×

Guillermo del Toro on Splashy Aquatic-Creature Sex and ‘The Shape of Water’ in Venice

VENICE, Italy – Director Guillermo del Toro was in top form Thursday at the Venice press conference for his well-received Cold War-era fairy tale “The Shape of Water,” in which a mute cleaning lady named Elisa played by Sally Hawkins becomes wrapped up with a gilled primordial Amazonian water creature. And yes, the characters have sex.

Describing what he called his film’s “Beauty and the Beast” element, Del Toro said: “There’s two versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ normally. One is the puritanical one where they love each other in a platonic way but they never f—. And the other one is really the reverse…and this is kind of creepy for me. I am not interested in either of them,” he said.

“I wanted to make clear that character [Elisa] is a real woman, and a complete woman: masturbating and making her breakfast with equal ease, but also in terms of the sex in the movie. I wanted it to exist in a natural, beautiful non-exploitative, completely organic way,” del Toro said, adding: “But they do f—!”

The film’s powerful romantic streak takes precedence over its political connotations, del Toro said.

“Fantasy is a very political genre,” the director noted. “But the first political act we have [to do] right now is to choose love over fear, because we live in times when fear and cynicism are used in a way that is very pervasive and persuasive, and our first duty when we wake up is to believe in love.”

Del Toro did point out parallels between the fantasy world in his film, which is set during the Cold War, and the present day. “When Americans talk about America being great again, I think they are dreaming about what was in gestation in 1962: an America that was futuristic, full of promise,” del Toro said. “But at the same time there was racism, sexism, classism. There were a lot of the problems we are facing today.”

Hawkins, who puts in a tour-de-force performance as Elisa, said that when she was approached by del Toro to play Elisa, she had been toying around with some ideas for an aquatic film of her own. Those ideas became building blocks for her character in “The Shape of Water.”

“I was writing this piece for a short [film]…about a woman who didn’t know she was a mermaid,” Hawkins said, recalling what she described as “just random notes.”

“I got a call from my agent saying: ‘Guillermo is thinking of you for an idea. It’s not written. It’s about this woman who falls in love with a merman. It’s set during the Cold War era.

“I almost dropped the phone! It’s magic and it’s rare. It’s one of those synchronistic odd things that are almost beyond your understanding,” Hawkins said.

More Film

  • Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell

    Film Review: 'TINY: The Life of Erin Blackwell'

    “Streetwise,”  the classic and haunting 1984 documentary about homeless street kids in Seattle, is a movie that’s now 35 years old. But for anyone who has seen it, the children it’s about — drifters, hustlers, squatters, thieves, prostitutes — remain frozen in time. And none of them was ever more memorable than Tiny, the 14-year-old [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Revenge Motive May Have Sparked Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Japanese media is speculating that revenge was the motivation for the arson attack on Kyoto Animation which killed 33 people on Thursday. Investigative sources quoted by Jiji Press on Friday said that the man in custody had a grudge against the studio. “Since [the studio] stole my novel, I poured out the liquid and set [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate Gabriel Luna

    'Terminator: Dark Fate' Cast Proud of Latinx Representation in Latest Installment

    The stars of the Tim Miller-directed “Terminator: Dark Fate” stormed the stage of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H on Thursday, but it wasn’t until after the panel — which included appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton — that Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta reflected on what makes the upcoming installment in the [...]

  • It

    Producer Sues Warner Bros. Over 'It' Film Adaptations

    A producer who developed the original “It” TV miniseries sued Warner Bros. on Thursday, alleging the studio breached his contract by making the films “It” and “It Chapter Two” without him. Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky were running Telepictures in the early 1980s when they acquired the rights to the Stephen King novel. They developed [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Kyoto Arson Attack: Animation Community Mourns Colleagues

    Thursday’s deadly attack on Japan’s Kyoto Animation studios left many in the animation community shocked and horrified by the loss of 33 of their colleagues. Another 36 people were injured in the attack, which was Japan’s deadliest ever. A suspect was arrested after pouring a flammable liquid inside the building, which caught fire and trapped [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's '10 Double Zero' Completes Financing

    In today’s film news roundup, financing has been secured for a Nicolas Cage police drama, feature drama “Topside” is unveiled and the late Tom Snyder is getting a tribute from his daughter. FINANCING COMPLETED DCR Finance Corp. has signed a deal to complete the financing for Nicolas Cage’s upcoming crime drama “10 Double Zero.” The [...]

  • Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy Team

    Matt Damon Teams with 'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy on New Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even as buzz grows for his upcoming race car drama “Ford v. Ferrari,” Matt Damon looks to keep the pedal to the metal: the A-lister is set to star in the Participant Media feature film “Stillwater” with Tom McCarthy directing. Damon attached himself in May, and the package was quickly acquired by Participant, who previously [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content