We had the opportunity to chat with Guillermo del Toro this morning from his current HQ in London. He’s hard at work putting the finishing touches on ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army’ and taking interviews from news outlets about that film, and the recent announcement that he’ll be doing ‘The Hobbit’ and a subsequent Hobbit sequel down the line.
First things first, YES, that is him on our message boards, he told me he intends to post there as often as he humanly can. And yes, he is as cool and approachable as he sounds. Take a look at my interview!
How did this whole process get started?
GDT: I met Peter (Jackson) a long time ago when we were planning on doing ‘Halo’ together, I really love how they have that setup in New Zealand, I call it ‘Hollywood the way God intended it’. New Zealand has all the technical advantages when doing a big movie and you are shooting it in paradise, both in terms of artistic freedom and commitment.
When ‘Halo’ didn’t happen, Peter and I stayed in contact on a regular basis, and last winter I started getting inklings that ‘The Hobbit’ may come this way, mainly from the studio. The first thing I said was that I would only be interested if Peter was involved and the (New Line Lawsuit) problem gets resolved. When that issue was resolved I got a call from Peter and we chatted, and it started from then, it was my Christmas gift!
Fans are all abuzz about ‘The Second Film’, can you tell some of your plans for it?
GDT: You know, I traveled to New Zealand just a little while ago, and one of the main reasons for going was to sit down and talk about the second film. ‘The Hobbit’, the book, is really one self-contained film, so for the second movie we sat down and worked it out. When we did this we got really excited because this second film is not a ‘tag on’, it’s not ‘filler’, it’s an integral part of telling the story of those 50 years of history lost in the narrative. There will be certain things that we will see from the first movie but from a different point of view, but it will feel like a volume, in the 5 volumes of the entire story. It will not feel like a bridge, I’ve been hearing it called ‘a bridge film’, it’s not, it’s an integral chapter of the story, and I think we’re all on the same page.
You will be moving down to New Zealand for 4 years, is that right?
GDT: Approximately, my whole family, but the first stages of design and R&D will be done with me going back and fourth from LA and New Zealand because there are a lot of things I need to put to bed before I finally move to New Zealand. I’m going much sooner than my relatives would like!
We will officially be doing a lot of prep on ‘The Hobbit’ this summer, there is so much to do, its amazing. Just the reforestation of The Shire, re planting all those trees and plants will take months, and we’re going to be as exact as possible.
Films like ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ used a few studio sets to simulate outdoors, will you be doing the same for ‘The Hobbit’ or will you be making use of New Zealand’s wilderness like Peter did?
GDT: I think green screen photography is exactly like CGI, it is a tool, I don’t think it should be overused. Things like ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ are incredibly dependent on location, we shot on location for more than half the time. Those locations can be enhanced by technology however, both digital and physical. What I would like to avoid is the recreation of the natural environments in CG, I don’t like doing that. The movie is essentially a journey movie, I think you need to use locations as much as possible.
You’ll be using WETA Digital for the effects?
GDT: Yes, the essential elements for keeping continuity are on track, in the last few weeks I’ve been chatting with a ton of people via email, phone, and in person from the previous films. People like Andy Serkis, Sir Ian McKellen, Howard Shore, John Howe, Gino Acevedo, Richard Taylor next week I’m meeting Alan Lee. I’m doing this to ensure that whatever we do we keep continuity with the other films, yes it’s a world that is slightly more golden at the beginning, a very innocent environment.
What I’m trying to do is keep the elements in place but allow you to feel a progression from ‘The Hobbit’ until ‘The Return of the King’. I believe ‘The Hobbit’ is a very crucial volume in The Lord of the Rings, it is a narrative that starts out very much in an innocent and golden way. It is permeated from England going through World War One, so there is a loss of innocence and a darker tone as the book and the film progresses. We’ll be doing that in the first film, taking you from a time of more purity to a darker reality throughout the film, but I think that is in the spirit of the book. All these guys, Alan Lee, John Howe, these guys are integral for us to map out that progress in the two movies, and allow you to completely blend in to the universe that is already in place. But this will be a progression, it should not feel at the start of the film that this is the same time (as the beginning of ‘Fellowship’). 50 years in Shire time, is not the same as 50 years in human time, if you think about how our world has changed in only 7 or 8 years, you can think of it as decades of turmoil, those 50 years in Middle-earth.
Do you have any roles cast?
GDT: Well, I had the most charming meeting with Sir Ian, and all bureaucracy pending, he’s on board, as is Andy Serkis. We will continue giving you progress reports as the occur. It is our intention that we will not lose any of the key elements.
What will differ from your films versus Peter’s?
The only thing I will be pushing for more in these films that the other three are full animatronics and animatronic creatures enhanced with CGI, as opposed to CGI creatures themselves. We really want to take the state-of-the-art animatronics and take a leap ten years into the future with the technology we will develop for the creatures in the movie. We have every intention to do for animatronics and special effects what the other films did for virtual reality.
Another thing people will notice, at the beginning of the film will be the palette, that will be slightly different, the world will be the same but it will be a more ‘golden’ world, a more wide-eyed world. But by no means will we depart from the canon, we will take the three previous films as canon. When I become part of a world that I love, such as this, I really come with a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, and we know we are recreating and creating a world that is part of the mythos of millions of people and we will approach it as passionately and respectfully as it needs to be taken.