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March 2018

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Page 15 of 43 14 POST MARCH 2018 DIRECTOR'S CHAIR ince bursting onto the scene — and winning the Critic's Prize at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival for his first feature, Cronos, Mexican writer/ director/producer Guillermo del Toro has established himself as one of the most assured and imaginative talents in inter- national cinema. A devotee of monster movies and the gothic horror genre, he has moved back and forth easily be- tween independent, Spanish-language films and increasingly big-budget studio productions, with credits that include the acclaimed Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, Mimic, The Devil's Backbone, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and the Hellboy and Blade franchises. His latest film, The Shape of Water, which won Best Director at the BAFTAs, went into the Oscars as the de fac- to front-runner, with 13 nominations, including Best Director and Best Picture, which it won. It's a visually dazzling, emotionally daring, genre mash-up — a romantic, poignant, funny other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laborato- ry where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute cleaning woman, is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-work- er Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment with a gilled monster captured in South America that the Russians are desperate to obtain. The Fox Searchlight Pictures re- lease also features Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg, and a stellar team of collabo- rators behind the camera that includes DP Dan Laustsen, production designer Paul Denham Austerberry, film editor Sidney Wolinsky, VFX supervisor Dennis Berardi and composer Alexandre Desplat. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, the Oscar winner talks about making the film, his love of post and visual effects. What sort of film did you set out to make? "It was always going to be a fairytale, but one that allowed me to mix lots of genres and influences, like melodrama and Douglas Sirk, musicals and Stanley Donen, and the comedy of silent movies. Generically, it was a very fluid movie and a love letter to movies, and I always wanted it to have a very magical, oth- er-worldly feel like a fairytale." What themes did you want to explore? "Mostly the idea of empathy and love — love for 'the other,' and 'the other' is an illusion in many ways. So I wanted to create a beautiful story about love and hope and purity as an antidote to the cynicism and stresses of the world today. And then I wanted to juxtapose that pure love against the opposite impulses of na- tions, which in this is symbolized by the Cold War, and all the tension in our world between different races and religions." Why did you use a mute woman as your lead to examine the theme of love? "Because the great thing about love is that it is so incredibly powerful, it doesn't really need any words, and I thought it'd be interesting to have two leads who don't speak, but who fall in love and communicate in other ways. And when you take away all the usual words, I think it really heightens the love story between them." Which classic monster films influenced you? "A lot of films from my childhood, like Creature From the Black Lagoon, and a lot of sci-fi movies from the '60s, but I wanted to turn and twist all that on its head. So instead of the government agent played by Michael Shannon being the good guy and hero, it's the mon- ster who's really the hero of the story, not the villain. And all that's just one strand of a very complex fabric. So I didn't study any of those monster, sci-fi influences in preparation for the film. I studied Stanley Donen, Sirk, Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, as I wanted it to be more sen- sual and adult than just a fairytale." Why did you set it in the early '60s? "I needed a period that paralleled today and the '60s occupy a very large place in the American imagination as there was a lot going on in that time period, with Camelot, the Cold War, the Space Race, the Civil Rights movement. And there was both so much prosperity, but also so much division in terms of racism, gender inequality, the politics. So I felt it was a great backdrop for the love story, and that it also obliquely offered a way of address- ing some of the problems we face today." How tough was it designing the creature? "It took a lot of work to get it exactly right — two years of developing and designing it with a team of artists and sculptors using designs and clay models, and then one year to execute it. Frankly, it's the most complicated creature I've ever designed because it's not a mon- ster, it's a leading man." GUILLERMO DEL TORO — THE SHAPE OF WATER BY IAIN BLAIR S ON CREATING A VISUALLY DAZZLING, EMOTIONALLY DARING, GENRE MASH-UP Del Toro on-set of his Oscar-winning film. The director was influenced by Creature From The Black Lagoon.

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