Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s tremendous new film The Shape of Water has been garnering rave reviews ever since it first debuted on the film festival circuit in September, so it came as a bit of a surprise when we learned last month that del Toro would be taking a yearlong break from directing. This news meant that del Toro would not be shooting his effects-heavy Fantastic Voyage next year, which had already been pushed back by Fox so the filmmaker could be fully present on the awards rounds for Shape of Water. But while fans may be bummed to know that any new del Toro directorial project will be coming our way one year later than originally intended, the filmmaker has very sound reasoning for taking this pause from directing.
Collider’s own Christina Radish recently spoke with del Toro at the press day for the upcoming second season of Trollhunters, the delightful Netflix animated series which del Toro produces. During their conversation, del Toro explained exactly why he decided to take a year off from directing:
“I felt The Shape of Water needed a good six months of undivided attention, to find an audience and to enjoy it, as a human being that made something I’m proud of and happy with. It’s happened to me, in the past. In 2001, with The Devil’s Backbone, which is my second favorite movie I’ve ever done, I was doing Blade 2. Shape is the first, and then Devil’s, and then Pan’s [Labyrinth]. When Devil’s Backbone was touring, I was busy in post-production on Blade 2, and it shouldn’t happen like that. I was so proud of that movie, and I didn’t enjoy it and I didn’t maximize my time with it. Movies are like children. They grow up and they leave you, and they don’t come back home. They go to university and don’t call. So, I wanted to travel with Shape of Water.”
Indeed, having seen The Shape of Water I can attest it’s the best thing del Toro’s ever done and it’s absolutely one of the best films of the year—an earnest, romantic, hopeful fairy tale for our times. Del Toro has absolutely earned the right to enjoy its release to the fullest extent, so good on him.
But before this break was announced, del Toro had been lined up to direct Fantastic Voyage for 20th Century Fox and producer James Cameron. Does this break mean he’s no longer directing that film? Not exactly, says the filmmaker:
“That was on the calendar already. I announced the year in September, and if everything goes well and it happens, it would happen next September. We’d start prepping again. We had already delayed it. It is a very difficult movie, technically, and I needed to figure out a bunch of stuff. We’ve been doing R&D and we’ve been building stuff. I never know whether they’re going to happen or not. I’ve learned that, in 25 years. But, we’re still working on it.”
So del Toro still intends to make Fantastic Voyage starting next fall, but as with any in-development project in Hollywood, you never know how things will ultimately play out. Before that, del Toro says he’ll be plenty busy doing things other than directing:
“I’m producing, producing, producing. I don’t have much free time, but I’ll have much more free time than if I was producing, producing and directing.”
And if the critical response thus far is any indication, del Toro will be plenty busy through next March pushing The Shape of Water for Oscar consideration. Not only is the film in line for major nominations, it’s got a really solid shot at some big wins. Asked how it feels to have such a personal movie in the awards conversation, del Toro responded thusly:
“I’ll tell you, it doesn’t get more personal than Shape of Water for me. I am the proudest of it. It’s my favorite movie that I’ve done. Just to be in the conversation is really, really great. You work very hard to get the movie out there and have it seen, and the movie does connect, beautifully, with an audience. It has an enormous heart. I’ve seen it 190 million times and I still cry in three or four moments in the movie. It’s even more than that. There are one or two scenes that I cannot even describe without getting moved. I cannot see the clip without getting moved. It’s a very personal movie. I love it. I call it “a fairytale for troubled times” because it’s an ointment against the world, where we’re waking up every morning with worse news.”