Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is always developing so many different projects at once, it’s hard to predict what he’ll do next. And while he’s producing Pacific Rim 2, after his Gothic romance Crimson Peak, the director turned his attention to another drama-tinged film with The Shape of Water. Thus far plot details for the picture have been firmly under wraps. We know that it takes place in 1963, set against the backdrop of the Cold War, and we know it has a stellar ensemble cast that includes Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer.
But also included in the cast is frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones, who has a knack for inhabiting the roles of del Toro’s diverse and often creepy creatures from The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth to various ghosts in Crimson Peak.
Recently, Jones visited the Collider Nightmares studio to discuss his new film The Bye Bye Man, which opens in theaters on January 13th. During the course of their conversation, Jones offered some tantalizing details about The Shape of Water—namely that he’s playing a fish-man creature:
“It’s a 1963 drama—it’s not a sci-fi [film], it’s not a genre film, but I am a creature in it. I’m a fish man that’s kind of a one-off. I’m an enigma, nobody knows where I came from; I’m the last of my species so I’m like a natural anomaly. And I’m being studied and tested in a U.S. government facility in 1963, so the Russian Cold War is on, the race for space is on, so there’s all that backdrop and that undercurrent. I’m being tested for how can they use me for advantages in military or space travel, or my technology—can we make this usable for humans? So they’re trying to keep me a secret from the Russians.”
This is a curious reveal, as it had been rumored that the plot involved a fish-like creature, but many assumed Shannon was filling this role. But the real crux of the film is a love story, which Jones described thusly:
“Meanwhile, there’s a love story that brews out of it, and that would be the cleaning lady played by Sally Hawkins. She comes and finds me, has sympathy on me, and then that’s the story that you’re really gonna follow with this whole backdrop.”
Del Toro famously used the backdrop of an important historic event to great effect in films like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, the latter of which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. And as Jones tells it, he’s expecting similar awards success with The Shape of Water:
“It is artfully and beautifully [made]—if this doesn’t end up with Guillermo back at the Oscars, I will be surprised. I will be very surprised.”
That is high praise indeed, and makes the wait for The Shape of Water that much more excruciating. The film doesn’t yet have a firm release date, but Fox Searchlight is expected to release it sometime later this year as del Toro only recently wrapped filming.
And if you want to get an early (and free!) look at Jones’s The Bye Bye Man, Collider Nightmares is hosting a screening in Los Angeles at the TCL Theater on January 11th at 7pm. You can click here to get tickets.