring the character. Del Toro said he would like Wrightson to design his version of the creature. The film will also focus on the religious aspects of Shelley's tale. In June 2009, del Toro stated that production on Frankenstein was not likely to begin for at least four years. Despite this, he has already cast frequent collaborator Doug Jones in the role of Frankenstein's monster. In an interview with Sci Fi Wire, Jones stated that he learned of the news the same day as everybody else; that "Guillermo did say to the press that he’s already cast me as his monster, but we’ve yet to talk about it. But in his mind, if that’s what he’s decided, then it's done ... It would be a dream come true." The film will be a period piece.
In June 2010, news came that del Toro would be writing and producing a brand new take on the story of Van Helsing. There is no word yet on if he will direct or not.
At Comic-Con 2010, del Toro made the surprise announcement that he would co-write, produce, and likely direct a 3D Haunted Mansion film for Disney. Del Toro says the film will stray away from the comedic nature of the 2003 film and will revolve around the ride's Hatbox Ghost.
On July 28, 2010, it was announced that he would direct At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft for Universal Pictures, with James Cameron as producer. The movie was originally set up as a project at DreamWorks in 2004. Just a month earlier, del Toro said that the Lovecraft adaptation probably wouldn't happen at all; "It doesn't look like I can do it. It's very difficult for the studios to take the step of doing a period-set, R-rated, tentpole movie with a tough ending and no love story. Lovecraft has a readership as big as any best-seller, but it's tough to quantify because his works are in the public domain." Not long after, he was approached by Cameron who asked him if he still wanted to do the movie. When del Toro confirmed he did, Cameron said “Let’s do it.” Both of them put forward the idea for Universal, which then greenlit it. Earlier the same year, del Toro also asked S. T. Joshi if he wanted to be a consultant if and when the movie got into motion.
Del Toro is also attached to produce the film adaptation of David Moody's novel Hater.
Del Toro has expressed interest in video games, and hopes to create a "Citizen Kane of games." In an MTV News interview in late July 2010, he clarified his ambitions, stating that: "One of the things we're announcing in the next few weeks is a big deal with a big company. We're going to do games that are going to be technically and narratively very interesting. It's not a development deal. We're going to do it. We're doing them. And we're going to announce it soon enough." At the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards, del Toro announced that he was working on a video game titled Insane, which was planned for release in 2013. On August 6, 2012, it was announced that the project was cancelled, although in November 2012 del Toro said that the game was still in development, with a developer and publisher that are currently unknown.
On September 21, 2010, del Toro announced that he wanted to direct new adaptations of the Stephen King novels It and Pet Sematary, but stated that he is very busy and unlikely to be able to make the films any time soon.
With Daniel Kraus, del Toro has written the upcoming book Trollhunters.
On January 15, 2013 del Toro confirmed that a film based around supernatural characters from DC Comics was being written. While Warner Brothers is still considering green lighting the film, del Toro stated that the working title is Dark Universe and will include characters such as John Constantine, Swamp Thing, The Spectre, and others. In November 2014, del Toro confirmed that the script was complete and handed it in to Warner Bros. to be reviewed. In December 2014, Toro revealed that the film would be a part of the DC Extended Universe.
On April 24, 2013, it was announced that del Toro is currently collaborating with HBO to create a live-action pilot based on the Naoki Urasawa manga series Monster. Toro will also produce the thriller Midnight Delivery for Universal; Brian Kirk will direct the film. In July 2013 Kevin Costner was in talks to star in the film.
In 2014, del Toro announced a Pacific Rim sequel and an animated series for 2017.
On August 12, 2014, it was revealed that del Toro was set to collaborate with acclaimed game director Hideo Kojima on the PlayStation 4 video game Silent Hills. However, in April 2015, del Toro announced that he would no longer be collaborating with Kojima, as the project was canceled. Three months later, del Toro announced via Twitter that the two were still working on a project together, though it is not Silent Hills. In an interview with Shacknews, Del Toro expressed that he would never again get involved in video games after his past experiences, which he quotes;
“I have proven to be the albatross of video games. I joined THQ, and THQ goes broke. I join Kojima, and Kojima leaves Konami, because Metal Gear. I have decided, in order not to destroy anyone else’s life, I have decided I will never again get involved in video games. Otherwise, I’ll join someone and his house will explode, or something".
He is married to Lorenza Newton, cousin of Mexican singer Guadalupe Pineda. He started dating Lorenza when both were studying at the Guadalajara School of Sciences. He currently lives in Agoura Hills, California with his wife and two daughters Mariana and Marisa. In addition to the home in which he lives with his family, he owns a separate house exclusively to house his books, poster artwork and other belongings pertaining to his work, explaining, "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."
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."
In 2009, in an interview with Charlie Rose, del Toro described his Roman Catholic upbringing as excessively "morbid," saying, "I mercifully lapsed as a Catholic, I say, 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 followed by saying, "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."
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 the only games he considers masterpieces are Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.
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."
In an interview with Robert K. Elder for his book The Best Film You've Never Seen, del Toro explains his careful methodology: “I’m as thorough and as well-prepared as I can be in my filmmaking, and that came from the discipline of having to work as a make-up effects artist many, many, many times in my life.”