Heads up, monster lovers… Last night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences kicked off its month-long Monstrous Centennial: Universal’s Legacy of Horror film series in Los Angeles by premiering the new restored prints of Bride of Frankenstein and Dracula (both of which make their Blu-ray debut in the just-released nine-film Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection box set).
Introducing the screening was talented, tireless genre workhorse Guillermo Del Toro, who chatted with me beforehand about his own long-in-development film version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as well as his TV adaptation of Marvel’s Hulk.
Check out the interview inside, in which Del Toro also discusses some of the other comic-book characters he’d love to take a crack at. Sounds like Del Toro wouldn’t mind helming the much-anticipated big-screen debut of Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme – Doctor Strange!
Shock Till You Drop: The classic Universal monster films form a kind of religion for you…
Guillermo Del Toro: The most exciting thing for me is to think that as a kid – this in my biography – there was a moment of pure joy. Because I’m here talking about movies I love that I discovered as a child, that discovered for me a whole different way of making horror films, with humanity and beauty, with compassion, with power. And I really, really couldn’t be happier to be here. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s a dream come true.
Shock: Have you seen any of the new prints yet?
Del Toro: No, that’s what I told my wife. I said, “I want to see The Man Who Laughs, the brand-new print. I want to see this, The Bride of Frankenstein, the brand-new print, Creature from the Black Lagoon…” I’m very happy. [laughs]
Shock: Can you say where your own Frankenstein film project is right now?
Del Toro: Yeah, actually [Universal Pictures Co-Chairman] Donna Langley just put us on track to write the screenplay. So, we’re going to start writing the script. It’s a very long endeavor for me; it’s going to require a couple of years just to write it. But it’s been put back on track by Donna.
Shock: How has the story remained relevant?
Del Toro: I think it will never go away. Because some figures you can reinterpret in so many ways. You can do Tarzan in space, Tarzan in the future, Tarzan in the past. You can do Frankenstein as a metaphor for consumerism. You can do Frankenstein as a metaphor for the loneliness of man. You can do Sherlock Holmes in London 2012. You can do Sherlock Holmes in World War II. They are timeless. So Frankenstein is one of these characters, in this gallery, that belong to humanity. Their stories will be repeated time and again, and we will be telling them for as long as we are human.
Shock: One could argue there’s never been an entirely successful version of Frankenstein that’s remained very faithful to Shelly’s novel. Do you see yours as that version, or will it be a looser interpretation?
Del Toro: I think the moment that the only quality you can claim is faithfulness… It’s a very difficult, tricky slope. Because then anytime that you deviate from that, you’re betraying the very goal you submitted. I’m being very faithful to trying to encompass the whole narrative of the novel. I’m being very faithful in that I’m trying to capture the spirit of the novel, when I read it as a kid, and how it impacted me. I recognize that it’s both biography and prophecy about my life. It’s a very personal film. In many ways it’s the most personal film I’ll ever make, because my connection with the creature is very profound and deep and I don’t think there’s any other monster that has affected me as much.
Shock: So, you want to take as much time as required to get it exactly right?
Del Toro: Yeah, that also means that I’ve been avoiding it in a cowardly way for many years. [Laughs.] It’s something that I’ve been… not quite so much reticent about as I’ve been mindful and cautious. But borderline avoiding. Because I really think it’s going to be the one movie that I feel is gonna signify [me] more than any other in my life.
Shock: Another project you’ve had in development that’s reminiscent of Frankenstein in some respects – as well as Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – is the Hulk TV show. Can you say where that project stands right now?
Del Toro: Right now all I know is the official word I was given is that there’s a writer they want. They are very interested in me meeting with him. He’s very, very busy. The official word is we are holding, but I don’t know… After Avengers having the success it had, perhaps the fate of the project may change. Right now officially what I know – and I’m not hiding anything off the record or anything – is that we were told we were waiting for this writer, and we were going to do it with him.
Shock: If it moves forward, would you still like to direct the pilot?
Del Toro: Of course. The reason is that the superheroes I like and that I would like to get involved with are all monsters. Be it Swamp Thing, Etrigan [the Demon], Doctor Strange – which is not a monster, but…
Shock: A dark fantasy saga.
Del Toro: Yeah. Certainly supernatural. I would love to do Morbius [the Living Vampire], Blade – they have to be monsters for me to be involved.
Shock: Thank you very much, Guillermo.
Del Toro: Sure, my pleasure!
(PHOTO CREDIT: C. Smith/WENN.com)