Guillermo del Toro made his directorial debut nearly 20 years ago, with 1993′s Cronos, but the Mexico-born auteur has actually been involved in the film industry for much longer. His career began during his teenage years, when he worked a variety of odd job on film sets, and reached a zenith in 2007, with his fantastical, Oscar-winning masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth. Del Toro is also the man behind two remarkable thrillers in the Miramax Library – Mimic, which he directed, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which he wrote and produced.
More recently, del Toro has been featured in a forthcoming book called FilmCraft: Directing, by Mike Goodridge. Published by Focal Press, Goodridge’s book includes a series of interviews with 16 directors, including Clint Eastwood, Terry Gilliam, and Peter Weir, among others. The collection won’t be available on Amazon until later this month, but Movieline this week published an excerpt from del Toro’s interview, and it’s a fascinating read.
The excerpt focuses largely on del Toro’s early work, and on what he learned from the mistakes he made as a young director. He also discusses the inspiration he drew from artistic ancestors like Stanley Kubrick and J.R.R. Tolkien, and even alludes to some of his most vulnerable moments as a young director, when he was riddled with doubts and insecurities (“Everything was wrong, and I arrived home to my wife that night and cried”).
Later on in the interview, del Toro gave some insight into his approach to writing:
I think of the audience every second during writing; I think of them as me. I question how I would understand something, or what would make me feel a certain way. When I’m shooting a scene that moves the characters, I weep, I feel the emotion on set, so when I am writing it, if it doesn’t work, I don’t print it out until I have that feeling. Creating tension is a different skill to creating fear. For fear, you try to create atmosphere. You ensure the scene is alive visually before anything is added, then you craft the silence very carefully because silence often equals fear.
But no matter how thorough his preparation, del Toro says there are always unexpected surprises to every film production:
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans” and I think film is what happens when you are making other plans. You come onto the set and either the actor or the material doesn’t come out as you expect and the film comes out better for it. If you have either experience or inspiration, one of the two will get you through. One you accumulate through the years, the other you cherish.
Read the full excerpt over at Movieline.
FilmCraft: Directing will be available June 15th on Amazon.