Guillermo wants old buddies to join him on The Hobbit

23 March, 2009 by IF

Despite Weta being named as one of the official special effects companies to work on The Hobbit, director Guillermo del Toro has made it clear that he’d also like to reunite with his tried and tested buddies at Spectral Motion on this movie.

Toro worked fantastically well with Spectral Motion on Pan’s Labryinth and Hellboy II and he is very keen to continue this relationship to make some more cutting edge effects on The Hobbit.


He is aiming to take the merging of animatronics, puppetry and CGI even further on this new movie. He plans to make it more difficult for the viewer to tell the difference between the art forms on the screen, which is a very exciting proposition.

Despite Toro’s hopes, Matthew Dravitzki, from Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films Production, says: “No SFX company outside of Weta has been engaged on The Hobbit at this time, and won’t be, until the exact needs of the scripts are known, and the budget has been approved.”

Toro adds that when it comes to the special effects, there will be a lot of attention focused on the Goblin Kingdom, the dragon called Smaug and the Spiders of Mirkwood.

He expects his biggest challenge with The Hobbit to involve creating and expanding on Tolkien’s massive universe, which he intents to be as immersive as the Trilogy. He is very eager to do Tolkien’s book justice and inject plenty of his own intervention into it too.

The filming of The Hobbit is expected to start in 2010 and will production will run for 370 days.

Toro gave an Australian audience a unique insight into how thinks as a director when he took part in a Q&A at a screening of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, arranged by PopCorn Taxi.

The director, who is one of the hottest in the world right now, was extremely illuminating about his career and passion for film.

PopCorn Taxi invited Oscar Hillerstrom from the Sci-Fi Channel to host the Q&A, and he was very entertaining with his presentation too. He introduced the event by telling the audience about del Toro’s grandmother, who brought him up with a very strict Catholic background.

Apparently she tried to exorcise him twice because he kept on coming up with strange drawings of demons and monsters and she wanted him to atone for his sins.

So she made him walk to school once with bottle caps in his shoes the wrong way up so he would bleed for his sins.

Unfortunately for her, she obviously did not manage to clear the demons and monsters from his imagination, judging by the content of his movies.

So why does he feel the need to share these amazing worlds with us? He said he finds it extremely rewarding when he can create these worlds successfully.

“In Hellboy II, at the beginning, I faced a lot of opposition in regards to the scene in the troll market. People did not see it the way I saw it in my mind but when I was finally able to realise the world and the creatures that populate the Troll market, I felt a great deal of satisfaction. It was almost like discovering a very strange village that you knew existed somewhere but is not on any map. So I often feel like a discoverer of new worlds.”

Hillerstrom went on to talk about del Toro’s loyalty to actors who enjoy wearing special effects make-up, such as Ron Perlman, who played Hellboy; Luke Goss, who played Prince Nuana and Brian Steele, who played Wink. del Toro talked about his admiration for these actors who work so well with make-up.

“There are very few performers who can become actors in the monster suit world and certainly in the make-up world. Some of the great actors put prosthetic make-up on themselves and they kind of freeze. But some of them can also enjoy it. For example, Laurence Olivier and Peter Sellers used to thrive in their make-up. Ron Perlman is one of those people too and he is also a dear friend of mine. Doug Jones and Brian Steele are immaculate in the way they make suits and prosthetic effects come to life like nobody else I know.

“I obligate them to perform two, three or sometimes even four different parts in the movie because they are so good and I won’t settle for a performance that is less than that.”

In Hellboy II del Toro was also thrilled to work with one of the great performers – John Alexander, who has been involved in Men In Black, Greystoke and most of the famous gorilla suits created by Rick Baker.

He added that Brian Steele is not only really good at portraying physical brute force but he is also capable of portraying characters with nuance too. In Hellboy II he plays Catherdral Head, Fragglewump, Wink and yells at Hellboy as himself.

“Wink is one of the best and most difficult creature suits I have ever seen. I believe he was losing 10-15 pounds of sweat each day, so my wife strongly recommended that I should get one too.”

del Toro’s inspiration as a filmmaker comes from Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen. He is also a a fan of books about fairytales, folklore, myths, warriors, fantasy and horror and two of his favourite writers were Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde.

In his latest instalment of Hellboy, del Toro explores good and evil in a very original way. He wanted to show that there can be ambiguity between the two sides and they are not as simple as usually portrayed.

“I think we live in a strange time when one culture can move to destroy another one so that it can assert itself socially. You go to war over oil and still pretend it is a Holy War based on principles. In this film, I wanted to create a superhero movie where people would realise that the only character in the movie who thinks beyond himself is the bad guy, although I don’t sanction his methods.

“The Prince is the only person who puts forward total principles and concerns. Abe very humanly gives up the world, which makes him fallible. Although the film is simple, I hope the moral trajectory is not. I like the ambiguity. I wanted to do Hellboy and question the infallibility of the heroes.”

del Toro adds that he was pretty much left to his own devices by the studios when it came to making the movie.

“The only trouble I had was when people would question a line or two, but I fought for them. For example, somebody said they thought the audience would react adversely to the line: ‘I’m not a baby, I’m a tumour,’ but I loved that line and fought to keep it in.”

del Toro often likes to use a combination of physical and CGI effects in his movies, but there is no doubt that he has a great fondness for the physical type of effects more than anything else.

“It is easy to fall either way on an argument about CGI and physical effects, and that is not right. But I think CGI can be a very lazy tool for lazy directors. It’s something that can easily be abused by filmmakers who just don’t feel like shooting things and they want somebody else to do the heavy lifting.

“I think it’s important, even with a CGI effects film, to come in with elements of reality, albeit an interacting element. I think that when you go completely CGI in a frame, you should only do this if there is no other resource at your disposal. But by the same token, I think it’s a wonderful tool. It is with us for good, so for as long as filmmaking exists, everybody might as well embrace it and love it because it is here to stay. But I do see animatronics being part of the process of a dying art and I think it should not be.”

He adds that it should be defended at all costs and that is why, although he does use a lot of CGI in his films (1000 shots in Hellboy II), he can proudly say that about 90% of the creatures that appear in the movie are achieved physically, through animatronics and make-up effects.

“Of course that’s not the case with the Golden Army and the Tooth Fairies because their size made it impossible to make physically. But with the physical creatures, there is a beauty and a flavour to the animatronics that is unique to it and should not be lost.”

del Toro likes to be heavily involved in all aspects of his movie, to the extent where he also likes to do most of the voices in his movies too, such as grunts and growling. In fact, he did about 90% of the voices for Hellboy II. Of course his next project will be on the forthcoming two Hobbit films, which again should contain some interesting surprises for us all. He says that they are making good progress on the screenplay and he has been having a grand old time working on it.

“It keeps on transforming and changing and it is definitely the most beautiful writing experience of my life. I’m enjoying it immensely.”

So if del Toro’s imagination is allowed to continue to run wild, which it should do under the guidance of Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor, we can anticipate many more original physical effects in these two movies. We can expect to be taken on some mind-blowing new journeys too.