Study Guide

Pan's Labyrinth Director

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Guillermo del Toro

A Man of Many Movies

Guillermo del Toro has run the gamut when it comes to writing and directing movies. You might have heard of him from some of his Hollywood blockbusters like the Hellboy series, Blade II, or his most recent Pacific Rim: big movies with lots of action and plenty of special effects.

But then there are his smaller, Mexican/Spanish productions like Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, and his most critically acclaimed: Pan's Labyrinth.

Now, you might assume that del Toro just makes the large-scale movies for the moolah (because who wouldn't?) and makes his smaller, more intimate movies from the heart. And, while Hollywood's certainly more lucrative, del Toro often gives up some or all of his salary to complete these movies in the way he sees fit. Pan's Labyrinth included, he says that his blockbuster productions are just as personal to him as his other works.

After all, isn't Hellboy reallyjust a violent but poetic love story and Pacific Rim reallya…uh…robots?

In an interview del Toro says that, "you make one movie." Now, while his illustrious career might seem to contradict this, what Guillermo is talking about is an accumulation of one's life works. He may make many movies, but they're all just a different scene in the movie of his life.

And this makes a lot of sense when you look at what del Toro has done. His movies possess a kind of coherency, and we don't use "posses" lightly. He has always been drawn to the supernatural and, in particular, to monsters. Just go and watch any movie del Toro's made: they're all the most beautiful kind of nightmare food.

A Boy and His Dreams

So why this fascination with the darker side of imagination?

Well, del Toro had two freaky experiences when he was a wee lad. In one, a deceased uncle (in whose room Guillermo was sleeping), sighs out of his old mattress. In the other, he watches a faun pull itself out from behind the armoire in his room with such an overwhelming sense of reality that Guillermo can only rationalize it was a reoccurring lucid dream.

And in his creative pursuits, del Toro has used this relationship with monsters to fuel his work both visually and thematically:

I really think that the most creative, most fragile part of the child that lives within me is a child that was literally transformed by monsters. Be they on the screen or in myth or in my own imagination. (Source)

The Life of the Bull

One caveat of making monster movies is the need for special effects. So back in the day, before del Toro was a big name and could score the budget necessary for massive teams of animators to make giant robots, he started learning about practical special effects himself.

In fact, del Toro studied under well-known makeup artist Dick Smith and worked in makeup special effects for about ten years. Even with his access to larger budgets today, del Toro is a big fan of using as many practical special effects as is…practical. (You can check out some pics and videos in our "Best of the Web" section.)

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