With Crimson Peak, in theaters October 2015, Guillermo del Toro is making his highly anticipated return to the ghost story (his last being the absolutely excellent and freaky-as-hell The Devil’s Backbone in 2001). As one of the most creative, knowledgeable and passionate filmmakers in the genre, and backed with an insanely talented cast, del Toro is poised to deliver a first-rate creepfest bolstered by his trademark emotional heft and visual panache. Crimson Peak stars Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver, Doug Jones, and Javier Botet.
Following his Hall H Panel on Saturday (read Adam’s full recap right here) I had an opportunity to sit down for an interview with del Toro. He talked about whether or not we can hope to see his Hall H footage online any time soon, blending the Gothic romance and the ghost story, how horror is borne out of love, creating a film that looks like a painting, inventing multiple kinds of ghosts unlike any you’ve ever seen, and more. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO: I don’t know. I’m asking the same out of Legendary, they haven’t answered me yet. I would love for it to go online, but the one thing I agree with them in many ways is that Hall H means people camp, Hall H means people do the line for days and we all want to give them something special. My impulse is let’s go wide, but then my rationale is we’ve got to keep it special. We’ve got to keep Comic-Con a special moment.
What made you decide that the next thing you wanted to do was a very adult oriented R-rated horror film?
DEL TORO: I don’t decide. I wish I was that powerful or that smart, but the reality is that you have this cart of stories and you peddle them around like a vendor. You knock on every door and you say, “Would you like to buy these stories?” They look at your stories and they go, “Give me one of those.” It’s not like I planned it. I wish it was like that. The only time I was able to do that – there’s two times, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. I was able to say, “No, I’m doing this.” With Crimson Peak it was fortunate that both Legendary and Universal both loved the story and I was able to get supported by them. Now I’m doing it again, because I’m going to a little movie next. So I can do it, but I can do it only with a certain size of movie [laughs].
DEL TORO: It’s a super secret [laughs].
Oh, good. I was like – how could I not know that?
DEL TORO: [Laughs] It’s a little black and white project. No one knows.
With a haunted house film the house is often a character itself. That seems to be the approach you’ve taken in this film – I mean, you built the whole damn thing. Can you talk about the house in Crimson Peak?
DEL TORO: The house needed to be a full character, so we built it three stories high – fully, fully developed Victorian haunted mansion. But the thing is, the curious thing is, the movie is not a haunted house movie. At the end of the day it’s a Gothic romance, which means it’s a tragic love story of a woman falling in love with a dark, brooding hero that turns out not to be what he seems to be. And then they journey, literally and figurative, a journey of discovery through the horror that they find. That horror takes place in that mansion. There are ghosts, but the scariest thing in the movie is the humans.
How are you balancing those tones of horror, romance, and tragedy?
DEL TORO: Well in my opinion the only time you are vulnerable to horror, by rule, is through love. It is love that makes you vulnerable in a way that nothing does. So I find especially that all the romantic movies end at the marriage, and I think that the marriage is the beginning of the story. The other stuff is delusion or intoxication and then what happens is – the first thing you find in a bad romantic situation is when you wake up at some point and you see, “Oh my god, maybe this person is not the person I think it is.” That little hint is horror, pure horror and then that only, unfortunately, becomes more extreme with time until you come to the point where you can’t stand that person. If you fictionalize that in a horror movie that’s a bit of what you discover in Crimson Peak. But it’s more than that, I’m making it simple, but it’s a more complicated character. Tom Hiddleston makes his character adorable and terrible at the same time.
DEL TORO: No.
For example, You’ve said that you think horror tales are born out of fantasy tales – the level of thought you put into the genre is something I really appreciate.
DEL TORO: To me, sadly or not, this is the medium I chose to work as an artist and as a story teller and for me each of my movies I would die for or at least get a terrible disease for [laughs]. I only am willing to dedicate three years of my life to something that has humanity in it. You can get it or not, I don’t care, but I tried to put it in there.
Can you talk a little about your visual approach to this film? I heard you were going to for the sort of Technicolor look.
DEL TORO: Yes! We based the movie very much on one or two Victorian painters, including Turner in a way, but also Edward Gorey and Joseph Clement Coll, and many many Victorian illustrators trying to make the movie very painterly. There comes a point, you’ll see in the movie, there are moments where it looks like a painting. It looks like a living painting and it’s so gorgeous. You can only do it – people talk about cinematography and people will go, “Oh that was a great movie, great photography.” In reality, when you like an image in a movie, it is an image that is being sustained by four legs: production design, wardrobe, cinematography, and direction. These are the four legs of the table that sustain a great image and in Crimson Peak all those four legs are fantastic, so the movie is able to look gorgeous, but look gorgeous in a moving or deep way that makes it painterly.
I’m so excited to see what you do with the ghosts, because you used these incredible actors on set instead of a digital reproduction. I can’t wait to see the design. Can you talk about what you’re doing with these ghosts?
DEL TORO: I can tell you it’s unique. I can tell you that having been a super geek of horror and someone who truly know every ghost ever made, these are unlike any ghost you’ve ever seen. Any more than that is a spoiler.
Curses! Well, what made you decide to have them there on set with the actors?
DEL TORO: I wanted the physicality of the creature being there for the camera and the actors. Obviously as it goes on, you get familiar with them. By the middle of the day of shooting you see the ghosts drinking coffee and having to go to the bathroom. But even then, once you’re in the take it gets creepy again. Where as if it’s a digital effect you don’t get there.
And the guys you have playing them – actually the whole cast, you just can’t get any better.
DEL TORO: No, this cast is like the Team America [laughs]. It’s the Justice League of America cast. It’s Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Zatanna. It’s truly amazing. They are also great people. Each of them is different than the other, but I love them all. I’ve come to have the best shooting experience I’ve ever had in my life.
Are there a number of ghosts? Or is there more one main ghost?
DEL TORO: There are a number of ghosts and there are three types of ghosts, I haven’t told that to anybody, there are three types of ghosts. The main type of ghosts is what I’ll tell you you’ve never seen, you’ve never seen it before. There are two other types of ghosts that I’ve seen here or there, but it is part of telling the story that they need to be different from each other.
For more on Crimson Peak:
- Watch: Guillermo del Toro Leads Personal Tour of CRIMSON PEAK “Gothic Gallery” and Reveals First Logo at Comic-Con
- Over 35 Things to Know About CRIMSON PEAK From Our On-Set Interview with Guillermo del Toro
- Guillermo del Toro Talks CRIMSON PEAK, Building a Massive 3-Story House, Crafting a “Kinky and Violent” Gothic Romance, Creating Ghosts, and More on Set