At last year’s Comic-Con, Entertainment Weekly’s “The Visionaries” panel featured Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams waxing poetic on everything nerd. This year, Guillermo del Toro and Jon Favreau were present to have an earnest conversation between two directors about filmmaking. The topics of conversation ranged from Magic Kindom and Haunted Mansion, to Cowboys & Aliens and At the Mountains of Madness. Favreau even revealed that he has a cameo as a Thark in Andrew Stanton’s John Carter, a project which he previously developed. Hit the jump for my recap of The Visionaries panel.
The panel opened with Favreau talking about his friendship with del Toro, and how he was worried the Pan’s Labyrinth director wasn’t going to be able to make it to Comic-Con because of a bulging disc in his back. Never one to let something get in the way of the Con, del Toro braved the pain and made it to San Diego at last.
Speaking of their first connection, Favreau said he screened The Devil’s Backbone for his crew before he began shooting Zathura. Del Toro picked up the conversation and talked about how much he loved Favreau’s IFC series Dinner for Five.
Del Toro talked about how the two came from a blue-collar Hollywood background (Del Toro worked in effects and Favreau was an actor). Del Toro talks about his admiration for Favreau, pointing out his work in swingers and his use of stop-motion animation in Elf (del Toro’s response to which was, “this guy is fucking hardcore”).
Favreau then spoke about how the two are developing Disney-related properties, with Favreau working on Magic Kingdom and del Toro taking on The Haunted Mansion. He points out that Walt Disney was the first person to marry animation with music. With Magic Kingdom, Favreau plans on using different techniques (stop-motion animation, music, etc.) to give the film a nostalgic feel. He also said they will discuss whether the film will be 2D or 3D.
Favreau then recounted a time when he and Edgar Wright visited del Toro’s house and being shocked because he has a bunch of separate houses to keep all of the his stuff including original artwork, memorabilia, etc. “I’m a creepy motherfucker,” del Toro responded.
The discussion moved to visual effects. Favreau said that without CGI, directors were forced to use practical effects and more suggestion rather than completely showing the creature or monster right off the bat. He admires del Toro because he uses a mixture of practical effects, puppets, and CGI, but whenever he can get away with using practical effects he does.
Favreau talked about the dichotomy of responses to Cowboys & Aliens, saying that people either love the trailer or the idea of cowboys fighting aliens becomes offensive to audiences and they think it’s too unbelievable, “But trucks turning into robots is perfectly fine,” he added. The director said it’s less offensive to be upfront about the genre mash-up with regards to the title. He said they were discussing changing the title onset and Harrison Ford said, “Well what the hell else are you gonna call it?”
We were then treated to some extended footage from Cowboys & Aliens that was exactly the same as what was shown at Wonder-Con (which I thought was great), save for a few shots at the end that gave us a better look at the creepy looking aliens crawling through an underground tunnel toward Daniel Craig.
Del Toro addressed the litany of projects he’s attached to. He said the perception that he’s working on a million things is a virtue of the 24-hour news cycle where more is made out of projects that may be in extremely early stages. He said things are prematurely announced, and mentioned in passing that The Haunted Mansion is on the second or third draft of the screenplay.
While he was remiss to reveal too much about Pacific Rim before the panel tomorrow, del Toro said it’s the most fun he’s had on a movie. He’s designing “gigantic fucking monsters” all day long. He said the essence of the movie is having something really, really large destroying a bunch of little things. Favreau jumped in and said the artwork he saw from Pacific Rim is mind-blowing.
Speaking about Magic Kingdom, Favreau said he got to call Michael Chabon up on the phone after reading a few of his novels and told him he wanted to work with him. Chabon wrote the script for John Carter which Favreau previously worked on before Andrew Stanton came on as director. He said there’s no bad blood, and he even filmed a cameo in the film as a Thark. Once Cowboys & Aliens is out, Favreau said they will start to work on breaking the script for Magic Kingdom.
The Q&A began, and of course del Toro was asked about At the Mountains of Madness. He said they still control the rights to it and he hopes to eventually make it. The director revealed that if you email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, sometimes he answers and lets people come visit him on the set.
When asked which plot his version of The Haunted Mansion will follow, del Toro said there was never a sanctioned version of the story that is “official.” He said the film will be scary and there won’t be a comedian in the cast.
Overall, it was great to hear two directors as influential and imaginative as Favreau and del Toro just sit down and talk. The two have a great rapport and quickly play off of one another, making for an entertaining as well as intriguing conversation.