Universal Pictures’ attempt to reboot its iconic monsters properties in a big way via the “Dark Universe” kind of crashed and burned this year, but in a better alternate timeline, it’s thriving thanks to the creative direction of Guillermo del Toro. Yes indeed, the wildly talented creature-loving filmmaker was offered the chance to take the reins of Universal’s library of monster movies about a decade ago, but he turned the request down.
“I’ve said no to things that are enormous and I’ve never looked back. The only time I repent I didn’t do something was in 2007 when Universal, in an incredibly gentle and beautiful manner said, ‘do you want to take over the Monster Universe?’ And they gave me the reins of several properties, and I didn’t do it. That I repent. So this is a confessional moment, I repent. That’s the only thing… Mistakes teach you a lot. I think you learn more from failure and mistakes than you do from success.”
Del Toro has not been shy about his love for Universal’s monster movies, citing Creature from the Black Lagoon as his inspiration for The Shape of Water and developing a passionate take on Frankenstein for years (that he figured was now dead due to the developing Dark Universe).
But while the filmmaker expresses a tinge of regret about turning down the Dark Universe, looking at what was going on with del Toro at the time you can see why he might have made this decision. He was in between Hellboy and Hellboy II, but was also hard at work developing At the Mountains of Madness, which would come thisclose to a greenlight in 2011 before Universal pulled the plug over budget and rating issues.
And while it’s exciting to think of what could have been, there’s no guarantee that del Toro would have gone on to make a film like The Shape of Water if he had been wrapped up in Dark Universe stuff for the past decade. Which would be a shame because The Shape of Water is the best film he’s ever made—an immaculately crafted, wildly romantic fairy tale.
Still, the idea of seeing del Toro’s Frankenstein realized is an exciting one, but you never really know. Dark Universe producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan were relieved of their duties in the wake of The Mummy’s failure and the future of this interconnected universe idea is now in doubt. Perhaps that means Universal rings up del Toro again about finally bringing his vision for Frankenstein to the big screen. One can dream.