Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011 by Peter Sciretta
One of the more interesting movie panels at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con International was the one-hour Visionaries discussion between filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro and Jon Favreau. We have gotten the entire conversation transcribed so you at home can read it for yourself. I highly recommend it. Hit the jump to listen to Favreau and del Toro discuss the art of filmmaking, current and future projects, and much more.
Question: How are you guys doing?
Guillermo Del Toro: Excrement!
Question: How was the flight?
Guillermo Del Toro: It was painful, but I’m here. As I said earlier having a bulging… Having anything bulging after 40 is a hint of death.
Jon Favreau: I got an email from Guillermo a few days ago saying, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it, I’m in pain.” And I said, “Oh my God,” the whole… part of the fun of being here and doing this is to be sitting next to this guy, because he has been an inspiration and a mentor and a friend and somebody to commiserate with for years, so the idea of not doing it with you…
Guillermo Del Toro: Commiserating about losing weight.
Jon Favreau: Yes. We never look thinner than next to each other.
Question: Let’s talk about that inspiration and commiseration. You are both familiar with each over and each other’s work, in fact you were telling me that when you were making ZATHURA you reached out to Guillermo for advice. Can you talk a little bit about how you met and what you sought him out for?
Jon Favreau: Well before I ever met Guillermo, I was watching his movies and we are lucky to grow up in an age when there are DVD’s and additional materials and commentaries and some filmmakers decide to keep it serious, which I respect, and other filmmakers decided to share as much as they possibly can knowing that it will enrich the experience and fortunately Guillermo was one of the directors that goes out of his way to let you behind the curtain and he is of the mindset that the more you know, the more you will enjoy always knowing there is going to be another mystery to bring up, so he’s not afraid of revealing his secrets. When I was preparing to do ZATHURA, when I was confronted with that subject matter I watched THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE over and over again and even screened it.
[People begin to cheer.]
Jon Favreau: Isn’t that a great movie, DEVIL’S BACKBONE? I screened it for my crew and eventually even hired Guillermo Navarro, his cinematographer and compadre, to film it and we watched it together and through Guillermo Navarro I heard many stories about this Guillermo and eventually we ended up hanging out together I think… Was it Frank Darabont’s house that we first met?
Guillermo Del Toro: Yeah, great dinner. There were meatballs and spaghetti…
Jon Favreau: We don’t remember who was there, but we remember the food.
Guillermo Del Toro: Not at all… Drew Struzan, you, Frank… The thing is I love friendship, I really I’m addicted to friendship, I’m in this business yes to make movies and all of that, but also to hang out with people that I fucking adore you know? There’s nothing better than eating a bad pizza with Ron Perlman of eating whatever spaghetti and meatballs with you and Frank and Bernie and hearing them talk about those things. I think that we have a craft that can be very jealous. Often directors don’t hang together, A because most of us are assholes, number one, but B because we are jealous assholes. The one thing… I don’t know how many years I’ll direct or be able to produce, but I know one thing, I’ll be a fan my whole fucking life you know and I think as a fan you want to partake and you did it professionally for many years with DINNER FOR FIVE, which I watched every fucking episode including the ones with the guests I didn’t give a fuck about, just because the repartee was fantastic. I think that’s how we started just talking and we have many things in common, you commissioned the posters from Drew [Struzan] right after…
Jon Favreau: For ZATHURA, which Sony didn’t use and then I commissioned a poster from Drew for COWBOYS AND ALIENS, which Universal didn’t use (Laughs), but we got them made up special by the way, just for Comic Con for the premiere and I’m going to be doing a signing I think tomorrow with Drew Struzan on the floor and we will be giving out a bunch of those posters that Drew created for the premiere.
Jon Favreau: And by the way, we will be giving away from premiere tickets there as well, so line up and meet Drew and we will hope to see many of you at the premiere on Saturday.
Question: Guillermo I would be curious to know what you have appreciated about Jon’s approach to genre films, especially like IRON MAN. What have you enjoyed about his…
Guillermo Del Toro: Everything. I had been a fan before; when Navarro said they were going to work with him I said, “He’s a great director. Ask him this and ask him that.” Everything is… What is great is we both come from a sort of filmingly blue-collar background; he as an actor and me as a special effects, makeup effects, optical effects, animation background which was what I did for a living for more than ten years and what you do is they say “If you want to ever command, learn to obey” and “be a troop, before you are a general, so that you don’t have the arrogance of thinking these people are minions of your disposal. You suffer the long hours. You go through the short lunches, waking up at 4AM, etc…” So we come from that sort of, not some bold blue-collar working background in the films and I admire him as an actor and you know SINGLES was…
Jon Favreau: “SWINGERS.”
Guillermo Del Toro: SWINGERS. It is my second language, but “SINGLES” was great too. You’ve got to admit that. “THE DEVIL’S…” whatever… But what is great about this is then I started seeing him in ELF when he uses stop motion animation, hardcore fucking Kyoto Brothers stop motion animation in the style of Rankin/Bass. I go “This motherfucker is intelligent. This motherfucker is smart.” It’s also because people forget the charm that comes from those resources. CGI gets a bad wrap. I think it’s a fantastical tool, but it gets a bad wrap because a lot of people use it as a lazy tool, the lazy tool of filmmaking, and what I love about Jon is that he uses old fashioned techniques with puppetry, big models, miniatures, stop motion, or whatever is needed to tell the story, so I admire that. I admire that he’s great with actors, immanently fluid storytelling and a fantastic actor.
