Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)

Event coverage / recap by Jennifer Ortega, Red Carpet Report Reporter follow Jen on Twitter @JenniferEOrtega

Director, Guillermo del Toro and Actor, Doug Jones appeared at Vulture Fest to talk about their careers, crafts and their new film, The Shape of Water. Del Toro describes the film as “a love letter to love and a love letter to cinema,” and a “fairytale for troubled times.” Del Toro talked a lot about the darkness and the beauty of his films. Perhaps he described himself best by saying, “I am not a brand, but I am an acquired taste.”

Of course, most of the questions centered around his upcoming film. Del Toro had a really moving backstory about the film when speaking about it. “There are three movies of mine that have come at very very low points, where they have saved…I wouldn’t say my sanity, but they saved my life. One was The Devil’s Backbone. It came after a disastrous experience with Mimic. Miramax distributed Mimic and it’s still the worst experience I’ve ever had. The second one was Pan’s Labyrinth. It came at a point where I was questioning so many many things. Partially, what we do, what we leave behind, who we are. And this (The Shape of Water) is the third time. It came from a moment of great darkness and it came from the most vulnerable place. A director in Mexico, one of the filmmakers I admire the most, saw it and said to me, you finally exhaled. And I agree.”

Del Toro said he had Sally Hawkins in mind for the starring role of Elisa from the start. He has admired her work for sometime. “Most people think an actor delivers great lines. An actor looks and an actor listens and an actor is there. Sally is all those things.” His first meeting with her about The Shape of Water, actually happened at a party. He describes himself running over to her and saying,”I’m writing a movie for you where you fall in love with a fish man! And she said great and that was the first meeting.” This led to questions about how the starring roles that Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones (the Amphibian Man) play, do not speak. “In this film the two main characters don’t talk and it’s partially because love renders you speechless. Words lie, energy does not.”

Del Toro has worked with Doug Jones for many years. Jones has actually appeared as 12 different characters in 6 of Del Toro’s films. Yet when conceiving the film, Del Toro was afraid Doug Jones wouldn’t want to play the Amphibian Man due to a love scene in the bathtub. Jones first learned about the film and the character in 2014 when they were working together on Crimson Peak. Guillermo set up a lunchtime meeting for them. “He starts to verbally tell me the story. It was story time with Guillermo. So chin in hands, I’m listening. This beautiful story is unfolding in front of me and this innocence and this connection of two souls. By the time we got to the bathtub scene, I said I’m in! I’m in!”

Del Toro has also said The Shape of Water is his most personal film and quite different from his previous films. “At age 51 or 52 when I first started the film, I said what am I going to do different. Because for me what has changed in the years is the depth of what I feel about my craft and what I feel about my stories. I found that some of my films connect with the audiences at a very deep level and in doing that they connect with me. It’s a full circle and this movie felt urgent for many many reasons. So I said I’m not going to do the same thing. For 9 movies I’ve rephrased the fears of my childhood and the dreams of my childhood. This is the first film where I speak as an adult on some things that worry me as an adult, trust, sex, love, where we are going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven.”

The Shape of Water of appears to be an ethereal love story that touches on themes of love, sexuality, sexism and racism. From the trailer and scenes shown at Vulture Fest, fans of Guillermo Del Toro will be delighted. The the look and the feel of the film delve into an fable-like world that Del Toro is famous for. Before leaving the panel, Del Toro spoke about the rumors of him leaving directing for awhile. Not worry his exile from directing is only lasting a year. “My sabbatical means I’m going to produce three series for Netflix, two live action movies and co-writing a book with Chuck Hogan. What I meant by it is that I’m talking a break from last September to next September as a director. What has become evident to me as I get older is that we trade our lives…the exchange rate takes a toll and I want to live a little. I want to be able to enjoy this movie (The Shape of Water) and the people it connects with. I want to travel with it. I want to see it play in different cinemas, in different places. I want to enjoy it and then figure out what I’ll do next. It might be a gigantic movie or it might be a small movie. I have no idea, but it’s great not to have an idea. I feel like the whole 25 years that I have been doing this has all led to this moment. Everything I have done has taken me to The Shape of Water.”

In Select Theaters December 1

From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER – an other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones.

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay by: Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor
Story by: Guillermo del Toro
Produced by: Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins,
Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer

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