The Shape of Water, which finally gets its worldwide release this weekend, has already stolen the hearts of many. With near unanimous praise from critics, Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic romance is prime for a busy awards season. The Shape of Water leads the Golden Globes with 7 nominations, which is the icing on the cake of a year dominated by genre film. Taking home some hardware would be a much deserved cherry atop Del Toro’s incredible career, who is widely regarded as one of the most imaginative filmmakers working in Hollywood today. In the wake of his new film, there have been many articles chronicling Del Toro’s career and ranking his filmography. Instead of contributing another, we’re venturing into a world of what could have been.
Though Del Toro has a decent sized filmography, the list of films he’s almost created is three times as long. The Mexican director has a relentless work ethic and more ideas than he knows what to do with. He’s infamous for being attached to many projects whether it be via writing, producing, or directing. I’m sure we all wish Del Toro had the time and resources to make every film his heart desired but alas, some projects will never come to be. In the spirit of the holidays, let’s visit some of the ghosts of movies’ past. Here are 6 films that Guillermo Del Toro almost brought to life!
1. Hellboy 3
I have to get this one out of the way first because it hurts the most. Del Toro was already well known in the film community for The Devil’s Backbone, but it was Hellboy that brought him into the mainstream spotlight. Hellboy was a unique, gothic superhero film released towards the beginning of the comic book movie boom.. It was our first taste of Del Toro’s insane world-building abilities, blending fantasy with the paranormal. This world was then expanded upon in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, elevating everything from the first. Del Toro imagined the franchise as a trilogy, but ran into trouble getting the third into production reportedly due to conflict over budget. But the franchise gained a strong fanbase, banding behind Del Toro and Ron Perlman. Back in January, GDT took to Twitter to see if the fans could help. Despite efforts from passionate fans, Del Toro later confirmed in February that film was 100% not going to happen. But, it didn’t take long for Lionsgate to announce a Hellboy reboot for 2019.
2. I Am Legend
We all know Guillermo Del Toro loves working with creatures and monsters, including his vampires of Blade 2 and The Strain. So to little surprise, Del Toro was approached to direct the zombie-vampire thriller I Am Legend by Will Smith himself. He expressed a lot of interest in the film, being a big fan of the Richard Matheson novel. Del Toro ultimately had to pass in favor of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. There was a small silver lining though, GDT stated in an interview with TIME that his influence still made its way into the film:
Some of the notes about their biology actually came from me going to Warner Bros. to show them my ideas. I found it quite nice that visually the vampires in that movie had some passing similarity to those from my movie Blade II. The way they move, the fact that they all lose their hair and become these pale creatures.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
It’s a little hard to imagine Guillermo Del Toro working within an established franchise despite the fact that the Harry Potter is practically a gothic fairy tale centered around a school of children. That said, one word makes it easy to see why GDT almost directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Werewolves. But let’s be real, it would have been DOPE to see a practical effects werewolf (performed by long time-collaborator Doug Jones, maybe?) on screen rather than the mediocre CGI lycan we were given. Del Toro passed on the project to direct Hellboy and Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, 2013) went on to direct the well-received Harry Potter film. So everything worked out in the end I guess.
4. Justice League Dark
Of all the movies on this list, Justice League Dark was the closest film GDT came to actually making. The film is currently in development hell, as many other directors such as Joseph Kahn (Detention, Bodied) have also dropped from the project. Del Toro was attached all the way back in 2012, with a penned script that was completed in 2014. For those who aren’t comic book nerds, Justice League Dark is a team of superheroes/antiheroes who deal with the darker paranormal threats of the DC universe. The team is comprised of: a dead guy, a demon, an occultist detective, a magician, and a character literally named Swamp Thing. Everything about the team and premise begs for Guillermo Del Toro to bring it to the big screen. A comic book movie seen through a horror lens with a unique story and killer effects could have been a game-changer. Del Toro was incredibly passionate about the material and we’ve already seen what he could do with dark superhero franchise. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts with Pacific Rim 2 and the rise of the DCEU, Del Toro had to step away from the project.
It’s been a grueling 10 years of development hell for Del Toro’s imagined stop-motion take on Pinocchio. And of course whats holding it back, as the case with a few other unrealized projects, is getting it financed. GDT is a true artist in the sense of the word, he won’t make something unless it’s exactly his vision. Del Toro’s dark take on the classic tale would would be a Frankenstein twist on the original fairy tale, utilizing a combination of stop-motion and live puppetry. Though ambitious, the heavily practical production would be expensive, with a proposed budget of aprox $32 million. All the pieces are in place from the script to the production team, we’ve seen promo art and even a short clip. All that’s missing is the money to make it happen. Hopefully The Shape of Water‘s box office performance makes the nice list this Christmas and we get one step closer to seeing the film brought to life.
6. The Wolverine
Fans really enjoyed James Mangold’s The Wolverine, but it’s hard not to think of what it would have looked like through Del Toro’s eyes. GDT has been connected to several superhero films over the years, including Thor and the above mentioned Justice League Dark, but this one fascinates me the most. In an interview with Collider, Del Toro revealed he actually sat down with Fox Executives and Hugh Jackman about directing the film. It would have been cool to see him take on a story set in Japan, as Del Toro often drenches his films in culture like Pan’s Labyrinth or even Crimson Peak. Logan and Hellboy share a lot of similarities, so I could see why this was an attractive project to him. Two things I desperately wanted from The Wolverine was more body horror with Logan losing powers and a practical Silver Samurai. Had GDT taken on this project, perhaps I would have gotten my wish. Del Toro eventually passed the project along to Darren Arronofsky, who then passed it on to Mangold. How cool would it be too see each director’s different vision on the iconic character.
7. At the Mountains of Madness
Lastly is Guillermo Del Toro’s passion project, the classic H.P. Lovecraft novella At the Mountains of Madness. The story is a connected anthology of sorts, a professor recounts stories during an Antarctic expedition. Del Toro has been trying to get this movie for over a decade, with the project being cancelled in 2004 by Dreamworks and then again in 2012 when he refused to make it PG-13. The second time around came pretty close: the script was complete, James Cameron was on board to produce, and Tom Cruise was in talks for the lead role. The film was denied once again over funding and the creative differences in tone, but as of 2013 Del Toro has stated he would try one more time. The film sounds like a terrifying thriller and the story would be treated with the highest respect, Lovecraft is a clear influence in Del Toro’s work. Hopefully with his relentless passion, the film will eventually get made and see the light of day.
There are plenty more unrealized or up-in-the-air projects in Del Toro’s catalog including Godzilla, Beauty and the Beast, and The Haunted Mansion. At one point, he was even offered the entire Dark Universe! The talented director can only do so much, but with a mind like his can you blame the world for wanting as many Del Toro movies as possible? Today’s film landscape is so saturated with reboots and remakes, every Guillermo Del Toro project is a breath of fresh air. It’s unfortunate we can’t get more unique and imaginative films like Pacific Rim or Pan’s Labyrinth. To heck with the Dark Universe and the DCEU, I’m putting the GDTEU (Guillermo Del Toro Extended Universe, working title) on my Christmas List. One thing is for sure, at least The Shape of Water isn’t a project on this list. Go and support the film so we can get even more from Del Toro, perhaps At the Mountains of Madness if we’re lucky.