When the lights came up after last night’s screening of Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s action ode to monsters and mechas, the director took the Film Independent at LACMA stage for a 45-minute conversation with curator Elvis Mitchell. Check out the video highlights of the discussion below, and eventually it will be available as an episode of Mitchell’s The Treatment, but in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite del Toro quotes about some inspirations for Pacific Rim, his past films and UFOs.
On his approach to the fantastic:
I come from Mexico, and I have had a couple of weird things happen to me. When you see something or experience something extraordinary, you can’t go back to normal … I have seen once a UFO, and my mind just went “Blahhhh” in a double take, like a Tex Avery double take. I saw it. I know it was not Venus on the horizon or swamp gas or any type of gas. It was a true object moving there, you know. I think that that’s the way I see the supernatural—as happening in mundane circumstances or to people who are unprepared.
On an early inspiration:
When I got this movie… When they said, “Yes, do it,” the first thing I thought of was a painting by Francisco de Goya called The Colossus. It’s a colossus moving past a town. It’s part of the Black Paintings, and the scale… the almost disregard for human scale. I knew, “That’s the fights. Those were going be the fights.”
On found footage and holiday snapshots:
Mirada, my company, created the found footage [seen early in the film in a montage of destruction], because the one thing I cannot create is original found footage. I start arranging things. “Ah, this should be a bit over here.” Everything becomes mannerly. All the sudden it’s super mannered. That’s why I don’t take photographs on vacations. My wife gets very angry. I say, “No, no…” [del Toro begins to pantomime arranging his family.] I can’t. I go, “It’s the wrong lens.” … I can’t. I’ve never taken a photo. I’m a terrible… I’m a terrible family man.
On taking responsibility as a director:
That’s something you face as a director all the time. The buck stops with me. I can never come crying… You know, Mimic, I say, “I allowed this to happen” or “I allowed that to happen.” I don’t say, “They did.” They never do. You can always say, “Screw you,” and walk. Nobody’s going to hold you hostage…With Mimic, what was great is I learned the one word in the English language that is exactly same word in Spanish—no—and I learned to use it. In Mexico, you make movies because you have friends. You ask favors. Everybody’s a partner. The shock on a big movie like Mimic is you have to fight. You have to fight for things. If it feels wrong, you say “Absolutely not.”
On celebrating technology:
I was born almost at the same time as Gigantor … the first great mecha in the history of anime. The thing that I love and I wanted to celebrate here—it’s a true celebration—is the Japanese relationship with technology has none of the ambivalence and the guilt of the West’s relationship with technology where we say, “ultimately technology is bad and, fear of Frankenstein, will turn against us.” The celebration in mecha is complete. They have a complete admiration for the robot figure, and they become these gigantic mythic figures.
On frequent collaborator Ron Perlman:
I loved Ron as a fan before he worked with me on Cronos. He’s one of my best friends in life. I admire him as an actor. I love him as a brother. And if he ever kills anyone, I will bring the shovel … [I] did not make Hellboy for eight years, until we could do it with him. I had big conversations. A huge producer said to me, “Love the screenplay. Love the project, but not Ron. He’s not Hellboy. That’s my only condition.” I said, “That’s not my movie. We’re not going to do it. Thank you very much.” And I walked away because he is that close to me.