Who Is Guillermo del Toro?
Born on October 9, 1964, Guillermo del Toro was able to parlay his childhood love of the macabre into a highly successful career as a filmmaker, making his feature debut in 1993 with Cronos. He helmed the comic-book adaptations Blade II and Hellboy before directing Pan’s Labyrinth, an acclaimed, artfully distinguished film that was nominated for a Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Del Toro also directed the action blockbuster Pacific Rim and the haunted house/period piece Crimson Peak, before snagging his first Oscar win for Best Director with the sci-fi romance The Shape of Water.
Future filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was born on October 9, 1964 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Having a taste for the macabre at an early age, del Toro decorated his family home with decidedly spooky elements. He started creating shorts in high school and later attended the film school Centro de Investigación y Estudios Cinematográficos. In the mid-1980s, he created his own effects company, Necropia, geared towards the Mexican film market.
Haunting Early Films
Del Toro made his feature debut in 1993 with the Spanish/English film Cronos. An antiques shopkeeper, after discovering a gilded device, begins to undergo a startling form of vampiric transformation, with his granddaughter witnessing the change. The film, which co-starred Ron Perlman (an eventual regular collaborator with the director) won an array of honors, including eight Ariel Awards from the Mexican Academy of Film.
Del Toro followed up this work with Mimic, a 1997 Miramax production that starred Mira Sorvino and Josh Brolin in a tale of gargantuan bugs run amok in New York City. The project soured del Toro a bit on working in the confines of Hollywood, and for his next feature he turned toward Spanish history. The Devil’s Backbone (2001), co-produced by fellow filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, is a serious, stark tale focusing on a group of children struggling to survive at a haunted orphanage during the Spanish Civil War.
Comic Book Fare: 'Blade II' and 'Hellboy'
The world of horror continued to call to del Toro in his next directing venture, though the format was of the comic-book world and also involved a return to vampires. Del Toro was at the helm of Blade II, starring Wesley Snipes as the famed vampire hunter in a gory, stylized action caper that grossed more than $150 million worldwide. Next up came another comic-book adaptation—Hellboy, with Perlman cast as the brawny, demonic titular character in an outing that was both action caper and comedy vehicle. This dynamic was also seen with the 2008 sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Global Acclaim for 'Pan's Labyrinth'
Del Toro returned to Spain and the country’s post–civil war era for his 2006 feature length film, Pan’s Labyrinth, the story of a girl forced to live with a fascist stepfather retreats into a magical, frightening world where she's revealed to be a princess, with a blurring of what might be reality versus an imaginary escape from trauma. Having earned more than $80 million worldwide, Pan's Labyrinth also became one of the top-grossing foreign releases in the United States. The work was also a critical smash, ending up on many reviewers’ year-end lists and receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It received five other Oscar nods as well, winning for art direction, cinematography and makeup.
Common Motifs and 'Crimson Peak'
Del Toro’s films are known for the detailed attention paid to creatures of a variety of persuasions, from the creepy humanoid faun played by Doug Jones in Pan's Labyrinth to a haughty ectoplasmic team leader voiced by Seth MacFarlane in Hellboy II. While having a bit of an eye for robots and mechanical warfare in Hellboy II, del Toro brought the idea to full culmination in Pacific Rim (2013), starring Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam, a big budget outing that saw humongous mechanical warriors battling similarly gargantuan alien monsters.
In fall 2015, del Toro returned to the world of artful horror with Crimson Peak, featuring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston in a story about a house that has memory and induces terror.
Del Toro co-founded the visual effects company Mirada in 2010. He had also been initially chosen to direct the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, but after almost two years of preparation he announced in 2012 that he would be leaving the production, with Peter Jackson taking over.
Award-Winning 'The Shape of Water'
In 2017, del Toro turned in one of the signature works of his career with The Shape of Water. A sci-fi romance about a mute janitor who falls in love with a man-fish hybrid held in a government lab, The Shape of Water claimed the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and led the pack with seven nominations for the year's Golden Globes, producing a win for del Toro in the category of Best Director.
When the orchestra music began playing during his acceptance speech, del Toro pleaded for more time to celebrate the first Golden Globe Award of his career. "It's taken 25 years," he said. "Give me a minute. Give me a minute!"
There was more to come for the director, as The Shape of Water racked up a whopping 13 nominations ahead of the 2018 Academy Awards. During the March 4 telecast, the film claimed four Oscar wins, including two of the top prizes of the night, for Best Picture and Best Director.
Sounding a political note in his acceptance speech for Best Director, del Toro noted that he is an immigrant, and celebrated the power of cinema for enabling people of all races and backgrounds to present stories with universal appeal. "I think the greatest thing that our art does and our industry does is erase the lines in the sand." he said. "We should continue doing that, when the world tells us to make it deeper."
Personal and Other Projects
Guillermo del Toro married Lorenza Newton in 1986, with the couple going on to have two daughters. In 1998 the director faced a major crisis when his father was kidnapped and held captive for more than two months. Del Toro was able to pay the ransom and then moved his family to America.
In March 2018, organizers of the Guadalajara International Film Festival announced the creation of the Jenkins-Del Toro International Film Scholarship, a $60,000 annual award for a promising Mexican filmmaker to study abroad at a renowned film institute. "If we change a life, if we change a history, we change a generation," said the Oscar-winning director.
Around that time, del Toro revealed that his At Home With Monsters exhibit, which features drawings, paintings, sculptures and concept pieces from his movies, would soon make the rounds in museums across Guadalajara and Mexico City. The exhibit had previously enjoyed a run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In April, Fox Searchlight Pictures announced they reached an agreement with del Toro to finance, market and distribute all live-action features to be written, produced and/or directed by the filmmaker. As part of the deal, the studio said it would create a new division specifically dedicated to projects in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres.
"For the longest time, I’ve hoped to find an environment in which I can distribute, nurture, and produce new voices in smart, inventive genre films and channel my own," del Toro said. "In Fox Searchlight, I’ve found a real home for live-action production — a partnership based on hard work, understanding of each other and, above all, faith."
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