Jon Favreau: Guillermo and I are both… One of the projects that we are developing just so happens, again our careers seem to follow strange, but similar paths is I’m developing MAGIC KINGDOM at Disney and Guillermo is developing HAUNTED HOUSE….He’s doing “HAUNTED MANSION HOUSE” and…
Guillermo Del Toro: By the way…
Jon Favreau: (Laughs) You are learning to edit yourself, so you’re really maturing a lot in your 40’s, but we are both looking at that whole resource of intellectual property and fortunately, because the people over at Disney are saying a lot of great things like “We really want to engage filmmakers like you and bring your vision to it” and we are both incredible fans of Walt Disney and his sensibility and all of the innovations that he brought about, both technically and in storytelling and…
Guillermo Del Toro: People forget how it become… He came to some of the radical animation in the 70’s, he was viewed as “The man,” but this was a guy who was highly experimental, the innovations he brought, the risks… Talk about a risk taker, this guy didn’t do anything safe.
Jon Favreau: Walt Disney was the first person to marry animation with music with a click track and STEAMBOAT WILLIE what people don’t realize is it wasn’t innovative because of the character, Mickey Mouse became famous after that, but he was the first person to make cartoons musical. He was the first person to really make television, color television wide spread. He was the first person to do fantasounds.
Guillermo Del Toro: And feature film animation.
Jon Favreau: And feature length animation, like with SNOW WHITE and if you ever read a biography of his, it’s amazing how he let everything ride all of the time and risked it all. I think we both draw a lot of inspiration from people like him and the idea of us brining our sensibility to the Disney properties will see it’s a long road, but there’s a wonderful opportunity to use all of the techniques you are talking about. Just with MAGIC KINGDOM we are talking about combining all of those things, whether it’s stop motion, whether it’s 3D, 2D, we are going to figure that out, but using different techniques to give a nostalgic feel to something that I think will satisfy families, but I think it’s through the technical innovation, the insight, the nostalgia… the inspiration that’s going to appeal to all audiences.
Guillermo Del Toro: We also spent a shit load of time at the park and called it “research” and one of the best times in my whole life is when they opened The Haunted Mansion for me at 5AM when the park was empty and I walked for three hours the entire mansion by foot. “Holy crap.” And it was “research” (Laugh Maniacally)
Guillermo Del Toro: Little did they know… You know what I did? I hid a quarter and a dime in that mansion that will never be found.
Jon Favreau: I was there. I did the tour with Tony Baxter who is a genius Imagineer who might be here tonight. I know he’s at Comic Con and comes all of the time, and just a tour of the Imaginerium was amazing just to see how they come up with it. They showed me your attraction that you have been… your addition to The Haunted Mansion. Am I allowed to talk about it?
Guillermo Del Toro: Those ghosts.
Jon Favreau: The old “Hatbox Ghost” to people who know. He’s a legendary character from the original Haunted Mansion and when I did the walking tour they showed me the plate… I’m sure you know where it was where the “Hatbox Ghost” originally was and…
Guillermo Del Toro: My van is very close by. (“Shh.”)
Jon Favreau: Can we talk about… We can’t talk about THE HAUNTED MANSION without talking about Bleak House. Do you mind if I talk about….
Guillermo Del Toro: Please do.
Jon Favreau: Bleak House is… Has anybody heard of Bleak House? I did The Hollywood Reporter this week and I was trying to get a photo spread of Bleak House, but Guillermo is very busy working on his movie, I’m sure we are going to talk about that, and… Can I talk about how there’s a book?
Guillermo Del Toro: Yeah, yeah.
Jon Favreau: There’s a book coming out, a coffee table book, of photography of this now… So let me just give you a little sense of what this is and why it is important, Guillermo bought a whole separate house for all of his shit is what it comes down to and he converted every room into a different library with a different theme and there is everything from original Bernie Rice etchings to sketches from FANTASIA to original poster art, movie memorabilia, everything form his films and it’s all like one big haunted house and it has The Haunted Mansion emblem when you go up to the door.
Guillermo Del Toro: It has a special room for The Haunted Mansion behind the bookshelf.
Jon Favreau: Behind a hidden bookshelf…
Guillermo Del Toro: And the rain room, where it rains seven days a week twenty-four hours like a Tiki room, because I’m a weird fat motherfucker.
Guillermo Del Toro: But financed.
Jon Favreau: And he brought, where was it… He brought me and Edgar Wright…
Guillermo Del Toro: Edgar Wright and I have the car outside that is from the movie THE CAR, the James Brolin movie… I replicated that car and that’s what I drive in LA now.
Jon Favreau: It’s amazing, so it’s like a… It’s scary too, because it’s all horrible disgusting realistic… It’s all that weird freak show of macabre artwork, but it makes a huge impression, so when that book comes out you should check it out.
Guillermo Del Toro: I think that both of us come from a fan point of view. When you talk to Jon and we have had dinners, like that night we had dinner with Edgar Wright and we talked for many, many hours, its talking to a fan like he knows the issues, he knows the different iterations of Iron Man amongst other things, but we can talk about art or Bernie or Moebius or any artist we want to talk about and it’s refreshing for me, because a lot of people that tackle big properties tackle them for money or career, but they don’t tackle them because they have a boner for it you know? I think you have to. You have to get a chubby to tackle that.
Guillermo Del Toro: I think it’s very important to…