Since Guillermo del Toro dropped Pan’s Labyrinth on us in ‘O6, everyone has been dying to work with him… and have him adapt the classics closest to their heart? With his increasingly questionable adaptations of the beloved characters of the Hellboy characters, how will Hobbit fan’s fare if he takes their little Frodo where they don’t want to follow? Del Toro recently attended the New Yorker Festival in Manhattan, and spoke with Daniel Zalewski, from The New Yorker on the topic of inspiration, dragon dialogue, and WWI. Coming Soon was there and published their highlights.
It seems that Del Toro will not be boning up on classic fantasy flicks like Willow, Legend or Labyrinth to prepare for the production of The Hobbit. He claims, “I wouldn’t be watching Krull, or The Dark Crystal, I need to find my own way into the story. That’s the same way I did Pan’s Labyrinth or Devil’s Backbone, by watching stuff you wouldn’t think about.” OK, so… he’s making sure to not be inspired by fantasy flicks with puppets in them? That seems to be good news.
So, where is he deriving his inspiration from? He explains that he is “reading or watching World War I documentaries or books that I think inform The Hobbit, strangely enough, because I believe it is a book born out of Tolkien's generation's experience with World War I and the disappointment of being in that field and seeing all those values kind of collapse. I think it's a turning point that you need to familiarize yourself with.” Thanks for the heavy handed suggestion, del Toro. I just hope we don’t see the effects of WWI in his interpretation of the Shire!
Although his basis for inspiration sounds dangerously un-fun, it seems we can all agree on something: Dragons are awesome and should have as much dialogue as possible. Del Toro says, “[All] my life I've been fascinated by dragons. I was born under the Chinese sign of The Dragon. All my life I'm collecting dragons. It's such a powerful symbol, and in the context of The Hobbit it is used to cast its shadow through the entire narrative. Essentially, Smaug represents so many things: greed, pride… he's 'the Magnificent,' after all. The way his shadow is cast in the narrative you cannot then show it and have it be one thing, he has to be the embodiment of all those things. He's one of the few dragons that will have enormous scenes with lines. He has some of the most beautiful dialogues in those scenes!” With his amazing interpretations of mythical creatures, I have no doubt his interpretation of Smaug will be nothing short of breathtaking.
With Peter Jackson winning Oscars and stuff for his versions of the same character that The Hobbit is based on, Del Toro most certainly has some shoes to fill, and an unusually large fan base to answer to. Few directors have been able to achieve the level of critical acclaim and fan approval that Jackson achieved with his LOTR trilogy. But it seems that del Toro is not here to re-create the LOTR ‘verse. He claims, “There will be different sensibilities involved in this movie than there were in the original trilogy. First of all, because we have the travelogues in The Hobbit which goes to places and variations on races that were not addressed in the trilogy.” I think we can all agree that Del Toro knows how to make a race of fantasy folk, as evidenced in his artful interpretation of the fawn in Pan’s Labyrinth and the Golden Army in Hellboy 2.
When asked about more specific races, like the ‘Wargs,’ Del Toro had this to say: “My belief on the 'Wargs' issue is that the classical incarnation of the demonic wolf in Nordic mythology is not a hyena-shaped creature. It is a wolf. The archetype is a wolf, so we're going to go back to the slender, archetypical wolf that is, I think, the inspiration for Tolkien.” He would not give any more details, joking that “Warner Brothers has a sniper right here at the theater!”
With The Hobbit becoming more and more concrete, LOTR fans will definitely be able to start looking forward to something. Whether they love or hate Tolkien adaptations, The Hobbit is happening! It seems that Del Toro, himself, is psyched: "Believe me, I am jumping up-and-down inside this fat body!"
Del Toro also has some other delectable sounding projects cooking in his Spanish sizzler: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, an adaptation of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, a novel-style vampire trilogy, and a very modern interpretation of Frankenstein.
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