Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican screenwriter, director, producer, and novelist. Growing up in Mexico del Toro was “a playfully morbid child” to outsiders perhaps, interested in magic and monsters and playing with fake blood and collodion to make artificial scars. He even smuggled snakes, rats, and once a crow into his home to play with in his bedroom. Underneath the surface, however, del Toro admits that “the horror of Catholic guilt and the dogma,” imposed upon him by his grandmother, took a severe emotional toll on his mental state as a child. He has “jokingly [said he] spent 40 years trying to recuperate from the first eight, but to a degree it is true,” having “really suffered intensely in the first 10 years of [his] life,” tormented by notions of hell, purgatory, and original sin.
Creatively, these preoccupations with such grim and morbid concepts manifested in del Toro through his early interest in art and film. He managed to turn his childhood fascination with all things macabre into a successful film-making career, after the success of his first feature film Cronos (1993), in which a young girl becomes more fond of her grandfather after he becomes a vampire. The film’s success at the Canne Film Festival that year made Hollywood notice del Toro and launched his career in the American film industry, which has witnessed del Toro at the helm of some high-profile projects, like Hellboy (2002), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), which was actually a Spanish-Mexican film that was nominated for an Academy Award, Pacifc RIm (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015).Although they span a wide range of genres, one element of consistency in del Toro’s films is the creation of “monsters,” and his desire to develop creatures the audience will gawk at in awe, which partly stems from his original love of creating special effects.
Transferring his vivid imagination offscreen, del Toro has also co-authored an apocalyptic vampire trilogy of books. Consisting of the novels The Strain (2009), The Fall (2010), and The Night Eternal (2011), the series has also been adapted for TV as the FX series The Strain, which will be returning for its third season in August 2016.
In 1997, while filming the movie Mimic, del Toro’s father, Federico del Toro was kidnapped and held hostage for 72 days until his son Guillermo could pay the ransom, with the help of James Cameron. “During the captivity of [his] father” del Toro has stated that “two policemen came to see [his family],” and offered two proposals. “The first was: For 5K, they would give us a room with the kidnappers, tied to a chair. They would provide a lead pipe & 15 minutes alone. The second one: For 10K they would make sure that- when the raid happened- all kidnappers would get killed and we’d get Polaroids.” Both options the del Toro family unequivocally refused. Despite their pain, del Toro said, they were absolutely unwilling to contribute to “the cycle of violence,” a sentiment he wished to pass on the wake of the Paris Attacks in 2015, urging everyone to resist the temptation to further the violence and seek out the strength for compassion and restraint instead.