- 23 September 2010
- By Gerard Wood
I was, I admit, dubious whether At the Mountains of Madness would be Guillermo Del Toro's first directing project following his departure from The Hobbit movies (I was quietly hoping he'd be taking on Dan Simmons' Drood). In my defence, earlier this year at the Saturn Awards Del Toro was fairly downbeat about the prospect of achieving this decades long ambition any time soon: "It's very difficult for the studios to take the step of doing a period-set, R-rated, tentpole movie with a tough ending and no love story."
Well, much has changed since then and Del Toro's adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness is now well and truly on the way to being realised.
Del Toro was a guest speaker at the New York Times Timetalks this week to talk about The Fall, the second book in his trilogy, The Strain, and the discussion inevitably strayed to other projects. Amongst other things he spoke with insight and humour about Lovecraft's writing, issues of adapting a work of fiction for the big screen and, with delightful enthusiasm, about the monsters he is designing for the movie.
Thanks to Shock Til You Drop for posting these snippets from the talk.
On Lovecraft's writing and the art and craft of adaptation:
"We've been designing for the last 3-weeks. It's being produced by James Cameron, who's been a friend for 20-years ... we have avoided working together until the time came for the right project. Obviously, the difference between the novella and the movie is that Lovecraft had a gift for making everything specifically ambiguous. He would say 'the leering face loaded with madness,' or 'the evil perverse entity of unnamable'... everything was unnamable, indescribable. When you're reading you go,'Whoa!' your brain fills those spaces. For every creature, everyone has a secret mental image of what those creatures look like. It's going to be impossible to please everyone.
"The other thing that Lovecraft does in the novella, brilliantly, is essentially a very dry document. The reason why I read folklore is because folklore is almost stated as fact. It makes it all the more scary. You read a book that says, 'In the moors of so-and-so I had this dog who wanders the land of so-and-so, and a woman wails behind him, a pale spectrum,' and that's it! You go, 'Oh, well... I guess that happens.' When you read books like Passport to the Supernatural or Chronicle of Vampirism, they just state it. 'In the town of so-and-so a shoemaker dies. Three days later he came back to haunt his family, and his rotting corpse...' [laughs] It's so factual. Lovecraft was the same. It's a very scientific expedition, only things go really wrong by him, and then by the end there's a few visible moments. Everything that is non-specific in literature has to be specific.
"You are loyal to the adaptation of the tale to another medium. I think the worst thing you can do is be slavish to the original document and then destroy the movie. You're not going to get a medal for being loyal. You're going to get a medal for making a good movie. I always say, jokingly, that adapting somebody else's work is like marrying a widow. You have to be respectful of the memory of the late husband but at some point [slaps hand suggestively]."
On the monsters:
"I've been thinking of those monsters for twenty years. Fortunately for me no one has done monsters like the ones I'm doing. In all the movies ever made there's never been monsters like the ones we're doing. About two weeks ago we were visited by Dennis Muren. He looked at the designs, and he turned to us and said, 'No one has seen monsters like this ever.' I was like, [boyish grin] 'Yeah!' I was happy and vindicated and all that. All I'm telling you is to me some of these monsters are more real than many of my cousins. [laughs] I mean, I have to point to them when we're at dinner, [whispers] 'who's that, Pedro? PEDRO!' But monsters I know what they had for lunch, for dinner, the biological condition, where they come from. I know all these questions because I live with them in my mind all the time.
"It's not only because I want it to be unique, it's because the way I have imagined the creatures for years is my own. I think monsters have to be powerful, fascinating, and you have to be fascinated in the most strict sense of the word. You cannot avert your eyes from them. There's a school of thought that says the unseen is more powerful, and I agree to a point. Then there is another type of horror movie that is a monster movie, in which the fascination of seeing the monster, and seeing the monster do its deed, is very powerful. Most people watch National Geographic secretly waiting to watch the lion attack the gazelle. [laughs] Ultimately, I think there is a part of monster lore that requires the payoff."
- Iron Man 3 [***]As Lt. Col. James Rhodes might say (priv...
- Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell heads for the small screenIn November last year the BBC quietly an...
- Johnny Depp is Tonto in The Lone Ranger: posters and trailers Disney has sent us a few character pos...
- Elysium trailer: luxury, poverty, robots and Matt DamonIn Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, his second ...