MORELIA, Mexico — The Salon Escudos, a tiny room in the back of the Hotel Virrey de Mendoza, was all set up on Thursday morning for a series of one-on-one interviews with Mexico’s most gregarious director Guillermo del Toro. There were lights, cameras and big fluffy chairs. For any other director, that might suffice. Not so for del Toro.
At the last minute the queue of reporters waiting to talk to the director were led to a small inconspicuous meeting room and sat around a long conference table and told that the director would address the group as a whole. Del Toro is a famously prolific talker, and ten-minute interviews might only yield one question and answer so instead, the time was shared between all those present and del Toro was unleashed to preach to his heart’s content.
Asked about what projects he was producing now that “The Shape of Water,” is finished, the director said, “I have two projects with Bertha Navarro which we’re studying. We’re talking about producing a film by Patricia Riggen, I can’t say the title, but she’s a super solid director, very nice person. She is the type of writer-director who can benefit from a strong production structure which helps her to express what she’s interested in.
Navarro is del Toro’s longterm Mexico-based producer partner, who has produced all his Spanish-language movies, from del Toro’s 1993 debut “Cronos,” and partners with del Toro to produce third-party directors, such as Celso Garcia on “The Thin Yellow Line.”
Mexican, but now U.S.-based, Riggen broke out with mother-son cross-border drama “Under the Same Moon,” before gong on to direct mine-accident drama “The 33.”
A more complete project involving Navarro and del Toro screened at this year’s Impulso Morelia, the festival’s works in progress section. The documentary “Ayotzinapa,” is a heart-shattering look at the tragic events of Sept. 26, 2014, when 43 students went missing and three more were killed in a highly controversial series of events. The Mexican government, drug cartels, military, the United Nations and a number of independent watch groups all have a different take on that night’s events, but the film is presented from the point of view of the families of the missing, and the students that survived the night.
Of the project del Toro said, “the documentary which screened, Bertha told me we need to make some changes, get some more material. From the moment she began the project, she’s been protecting it a lot, so it’s not ready until she says it’s ready. It was very useful to screen it with a public in Morelia.”
Del Toro also spoke about his B&W movie project “Silver,” which is acquiring the status of legend, without having acquired the form of a film. The story of a masked Mexican wrestler who discovers all politicians are vampires and sets out to slay them – surely a popular contemporary theme – del Toro had “Silver’s” screenplay half-written when he abandoned Mexico for Toronto. Years later, it still isn’t finished.
Del Toro has a “personal commitment” to finish the screenplay, he said in Morelia. Alfonso [Cuarón] is giving me a really hard time on this: ‘Any chance you’ll finish the screenplay?’”
When pressed on any news about the upcoming season 2 of his animated Netflix series “Trollhunters,” the director was coy. “Yes there is news, but Netflix would kill me if I talked. It will come in the next four weeks.”
And, referring to his more immediate plans, “I’m taking a sabbatical for a year as a director. I was going to do ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ but after ‘The Shape of Water’ I need to take pause.”
After answering everyone’s questions, del Toro produced his personal laptop and shared a number of videos, photos, concept art, costume designs and notes from early stages of the filmmaking process for “The Shape of Water.” Finally, the director took photos with anyone who asked and resumed his place at the head of the table, ready to do the whole thing again for the rest of the afternoon.
John Hopewell contributed to this article