An Inside Joke From Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Became ‘Nerve Wracking’ To Young Actor Gregory Mann

Nicknames for your friends and co-workers can turn into the sort of inside jokes that make for fun and fond memories. Actor Gregory Mann can attest to that, as his work on the new movie release Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio gave the young actor one doozy of a story when it came to the Academy Award-winning director. While an inside joke between the two helped build Mann’s performance as the titular wooden boy, it led to a recurring concern. 

Sitting down with Gregory Mann during the Netflix press day for the studio’s animated awards contender, I had to ask about a story I’d come across in my research for the film. As the tale goes, the young man needed to be loosened up during some of his recording sessions for Pinocchio, and Guillermo del Toro knew just what it took to do the job. Using his playful nature to his advantage, del Toro would tell Mann to call him a dummy whenever he felt he needed a joyful boost.

Apparently that would work, as Gregory Mann would do just that, which got him comfortable enough to deliver his performance. But as the young star told me during his interview with CinemaBlend, it left him with a running joke that gives him pause: 

It’s actually very nerve wracking, because I’m kind of scared. If he calls me ‘dummy’ first, then I know I can call him that back, because everytime I see him it’s obviously spaced out over quite a long time in-between film festivals. But then the actual filming was over quite a long time. So I have to make sure he calls me the dummy first, because if I call Guillermo del Toro a dummy, and he forgets the joke, then I’m in big trouble.

Imagining a scenario where accidentally calling Guillermo del Toro a dummy when he’s not in on the joke absolutely sounds like a recipe for anxiety. The man behind films like Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy duology and the Best Picture winner of 2018 The Shape of Water is so respected and beloved in the industry that being able to call him such a name is a double-edged sword. It probably only adds to the nervous energy of the moment when you factor in that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio cast saw Gregory Mann in his first major film role.

So to recap, Mann was playing the lead in yet another adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s famed fairy tale, which happened to be headed up by a man who’s name is smack dab in the title. And that same project saw circumstances encourage him to call Guillermo del Toro a dummy on a recurring basis. Yet with all of that pressure, the director’s trick worked, as Gregory Mann’s performance in Pinocchio is a bright delight, while also nailing the more serious moments.

Walking the line between joy and horror, as del Toro has always been known to do, the Netflix adaptation of this time tested tale is a beautifully darker spin than Disney’s interpretations. So calibrating performances of this sort of murderer’s row of talent is as important as ever with a film such as this. Which now begs the question, did anyone else in the cast get to call Guillermo del Toro a dummy while recording their roles?  

Depending on how well Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio does with awards bodies throughout the rest of this year’s cycle, we might see Gregory Mann and Guillermo del Toro reunite yet again on Oscar night. If that’s the case, you can bet that this very subject will be on the table, and with any luck we’ll get to see the two laughing together; which may or may not be because they’ve greeted each other with the mutual nickname of dummy. 

In the meantime, if you’re trying to watch Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, you wouldn’t be a dummy. That is, provided that you have an active Netflix subscription on your streaming device of choice. If you’re already a loyal customer, then take a look at the Netflix new releases throughout the rest of this month and into January 2023!

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.