It’s time to get your

The ex­tra­or­di­nary imag­i­na­tion of fan­tasy mae­stro Guillermo del Toro bursts back on to the big screen next week with the re­turn of his manic mon­ster-hero Hell­boy. But af­ter mon­sters, what makes him most pas­sion­ate, he tells Don­ald Clarke, is the free­dom to

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

NO OTHER film-maker has done as good a job of bring­ing the art­house and the grind­house to­gether as Guillermo del Toro. When I first met the great man, some four years ago, I sug­gested that he might be the fore­most di­rec­tor of hor­ror films in the world to­day.

At that stage del Toro had just fin­ished his daz­zling, spooky, hi­lar­i­ous adap­ta­tion of Mike Mig­nola’s comic-book Hell­boy. In the in­terim, he di­rected Pan’s Labyrinth, an un­clas­si­fi­able fan­tasy set in the af­ter­math of the Span­ish Civil war, and re­ceived some of the most ec­static re­views of the decade. That film picked up three tech­ni­cal Os­cars and, had it not been for a late surge by Flo­rian Henckel von Don­ners­marck’s The Lives of Oth­ers, it would have walked away with the gong for Best For­eign Lan­guage Film.

“I tell peo­ple about the Os­cars and they don’t be­lieve me when I say I was ab­so­lutely happy for that guy,” he says of von Don­ners­marck. “You know, I re­ally loved his film. Life gives you what you need, and maybe he needed it a bit more.”

I sup­pose he has a point. Born 43 years ago in Mex­ico, Guillermo del Toro first at­tracted at­ten­tion with his creep­ily beau­ti­ful vam­pire movie Cronos (1993). That film re­vealed a num­ber of the ten­den­cies he was to ex­er­cise fur­ther in sub­se­quent clas­sics such as The Devil’s Back­bone and Hell­boy: a fas­ci­na­tion with in­tri­cate, spi­dery crea­tures; a need to find hu­mour in catas­tro­phe; an in­cli­na­tion to­wards ex­plor­ing shadier cor­ners. By the time Pan’s Labyrinth left cine­mas, del Toro had of­fi­cially es­caped the hor­ror niche and be­come one of the world’s most uni­ver­sally re­spected direc­tors.

He could, one imag­ines, have di­rected any­thing he wanted. Other film-mak­ers might have un­earthed some big, fat “longcher­ished project” that they had hith­erto found im­pos­si­ble to fi­nance. Del Toro chose to make Hell­boy II. The bril­liant new film, which sends the para­nor­mal de­tec­tive to creepier parts of Brook­lyn and Co Antrim (re­ally), re­vis­its many of del Toro’s favourite themes, but it’s hard to es­cape the as­sump­tion that this is a less per­sonal project than Pan’s Labyrinth.

“Up to a point,” he says. “I am not an in­genue. I know that with the Hol­ly­wood films come long memos. Free­dom is not to­tal free­dom in Hol­ly­wood. I know I have less free­dom than I would when mak­ing Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Back­bone. I have no il­lu­sions about that. But what is im­por­tant is that I approach the film­mak­ing with the same at­ti­tude. I do it out of love.”

From an­other di­rec­tor, this could be in­ter­preted as so much flan­nel. But talk to del Toro for five min­utes and you will come to ap­pre­ci­ate his de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­alise unique vi­sions. A large man with a chuck­ling voice, he is per­haps the friendli­est film di­rec­tor I have ever met, but there is no mis­tak­ing the steel that lurks be­hind the flab.

“There are some com­pro­mises I have made in this film. It’s true. But they were com­pro­mises that came from fi­nan­cial prob­lems, and they were com­pro­mises I agreed to. That’s an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion.

“Look, the pro­ducer and I de­ferred some of our pay­ments on this film, so that we could

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