You would be hard-pressed to find a movie that has garnered more acclaim and love in 2017 than Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water. The tale of a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) falling in love with a mysterious and misunderstood creature (Doug Jones) seems to have captured audience imaginations, and part of that stems back to its enchanting visuals. However, it now appears that the film's overall look was almost entirely different, as del Toro initially pitched it as a black and white film before budgetary concerns forced him to shoot in color. Production designer Paul Austerberry addressed the change and said:
When it was in black and white, the budget was $12 million. And then Fox Searchlight said, 'You know, if you make it color, we'll make it $19.6 million.' We were struggling at even $19.6 million to get it all down, so thankfully it went that way.
Filmmaking is a matter of compromise and combining visions to create something that uses input from everyone involved in the process. Guillermo del Toro went into The Shape of Water with the intention of shooting it in black and white, but the studio offered to add almost $7 million to his budget for a color film. Seeing the benefits that this change could (literally) afford him during production (such as the price tag for the talented cast, or better effects on the monster suit), del Toro made the necessary change.
Even with the aesthetic changes imposed by the budgetary requirements, it's pretty clear that Guillermo del Toro took steps to make a film that generally lined up with his original vision. Although he was eventually forced to shoot in color, he still kept a darker color palette while also incorporating reds and greens to help visualize the themes of love and hope that permeate the story. In fact, by his own admission, the Hellboy director was reasonably amenable to the change, eventually even describing the shift to color as a "pawn sacrifice" to show that he would play ball with the studio.
The Shape of Water's budgetary quandary is something that was discussed even before Paul Austerberry made his remarks to EW about the film. In fact, while speaking about the project recently, Guillermo del Toro even admitted that one of the most significant challenges to getting it made involved condensing what should've been $60 million or $70 million into the $19.6 million that he received to make the movie. All things considered, it sounds like every extra dollar was worth it in the end.
Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water is now out in select theaters, and will open wide on December 8. As for the next year of major movie releases, make sure to take a look at our 2017 movie premiere guide and our 2018 movie premiere guide to keep yourself in the loop on everything that Hollywood has in store on the big screen!