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Tag Archive: Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters


Review by C.J. Bunce

Guillermo del Toro’s At Home With Monsters was an eye-opening look at the depths to which the renowned fantasy film director has gone to immerse himself in the creative process, revealing images of his own personal collection of the strange, creepy, and unique from scree-used artifacts to oversized recreations of the Universal Monsters that inspired him early on.  The book (reviewed here at borg.com) was a great entryway to prepare readers and audiences for his latest film, The Shape of Water, nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and reviewed earlier here this week.  The latest look into the mind of del Toro explores this movie from its inception to the final filming decisions.  It all can be found in Insight Editions’ new volume The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times, by Gina McIntyre.

In a year that saw a failed re-launch of the Universal Studios famed monster movies with the first installment The Mummy (reviewed here), it would be del Toro who brought forth a worthy retelling of sorts of that studio’s Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The idea for a story of an Amphibian Man and Beauty and the Beast story where the creature is united with a mute janitorial worker began in 2011 in a simple conversation.  As time went on del Toro and screenplay co-writer Vanessa Taylor built a story, and del Toro singled out actors for key roles.  First and foremost was Sally Hawkins as lead character Elisa, who oddly enough was writing her own story about a mermaid that didn’t know she was a mermaid.  del Toro and Hawkins began working together at that point.  As with his other films, del Toro creates biography sheets for his characters.  Included in McIntyre’s book are tipped-in pages of some of these biographies, allowing readers and writers to examine how much the actors were given about their roles as backstory.

Along with the genesis of the story, The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times examines the creation of the four suits worn by Doug Jones as the creature.  Hawkins, Jones, and co-stars Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Michael Shannon, all describe their takes on their roles, their work with del Toro, and their interaction with other performers.  McIntyre includes interviews with del Toro, the key cast and production crew, including insight rarely seen in behind the scenes movie books, like rationale for costume designs, provided here by costume designer Luis Sequiera.  del Toro not only significantly backed the production for years financially, he was involved in every key decision in the film.  He kept costs down by in part utilizing the sets for the television series The Strain.  

The book examines the unique color palette that audiences will take away as a hallmark of this film.  A highlight is the discussion of the black and white scene from the film, unthinkably shot in a single day.  Much of the film relied on old-school practical effects, including actual underwater filming with Doug Jones in costume, but del Toro also incorporated digital effects for the more dangerous scenes and clean-up work.  The multi-year process for designing and revising the creature suit from clay to prosthetics, foam, and rubber is well documented in the book.

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One of the most fascinating tidbits about fantasy/horror director Guillermo del Toro in the new hardcover book Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters is that del Toro grew up in a collecting home.  His father had won the lottery.  The details aren’t discussed, but after reading this book, which focuses on one of del Toro’s homes where he displays a collection of fantasy and horror memorabilia, any read would ask where would someone get the money to buy all these things.  The closest comparison would be Michael Jackson’s purchase of oddities like Joseph Merrick’s bones.  Jackson had billions, but del Toro, whose career has only taken off since the 1990s, has amassed a collection that doesn’t reflect that extreme level of purchasing yet.  But he’s on his way.

Guillermo del Toro is known for his visions of fantasy horror as seen in his Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic, Crimson Peak, and even the beginnings of The Hobbit trilogy. Many are unaware of his creepy home full of fantasy and horror relics that he calls Bleak House.  Think of the beginning of an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater or Friday the 13th TV series or that shop where an old man found a Mogwai for his son in Gremlins and you’ll have an idea of the oddities to be found.

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No, that’s not the actual Ray Harryhausen with del Toro (we hope), but you have to wonder if Vincent Price had something to do with getting this frozen fellow into del Toro’s collection.

Some of the purchases on display are unique, some rare, but most appear to be mass market items, books, toys, statues, action figures.  They cram the rooms of his house much like many people you know who have an obsession with collecting.  Sure, del Toro’s house may be creepier than most–custom mannequins of horror greats like H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Harryhausen and Edgar Allen Poe appear to be living in this lair–but Bleak House does not look like anyone actually lives there.  A retreat for storing research materials seems more likely.  Could anyone, even a fan of all these monsters, wake up everyday to a gigantic head of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster?

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athomewithdeltoro-cover

An unusual art exhibition premiered this month in Los Angeles at the L.A. County Museum of Art, and it is being expanded into a book available later this month.  Director Guillermo del Toro is known for his visions of fantasy horror as seen in his Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic, Crimson Peak, and even the beginnings of The Hobbit trilogy.  Many are unaware of his creepy home full of fantasy and horror relics that he calls Bleak House.  Think of the beginning of an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater or Friday the 13th TV series or that shop where an old man found a Mogwai for his son in Gremlins and you’ll have an idea of the oddities to be found.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is a companion to the exhibition of artworks purchased by del Toro and featured in his strange home.  The book includes photographs, pages from his journals, and interviews with the director and other art connoisseurs.  The book promises to provide an engrossing look into the mind of one of the truly unique storytellers of today.

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Below, after the break, is a preview of pages from At Home With Monsters.  It is available now for pre-order here from Amazon.com.

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