Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2013 by Peter Sciretta
I don’t usually travel for junkets because I can usually get most of the interviews I want accomplished in Los Angeles without spending days away from home. But when Warner Bros asked if I wanted to come to San Francisco to interview Guillermo del Toro, I jumped at the offer. I flew to my former Bay Area home, screened the movie at the Metreon downtown, and was up bright and early the next day for roundtables.
I sat around in hospitality waiting for my afternoon interview. That time came, and went.
Forty-five minutes later, a rep informed me that they were running so far behind that my one on one interview was no longer go to happen. They offered to try to get me into a roundtable interview with del Toro alongside some of the other journalists who got cut. I thought maybe there would be another chance to interview him solo back in Los Angeles, though Warner Bros didn’t think there would be time. I cant’t tell you how disappointed I was; I flew out just for this interview.
I left with Alex from FirstShowing to grab a early dinner before jumping on the quick plane ride back to LAX. As I walked through the Four Seasons Lobby, there he was — Guillermo. He called us over and gave me a huge bear hug (ask anyone who has ever worked with him, Guillermo is notorious for his hugs). Del Toro asked why the interview didn’t happen and I explained the situation. Without hesitation he said “Fuck that, let’s do this now”. I quickly removed my recorder and without my notes I conducted an eight-minute impromptu interview with del Toro on a couch in the hotel lobby. How cool is that? The man is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in the industry.
You can read a transcript of the interview after the jump. We chat about the challenges he faced with ILM in making his giant mech robots feel huge and real, why is it always raining in Pacific Rim, the unreal neon supersaturated look of Hong Kong, his biggest disappointment with the final cut of Pacific Rim, deleted scenes, the possibility of an extended cut, and update on the development of Disney’s Haunted Mansion, and more.
Peter Sciretta: In a film like Transformers it doesn’t always feel like the robots are actually there. In your film it felt like the Jaegers are huge, actually huge where you can see the scale and they actually feel like they have weight and power to them…
GDT: That was one of the earlier discussions about the animation with ILM, but the other discussion, I do a thing that is very particular, which is I put little things in the atmosphere, like snow or rain, so that when the CG model moves they move the particles around it or I put water on the floor or I put… Obviously with the ocean there’s dispersion and whatever. I put things that the model disturbs. In the instance of Pacific Rim I also use cars and buildings, but it’s important for the model to interact with non crucial elements.
If a giant robot is moving through a street and crushing cars well that’s good, but it needs to also maybe move the rain and create a void in the rain when it moves and so forth and that’s very important. The way we tried to go about the photography and the cinematography of the digital animation is to treat it as if it was a live action beast rather than making it “perfect.” We build imperfections in it and that makes it more real. We splash water on the lens, we have bad camera operation, this and that, and the way we light the model is we don’t light it well like a product shot, we back light it some times, we leave it in the dark, expose the kaiju, but not expose the jaeger and so on and so forth. So we tried to disrupt the laws of not making it a product shot.
Yeah, I feel like people are going to be joking “Why is it always raining in Guillermo’s Pacific Rim?”
GDT: Or in all of my movies. I don’t know, it’s a fixation I acquired when I was a kid. I was trying to afford rain and it was too expensive and so I always put rain in my movies.
I always love hearing what you think about films — other films and your own. You’ve been critical of your own films in the past. What are you most proud of with Pacific Rim?
GDT: I love the memory of Mako as a child, because it has sort of a fairytale feel of a girl being rescued by a knight in shining armor from a dragon, you know? I love obviously the design of the film. I love the battle for Hong Kong, which is about twenty-five minutes of incredible action.
That looks unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
GDT: Yeah, the look of that is very peculiar, because I was scouting Hong Kong… We scouted Hong Kong at night on a helicopter and the neon lights illuminated the haze in the air and I thought, “This is it. This is where we will have the battle.” I wanted the jaeger and the kaiju to be moving amongst supersaturated colors. I used to love this magazine, Heavy Metal with Richard Corbin and Anders Mackai and Chris Foss, all these guys that use really great primary colors and I wanted to bring that into the film.
What is your biggest disappointment with the final film?
GDT: I would have loved three more weeks of editing, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t want that with every film. I mean my biggest disappointment is there’s a couple of scenes that were character scenes that were really, really nice, but they slowed the movie even more than I wanted to. I wanted to keep the movie around two hours. I didn’t want to go two hours, thirty or two hours, forty. I mean I think that I wanted to give it a one-fifty-nine, so I took them out.
I’m sure those will be deleted scenes on the DVD.
GDT: Some of them are and some of them aren’t, because they are just extending the scenes that are there and it’s not worth it.
So we’re not going to get an extended cut?
GDT: No, we tried to and what happened is the scenes that were in the extended cut I put in the final cut and home video doesn’t want to release them. I’m going to try to have them release them on the internet.
I’m such a Disneyland fanatic. I need to get an update on what’s happening with Haunted Mansion.
GDT: Yeah, we are still pursuing a writer that is very hard to get. We are meeting with them. The problem is I don’t want just anyone to rewrite the screenplay. I wrote the screenplay with Mathew Robbins and I really want somebody that will bring a lot to it, but Disney is aching to make it and I’m aching to make it. If we could… If you know of anyone who can write, because I’m only going to produce it, I would love to hear.
I went to Disneyland with a ten year old who had never been to Disneyland before last week and he went on all the thrill rides, he went on Screamin’… but his favorite ride was the Haunted Mansion.
GDT: That’s incredibly heartening for me. That is really beautiful.
It was awesome that an attraction from so long ago not only connects, but competes with billion-dollar rides. Back to Pacific Rim, you said that some of the animated shots took thirty to… one shot was fifty takes, which is much more than you usually do on set. So what is the process of that? Why does it take so long some times?
GDT: For example I’m very obsessive about certain cues of integration of the images, because I want them to be photorealistic. I’m very careful about, for example, the color of the blacks, the level of the haze, the middle gestures of the animation. Like accumulating water and then when somebody that is in the middle of a rain storm hits something it displaces water not on the thing that it’s hitting only, but on the fist and… little physical cues, jiggle, character moments like from the jaegers or the kaiju that made them a little more special or funny or how badass or whatever. I mean this movie I put right up there as one of the movies that I’m the most satisfied with and it’s because I have all of that flexibility with ILM. We made it possible to stay on budget. The way we did the animation and the process, I could do the revisions as long as I stayed linear.
Peter Sciretta: Thank you very much.
GDT: Thank you, man.