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A DVD Talk Chat with Guilermo del Toro

A DVD Talk Chat with Guilermo del Toro

by Jack Giroux

Guilermo del Toro's directorial debut, Cronos, had a very bad initial DVD release. While it did help reach a level of cult status for the acclaimed director's first feature film, the DVD had plenty of technical issues. With its re-release on Blu-ray, thanks to Criterion, it now looks more beautiful than ever. Both the transfer and audio are topnotch, and the special features are excellent as well. Any nerd will have their mind blown in amazement from the tour of del Toro's office. It's exactly what you'd expect del Toro's office to be full of.

I had the pleasure of interview del Toro not too long ago to discuss the impressive release. When we spoke I hadn't seen Cronos in quite some time, so the chat was less about Cronos and more about his body of work in general. We covered the themes of his work to his early days as a film critic. I had met del Toro briefly once before and knew he was the jolly type, so it was nice to finally have a chat with one of the most creative directors working today.

Cronos is now on DVD and Blu-ray.

DVD Talk: Congratulations on the Blu-ray release. I know the DVD had some problems, so it's nice to see it getting a full HD treatment.

del Toro: Yeah, I'm very happy to be able to get another chance to show that film properly.

DVD Talk: I heard the original title for Cronos was Vampire of the Grey Dawn, is that true? Why'd you change it?

del Toro: It was, in the sense that the name of the girl, Aurora, means dawn. There were once three titles. One was called 'Aurora Grey's Vampire.' Another one was called 'The Cronos Device'. We had to shorten the title of 'The Cronos Device', but we didn't have the money to pay for word 'device' to have it in the title. I think the best is now Cronos.

DVD Talk: I know you started writing the film far before its release. What changed from your initial draft to the final cut?

del Toro: Initially, it was about the girl and the grandmother bonding against the other oppressive vampire grandfather that came back to live in the addict and destroys the family. It was a very different screenplay. In the course of writing it my grandmother died, and I felt more ambivalence towards the grandfather figure and started to write the relationship more lovingly. That's why the film is dedicated to my grandmother. Ultimately, it has a lot of autobiography in it. The girl loves her grandfather, no matter what he looks like or does. That's what changed, really. It started very differently.

DVD Talk: That seems to be a theme of a lot of your work: loving someone no matter what they look like or do. What's your interest in that?

del Toro: To me, all the stories that I'm interested in are about fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, or grandfathers and granddaughters. It's family. Family is the source of a lot of horror, but also the source of a lot of our joy in life. Family is a very ambivalent force. You either love it or hate it.

DVD Talk: When you start writing your scripts, do you always have a clear sense of what you want? Or do your ideas constantly changed?

del Toro: It always changes. I rarely sit down and get exactly what I was thinking from the start. The screenplays always tell me what they want to become.

DVD Talk: Can you give an example of any drastic changes in the script stage from any of your films?

del Toro: Oh yeah. Pan's Labyrinth initially started off as being about the pregnant wife and her husband. It was just the pregnant wife, no girl. It was the mother that fell in love with the fawn at the center of the labyrinth. She sacrificed her newborn child at the end of the movie to join the fawn in the other world. It was completely different from what I ended up with (laughs).

DVD Talk: What made you want to switch it to a child's perspective?

del Toro: You know, I don't keep track on why things change. I just remember it feeling essentially like Alice in Wonderland. The more I wrote the mother, the more I realized an adult would not have the innocence to believe in that other world. I started thinking about a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman like Alice. In the middle of writing the screenplay, I decided to make some analogies to Devil's Backbone to try and make them brother and sister films.

DVD Talk: There also both parables. A lot of your films comment on classical storytelling in general, what's your interest in that?

del Toro: I certainly have that baggage, because I'm a big junkie type of fan. I'm very affected by the analysis of fairy tales. I'm very affected by the anthropology of storytelling. A lot of the writers and stories I'm a fan of circulate in my head while writing. I do try to make parables, because I think you can make a movie about something, while telling a story about something else. For me, Cronos is a vampire film, but it is really about the only internal force in the universe: love and how the only way to live forever is not caring about death.

DVD Talk: Cronos, like most of your work, follows underdogs.

del Toro: You know, I've never had a sympathy for heroes. Even when I was doing Blade II I told Wesley during the first interview that I don't understand Blade and I hope you take care of it, because Nomak was the hero for me.

DVD Talk: I heard you say years ago, in regards to Cronos, that you disagree with the choices that you as the 28-year-old filmmaker made. What would you have done differently now?

del Toro: Well, you know, with re-transferring the movie I should tell you I better shut up. I fell in love with it again. Seeing the Criterion transfer made me fall back in love with the film, again. I would say to the 46-year-old to shut the fuck up and let the kid do the movie. I think that seeing it in the past with different transfers I was obsessing about what I would have done differently or what I couldn't do it then.

DVD Talk: Would you change anything, though?

del Toro: I would love to go back and not screw-up with the actor that plays his wife. I didn't end up getting the performance I wanted, so I ended up cutting that whole backstory out of the movie. I wish and pray that I could go back and work with her in a better way to have that story in the film. The backstory of why the granddaughter was living with them and the love story between the old couple was really touching, and I feel it made me beyond unable to nail it.

DVD Talk: Now done with the Cronos release, when might we see the Director's Cut of Mimic?

del Toro: Well, it got sold along with Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and all the assets of Miramax. I did the Director's Cut and the Blu-ray transfer is done, and it's a much better movie. I love the new cut, but I have no control over it. I took out the jump scares.

DVD Talk: Is there anything else that is different?

del Toro: I added back a whole subplot with the Chinese migrant workers. I added some texture to the tunnels, and the old people that live in them. And I also took out all the cheap cares.

DVD Talk: Another theme that you explore in your work a lot is immortality, what's your interest in that theme?

del Toro: Both Pan's Labyrinth and Cronos say the same thing: the only way to reach immortality is ultimately not caring about dying. For me, the girl at the end of Pan's Labyrinth lives forever. The old man in Cronos dies the exact way he wants to die. He doesn't hold onto life greedily, like the old industrialist would have. It's a very beautiful fable about the only way to be immortal is to not care about death, that makes you literally immortal.

DVD Talk: My final question: Can you talk a bit about your early days as a film critic?

del Toro: Why yes, I was doing film criticism in radio, TV, and print. I wrote a book on Alfred Hitchcock that was over 500 pages long, which was published in Mexico and Spain. I was doing both filmmaking and criticism at the same time. I was doing short films and criticism. I always felt I was more of a filmmaker that did criticism than a critic that made films.



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