When Guillermo del Toro signed on to direct Pacific Rim, the basic prospect of del Toro directing a movie about fighting robots and kaiju was almost too good to be true. The filmmaker carefully developed the film with screenwriter Travis Beacham, and the finished product was a colorful, heartfelt, thrilling sci-fi monster movie that was 100% Guillermo del Toro. The filmmaker made known that this was merely setting the stage for a Pacific Rim universe that could continue on in sequels and animated TV series, and as the box office closed in on over $400 million worldwide, Legendary Pictures was finally ready to greenlight Pacific Rim 2.
But then, as Legendary itself began the process of changing hands, the follow-up was in doubt. It eventually came back to life with Universal distributing, but del Toro stepped down from the director’s chair and made way for Steven S. DeKnight, showrunner of Marvel’s Netflix series Daredevil and Starz’s Spartacus, to take over as the film’s new director.
So why did del Toro merely produce Pacific Rim: Uprising and not direct? When the filmmaker sat down with Collider’s own Perri Nemiroff for an exclusive interview about his Netflix series Trollhunters and much more for Collider Nightmares, she asked him exactly this, and the filmmaker revealed that it all had to do with timing:
“The timing started to suck. I had this little movie that I wanted to do—The Shape of Water—very, very much. At one point it was Justice League Dark or Pacific Rim, I said, ‘Let’s go to Pacific Rim.’ The reality is they said, ‘We’re gonna need to postpone,’ because they were changing hands—Legendary was going to be sold to China, to a Chinese company [called the Wanda Group]. They said, ‘We’ve gotta wait nine months’ and I said, ‘I’m not waiting nine months, I’m shooting a movie,’ and I went and shot [The Shape of Water] and we chose Steven DeKnight.”
Indeed, del Toro is currently in post-production on the Fox Searchlight film The Shape of Water, to be released later this year, while Pacific Rim: Uprising only just wrapped and doesn’t hit theaters until 2018. And with DeKnight coming in to direct, del Toro says he let the filmmaker make Pacific Rim: Uprising his own while maintaining a hands-off approach as a producer:
“It was such a great choice. I mean I love [DeKnight], love what he does, I think he’s really brilliant. He’s making it his own. I’m not breathing over his shoulder saying, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ He’s doing things differently and I like that. When I produce I try to produce the way I would like to be produced. I say to everyone I produce, ‘If you need me I will be there 100% all the time. If you don’t need me, I’m not there. You show me the cut then we’ll start interacting.”