Universal Pictures releases By the Gun in select theaters on October 16th, 2015.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What are your influences as a filmmaker when it comes to ghosts and monsters?
Guillermo Del Toro: The way that I see monsters and ghosts is very Latin. I open the movie and say "Ghosts are real." The opening scene is based on a visitation that my mother experienced. My mother's grandmother died, and when my mother was a child, she was crying and heard the silk of her grandmother's dress moving and she smelled her perfume, and felt the weight of her on her back. There's a difference between having a root and being folkloric about it. I'm not forkloric about my roots; I am my roots. I have affinity for a melodrama with a Gothic romance quality because it's a little bit over-wrought. There's always passions. Gothic romance was born as the result of a movement against the age of reason. It was seeking emotion instead of reason. Lord Byron famously said, "If everything else fails, scare them, shock them." I don't want to use ghosts in a way that they're evil or demonic; I want to use them the way that Henry James described gothic romance. He wrote that the ghost represents your past, but it mobilizes by moving into the future. I've been obsessed with Gothic romance since I was 11.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How were the biographies of the characters used beyond just for the actors?
GDT: The biographies I did for the actors were immediately passed to the wardrobe design team and the production design team because I don't do eye candy; I do eye protein. I told them that they have to embody these biographies in what they wear and what we see.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a horror film into a classic?
GDT: Crimson Peak is not a horror film; it's a Gothic romance. The combination of a dark fairy tale with supernatural elements and melodrama is a very beautiful mixture---kind of like sweet and sour chicken. Horror is like humor or erotica. Your horror is not my horror. You can tell me that this is the funniest joke and I might think it's not. It's completely subjective. The only thing I do know is that there should be an absence or presence that shouldn't be there. For example, as context, you come into the kitchen and your dad is making pancakes. That's not scary at all. Your dad died 6 months ago, so then it's scary. It something that shouldn't be there. You leave the car and close the door, your daughter is in the car and you come back and she's not there. That's an absence that shouldn't be there. The other element that you need is characters who you can identify with.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What would make a great double feature with Crimson Peak?
My ideal double bill with Crimson Peak would be Robert Stevenson's Jane Eyre or Great Expectations by David Lean. That's aiming too high, but I love that movie very much.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Why did you decided to shoot in a 1:85 aspect ration?
GDT: I always shoot in 1:85. I think for me 1:85 is always the golden measure. This time, the scope format was the result of a competition between cinema and TV. Scope is amazing for exterior epics like adventure movies, westerns and war movies. 1:85 gives you more of the gothic arch and height that you need.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that Thomas and Edith are fools for love?
GDT: I think that during the scene where they make love, it changes the both of them permanently. Tom tries to be the better man. He's passive. I find that very moving that he tries. The male figures in the movie are pretty useless in a way. Love can either create you, destroy you or make you a monster.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think it's true that humans are the real horrors?
GDT: I think so because humans have a choice. A tiger, if you walk into a cage, it doesn't go "oh, he's a nice guy!" It will eat you. But humans know the balance and make the choice. If you know the difference, then that's evil. That's why I loved the monsters in Pacific Rim because they're not evil; they were just built to do that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you find yourself paying homage to some visuals from your past films?
JM: Filmmakers tend to show their proclivities in movies. It's sort of image fetishism. I'm the kind of guy that can go to the same restaurant and not get tired of it. It's the same with images. I gravitate toward themes and images that I like.