INTERVIEW - Page 1
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Feo Amante's Under the Microscope:
Before I watched Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados my friend Mark Dellelo warned me, "It's so horrifying you'll almost want to laugh, but the laughter will die in your throat." I'd give the same admonition to anyone seeing Guillermo del Toro's effective new film, El Espinanzo del Diablo, or The Devil's Backbone. Like Los Olvidados, it's about orphans caught in the midst of chaos and terror, not sure who to trust or where to turn. And like the end of Buñuel's film, the final scenes of Espinanzo leave you silent - caught somewhere between a laugh and a scream.
While his movies are, for the most part, deadly serious, I did catch a glimpse of the jovial del Toro's essence when he noticed our Sony interview room’s glass display of movie props. While I gawked at Daniel Larusso’s All Valley Under 18 Karate Championship Trophy, Guillermo flipped at the sight of amulets and broadswords from Coppola's DRACULA. He's every movie geek's inspiration-the fan who turned his love into art.
It's abundantly clear he's a horror movie buff and comic book fan at heart. His home in Austin is filled with Ray Harryhausen figures, original art by Edward Gorey, Moebius, and Mike Mignola. After learning that I was pitching to Feo Amante's horror Web site, he quickly identified the site's proprietor. "That site is fucking amazing. It's the guy with the bald head, right?"Nicholas Braccia: How much time do you spend surfing and what sites do you go to?
Guillermo del Toro: No matter what, I surf two hours every day. Mostly I'm looking for stuff not in the regular movie news - the weirder the better. I never surf outside movies and comics, though. If you do, you get all kinds of crazy mail. I have all my sites bookmarked: Ain-It-Cool-News, Dark Horizons, The Comics Continuum, and The Comic's Journal...
NB: And you're friends with Harry Knowles who runs Ain't it Cool, right?
del Toro: Yes, we're neighbors now. I met him through e-mail. He didn't like MIMIC and I agreed with the points he made and I liked the crazy-ass energy of his site. It's great because when you find someone like him ... it's like with you guys: You love movies, but you're not going to get rich off them. Before the Internet crash, it looked for a while like everyone was going to be an e-millionaire, but then the bottom fell out.
Now, everyone involved is doing it out of love. So it's basically the biggest fucking geek-net in the world. And I connect with some guys on the Internet who I hang with at Comic Book conventions. But sometimes I'm very shy about doing it. It's sometimes hard for a creator to approach people.
I was with Francis Ford Coppola the other day and he tells me that he visits chat rooms quite often and eventually there's a point where he just can't help it and says, "I'm Francis Ford Coppola" and everyone is like "fuck you" in disbelief.
NB: Do you value fan feedback on the Internet as a tool in the moviemaking process?
del Toro: I think it's good. But you have to take it with a huge fucking massive paperweight size grain of salt. Sometimes I read talkback and message boards on sites and when Kurosawa died, someone posted "What the fuck do we care? He was not American." And I thought, OK, that's enough for me today. But then there was that great joke in The Onion, "Man Sees Relic and Mimic and Can't Tell Them Apart."
At least you know that everybody in the industry cruises the Internet. You would not believe the important people who drop by Dark Horizon and Ain't it Cool. The top, top people read what a geek has to say. A lot of the time I know it's 11-year old guys posturing with blasé hard-boiled personas. But it's really good to hear. I'd rather check out that than a fluff piece for a magazine. It's a more honest reaction. But you hope that, if you like their site, they'll like your work, but sometimes, they don't and that's ok. That's the way it should be. The first reviews of Devil's Backbone were on the Net.
There's no questioning del Toro's passion for horror. Before directing Cronos, he worked extensively in special effects honing his craft with Dick Smith, the famed make-up master and contributing to episodes of Hora Marcada, a Mexican series similar to The Twilight Zone. He's quick to champion George Romero and Mario Bava and counts the former's Martin and Brian De Palma's rock opera Phantom of the Paradise eclipsing Rocky Horror among the films he holds most dear. Like De Palma, Romero, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon, del Toro employs the conventions of earlier horror movies to unveil the dark side of the human psyche.
NB: Watching Frederico Luppi in CRONOS, I couldn't help but think of Karloff in Bava's BLACK SABBATH as the Wurdalak. Was that your intention?
del Toro: Absolutely. When I saw Black Sabbath I thought that he had a really good idea, but I wondered...what if they had welcomed him?
NB: And your movies seem to reference each other, too. As I watched Carlos in THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE peel an egg, the tan shell and pasty flesh reminded me of Luppi peeling off his skin in Cronos.
del Toro: And the idea that I like about the egg is that it cracks like the head of the dead kid, Santi. My fascination is with stuff that lay beneath other stuff. Like in Cronos, the insect that lies inside the device that is inside of an archangel. Or the way that The Devil's Backbone has a war within a war within a war.
This interview copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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