Saturday, June 6, 2009

Guillermo del Toro Talks Hobbits, Monsters & Vampires

Guillermo del Toro was interviewed by BBC News Night recently while promoting his new book 'The Strain'. The BBC have put up a transcript of of the brilliant interview which you can read below:

Frankenstein, Jekyll, vampires - you're steeped in horror at the moment, will it spill over into The Hobbit?

The intensity of the scenes of the Hobbit will have the intensity they had in the book when I was a kid reading them.

The spiders of Mirkwood are a pretty harrowing experience and facing the great goblin in the caves is quite a thrilling moment. The Battle of the Five Armies, the first encounter with Gollum - there are scary moments in the book.

But they are already there. We are not inventing or trying to do horror for horror's sake we are trying to imbue those moments of intensity in the book into the movie.

Are you going to do anything different with Gollum to heighten that?

From a design standpoint it will be the same creature just a few years earlier, but I think that there is never a scene quite like riddles in the dark in the trilogy.

As an introduction to Gollum and a flashpoint in the origin of that character, it is so powerful and so primal that it would be different in that way. We are presenting a side of the character that is very strong and very beautiful and iconic.

What's been the biggest challenge of working on The Hobbit so far?

Believing that it's real! I am so happy doing this movie that I truly dread that it will be a dream. It's fantastic.

I am 44, and it has taken me 44 years to really start living like a child. I go to work every day with the joy and enthusiasm of a kid, playing with his friends in a fantastic sandbox.

And next you get to put your own stamp on two other favourites, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Frankenstein. How will you do that?

They've never been told quite the way I am planning to tell them. I have a very strong and interesting take on Frankenstein. It's my favourite creature ever, both in film and literature.

But I think there is still one story to be told, at least from my point of view. And that's using the monster of Frankenstein as a very Miltonian figure, a man abandoned by his creator in a world he doesn't understand.

For Jekyll and Hyde I have a very interesting take. It's quite perverse.

There are two key things in the story I'm attracted to. One I will not reveal because it's a good surprise. But the second one is the fact that Jekyll becomes addicted in a joyful and liberating way to becoming Mr. Hyde.

We always see addiction from the puritanical point of view. We always talk about the horrors of addiction. But people are addicted to substances and experiences for a reason. There is a powerful thing that fills something missing in their lives. Jekyll becomes addicted to Hyde.

Both Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein I would do as period pieces. I don't want to modernise them or try to set them in the present day.

You have tackled vampires before in Blade II, why choose to return to them for your novels?

Both Chuck Hogan and I wanted to take Eastern European oral folklore about vampirism but give it a very CSI influenced, happening now, pandemic emergency feeling. Because that is what Bram Stoker did with Dracula in the 1890s. That book was a sort of brisk, procedural book that was steeped in Eastern European lore.

Little by little, in the trilogy, we're going to reinvent anatomy, biology, the spiritual origins of vampires and the mythology.

I've been studiously reading both vampire fact and fiction since I was a kid. I love John Polidori's The Vampyre, a penny dreadful called Varney the Vampyre, I love Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and Salem's Lot by Stephen King. I'm even more influenced by studies in Vampirism as fact in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Vampires as fact? Do you think they exist in some form then?

No, but I believe that creatures and places can exist if they exist in the collective imagination. Although we'll never find a vampire corpse or a real alternate species of human or sub-human, they do exist by virtue of the fact that we have all willed them into reality. The same as dragons and a few other creatures.

What draws you to all these dark creatures in your work?

Actually, normally I write and direct movies that show the monster as a creature more human than the humans.

But in the case of The Strain, the vampires nest in places of great tragedy [the site of the Twin Towers, Treblinka] and they ultimately represent our inhuman side. An inhumanity that is beyond our scope.

Also listen to an interview by WNYC with Guillermo del Toro: