Weird Things About Guillermo del Toro

Since the release of Cronos in 1993, Mexican writer and director Guillermo del Toro has built a strong following with the distinctive look and feel of his feature films. Fans have long been intrigued by his ability to blend fairy-tale archetypes with storylines based on historical events or even comic books. While this combination of genres may seem strange to some, others see it as part of the weird tapestry that is del Toro.

During pre-production, del Toro hand-sketches the fanciful creatures and details he hopes to bring to life in movies like Pan’s Labyrinth or Pacific Rim. Some of these sketches appeared in a book released by del Toro in 2013 - but they only scratch the surface of his obsession with the macabre and the fanciful.

He owns one home for the sole purpose of displaying his personal collections, he entered into an agreement with monsters as a child, and he once made a short film about a serial killer potato. The Mexican writer-director is an eccentric, once-in-a-lifetime talent, and he has a number of strange tendencies to prove it.

Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • His 'Bleak House' Is Full Of Art, Props, And Irreplaceable Memorabilia

    Aside from his main home, del Toro owns a second residence in Westlake Village, CA, for the sole purpose of holding his various large collections. Known as Bleak House, the Tudor-style mansion houses models of creatures from del Toro’s films, recreations of characters from movies like 1932’s Freaks, and various pieces of artwork. Drawings from Disney's Fantasia, comic books, paintings, and other artwork fill the house, allowing del Toro to “see the brushstroke or the Wite-Out” and “understand how they did it.”

    The artwork goes on tour sometimes, allowing the public to peruse del Toro’s unusual collection of movie props, themed rooms filled with life-sized figures, and rare books.

  • He Swapped His Salary For Better Creature Effects In Two Movies

    Del Toro grew up drawing monsters and using his own face as a canvas for special effects makeup, transforming himself into bloodied grotesques. As he continued on the path to filmmaking, del Toro spent obsessive amounts of time on the design of the creatures appearing in his movies.

    The physical interpretation of del Toro’s vision is among the director’s top priorities - even if it means returning a portion of his salary to pay for proper special effects.

    When bringing Hellboy to the big screen in 2004, del Toro insisted on seeing his vision brought to life properly. He returned half his paycheck to the studio in exchange for higher quality special effects.

    To ensure the opulent and exquisitely designed world of 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth fully came to life, he rejected all payment so the funds could go toward his creatures.

  • His Grandmother Attempted To Exorcize Him As A Child

    Growing up in a Catholic household led to del Toro butting heads with his grandmother. She worried about his obsession with drawing monsters and, later, his interest in special effects makeup that skewed to the gory side of things. In an attempt to recover her grandson’s soul, she tried to exorcize the devil from him - twice.

    On another occasion, she forced del Toro to place metal bottle caps in his shoes to atone for his sins. In a 2017 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, del Toro recounted the experience:

    She explained purgatory to me: basically, the flames of hell, but not forever... if you want to ameliorate your time in purgatory, you can offer Jesus your suffering. So, here are these bottle caps, put them in your shoes and every time they hurt, you offer your pain to Jesus. I wore them for a long time until my mother discovered my socks were stained with blood, and then we stopped the bottle cap thing.

  • Del Toro Sees Himself As Hellboy

    Created in 1993 by artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy is a complicated half-demon who works for the forces of good while fighting against the perceived destiny others believe he should embrace. After growing up in a Catholic household while attempting to follow his interests in monsters and the macabre, del Toro felt a deep connection to the character during the making of the film adaptation of Hellboy.

    In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, del Toro said Hellboy embodies the idea that you are who you choose to be. Hellboy is a half-demon who chooses to do good while others attempt to use him to bring about the end of days or turn the tide for the Nazis in World War II.

    Del Toro’s grandmother attempted to turn him away from his interests through exorcisms, punishment, and vocal declarations of disappointment. The director fleshed out the parallel, saying, "The relationship between him and Professor Broom, it's still the relationship between me and my grandmother in many ways, you know, it is, for me... I changed the birthday of Hellboy in the comic to my birthday, October 9."

  • Del Toro Carries Notebooks Filled With Drawings And Ideas For Movie Creatures

    Del Toro purchased seven large journals for the express purpose of filling them with movie ideas - inked sketches, ideas, and notes. Drawings of the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth and multiple other designs originally appeared in his notebooks and served as pre-production storyboards.

    In 2011, del Toro’s in-use notebook contained a drawing of Smaug to be used as a reference for his version of The Hobbit (the director cut ties with the project in 2010). Del Toro portrayed the dragon as a “flying axe” with small arms that would allow for close-up shots.

    Del Toro lost one of his notebooks in 2006 - filled with four years of work - after leaving it in the back seat of a cab. Fearing the driver would sell the leather-bound pages or another passenger would throw it away, del Toro pursued the cab but was unable to catch up with it.

    Luckily, the driver returned the notebook unharmed; del Toro was so thankful he gave the cabbie a $900 tip. The director took the good fortune as a sign to finally make Pan’s Labyrinth, whose characters filled the notebook.

    Pages of his notebooks became available to the public in the form of the 2013 book Guillermo Del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions.

  • The Artist Calls His Creative Projects “Eye-Protein” - Not Candy

    Speaking with The Guardian in 2015, del Toro referred to his films, books, illustrations, and other projects as “eye-protein.” He described the process of making his gothic romance film Crimson Peak, pointing out how his attention to detail helps fully engulf viewers.

    He said, "I shot them as little moments of mini-intercourse. But I’m not reinventing anything: It is a gothic romance, it’s exactly what it says on the box. But I go hard at trying to design, visually and aurally, a narrative experience. I try to tell you a story with what I call eye-protein, not eye-candy."