Del Toro returns to Spanish trio

Helmer continuing trilogy with '3993'

Guillermo del Toro, who spends much of his time working on high-profile American pics like “Hellboy” and “Blade II,” hasn’t forgotten his Spanish roots.

The 41-year-old Del Toro, who broke through with Mexican pic “Cronos” in 1993, is continuing his “Spanish” trilogy, following up “Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” with “3993,” from young Spanish screenwriter Sergio Sanchez.

His Spanish projects fit into a tapestry of Spanish-language co-prods shepherded by rising auteurs with increasing appeal on the global scene.

International co-prods are no longer a one-way street between Spanish coin and Latin American talent. It’s more like a multilevel freeway intersection.

Such is the case with Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which is competing in Cannes. It’s co-produced by Spain’s Estudios Picasso, Del Toro’s Mexican shingle Tequila Gang and Alfonso Cuaron’s WB-based Esperanto in New York.

Del Toro also is exec producing fantasy/horror pic “The Call of the Sea,” third film from Chile’s Jorge Olguin.

Tequila Gang, his partnership with Mexico’s Bertha Navarro, is producing “Salud mental” (Mental Health), three related stories to be directed by Rodrigo Garcia (“Nine Lives”), Sebastian Cordero (“Cronicas”) and, possibly, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (“Intacto”). Company also is producing “Cosas insignificantes” (Insignificant Things), the directorial debut of Mexico’s Andrea Martinez.

Cuaron says the helmers have sort of an informal mutual criticism society: When Cuaron raved about a first cut of “Amores perros,” the debut feature of then-little-known Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Del Toro saw the film and then flew from the U.S. to Mexico and locked himself away with Gonzalez Inarritu to work on a final cut, even though he didn’t know the helmer at the time. Gonzalez Inarritu, in turn, cut some four minutes from “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Del Toro trimmed four to six minutes from Gonzalez Inarritu’s fellow Cannes competish player “Babel.”

Upcoming project “3993” “portrays 1990s Spain, how it still has some fantastical rooting in things that happened in 1939,” as Spain’s Civil War climaxed, says Del Toro, who aims to structure the Spanish-lingo pic as a Mexico-Spain co-prod.

Screenwriter Sanchez also penned Jose Antonio Bayona’s Spanish ghost story “El orfanato” (The Orphanage), rolling this month, which Del Toro co-produces with Barcelona’s Rodar y Rodar.

Del Toro will use his genre skills on “3993” to deliver a fresh take on a serious subject: the hostages left to fortune by the past.

“I like obliqueness. In ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ by reflecting Spain’s post-Civil War through an oblique mirror, you have a point of view that is hopefully illuminating in an almost metaphorical way,” Del Toro explains. “I’d like to get behind-the-camera support from Spain: sound designers, digital-effects supervision or make-up effects supervision.”

“He’s a big bang of universality,” says Cuaron of Del Toro, whose gregarious personality is at home in many countries.

For Del Toro, “Commercially and creatively, the future of Spanish-language films has to be Spanish-language countries working together. You want to keep the creative structure of European and Latin American films, which are director driven, but have bigger budgets or other talent.”