Fans are gonna have to wait a little bit longer for Guillermo del Toro’s next next project. While the filmmaker’s highly anticipated fable The Shape of Water hits theaters in December, he had intended to start prep work on the big budget Fantastic Voyage for 20th Century Fox and Lightstorm this fall. However, Deadline reports that prep work for Voyage—a remake of the 1965 film about a team of scientists who get miniaturized and inserted into the body of a colleague to save his life—is now being put on pause until next spring. Why? Buzz on The Shape of Water is incredibly strong, and right now it looks like del Toro could find himself in the midst of a very busy awards season, so Fox and Lightstorm agreed to keep del Toro’s schedule open until after the Oscar ceremony next March.
Written and directed by del Toro, The Shape of Water takes place during the Cold War and stars Sally Hawkins as a mute janitor working at a top secret government facility that houses a fish man. Early buzz for the movie has been heating up, and it’ll have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, which begins on August 31st, before heading to the Toronto Film Festival and possibly Telluride—all three of which are major precursors for Oscar glory.
Comparisons to del Toro’s Oscar-winning Pan’s Labyrinth have already surfaced, and Fox’s decision to postpone Fantastic Voyage prep (Fox Searchlight is distributing Shape of Water) is yet another sign that this one could be a major player throughout the awards season. And indeed awards season is a marathon, not a sprint, so if del Toro was busy prepping sets, casting, and developing Fantastic Voyage at the same time, he may not be able to be on the awards circuit in a way that would give Shape of Water the best chance at succeeding—campaigning, like it or not, is a necessary step towards winning awards.
The road to Oscar doesn’t begin with nominations in January, it starts with the festival debuts and includes screenings, Q&A’s, interviews, appearances, not to mention feting other precursor awards from critics and industry groups that keep the movie in the zeitgeist. So expect to see del Toro out on the circuit throughout the fall and, if Shape of Water is as good as folks are saying, possibly up through next March’s Oscars ceremony.
The intention was to start production on Fantastic Voyage in the spring for a possible 2019 release, but Deadline says they’ll now regroup and pick up the prep next year in anticipation of starting production by next fall or maybe even earlier. Del Toro reportedly remains committed to making Fantastic Voyage, which has James Cameron producing and will give del Toro free range to work with a big blockbuster effects budget. But it’s understandable that he’d want the time to support his smaller film, The Shape of Water, to the best of his abilities.