Toro, Guillermo del

(1964- )
   Mexican-born Guillermo del Toro is, like countrymen Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, a perfect example of the international filmmaker, capable of undertaking big Hollywood productions (the Hellboy series, the Blade sequel, and now The Hobbit), but also interested in producing or directing more small-scale projects in Spain. He is also a true auteur, who continually displays a very personal imaginative universe, drenched in the fantastic tradition of fairy tales, monsters, and ghost stories, with a particular predilection for the work of H.P. Lovecraft, surrealism, and French symbolists.
   Born in Guadalajara, del Toro started as special effects and make-up artist, and went on to set up his own production company at age 21. He helped found the Guadalajara Film Festival in 1998. Cronos (1996), his first feature, told the uncanny story of a vampiric device, passed on through generations. The mix between a visual flair in-herited from comics and conveyed through evocative and detailed art direction, and a dark sense of humor caught the attention of a few critics and many fans of the genre. Following the kidnapping of his father after the success of this film, he left his native country to settle in Los Angeles. The experience marked him and his response to evil.
   In Hollywood, del Toro undertook Mimic (1997) a big-budget Hollywood production starring Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, and F. Murray Abraham which, like Cronos, featured monstrous insects.
   The experience was reportedly an unhappy one, with production company Miramax altering the ending; to this day, del Toro does not regard the film's second half as his own. But he learned from the experience that filmmakers with a vision need to achieve tight control of their project. The two installments so far of Hellboy (Hellboy, 2004 and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, 2008) are good examples of the director's strengths. In 2008, he started work on The Hobbit, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's novel and produced by Peter Jackson.
   Del Toro's Spanish films are among the central achievements of cinematic fantasy and horror in that cinematography. El espinazo del Diablo (The Devil's Backbone, 2001) was produced by El Deseo. Federico Luppi, Eduardo Noriega, and Marisa Paredes star in this film, set in an orphanage for Republican children during the Spanish Civil War, which hides in its vaults the ghostly memory of a grisly murder. The story is set in the context of murderous historical conditions. Some of the director's trademarks are also prominent here: the fantasy world of children and their attitude toward adults, a fascinated attention for the body (the Paredes' character artificial leg, the face wounds that become a sign of Noriega's monstrous nature), dark spaces, family secrets, and quintessentially evil characters drawn from fairy tales and comics.
   El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth, 2006) is even more accomplished, and is regarded as one of the best films made in Spain. With a budget of about $19 million, a fraction of what a similar project would have cost in Hollywood, the film returns to the Civil War setting, and develops further central themes of El espinazo del Diablo: children, ancient myths, the presence of evil. El laberinto del fauno quickly went on to become the most successful Spanish film ever, doing strong business both in Spain and abroad. Del Toro's name was also instrumental in marketing another Spanish horror film about children and ghosts, El orfanato (The Orphanage, J.A. Bayona, 2007), which he produced. It was a phenomenal box-office hit.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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