No sooner had he finished shooting his first film than the Mexican director Guillermo del Toro was wanted by the police.
Guillermo del Toro: 'There is a moment in everyone's life when they have the chance to be immortal'
He had closed his production offices, seemingly in a hurry, and a few days later his fellow tenants had reported a disagreeable aroma seeping through his locked door. It was the smell of rotting flesh. And they knew this fanatical young filmmaker had a fascination with death.
"They thought it was a decomposing body," smiles the 41-year-old director. "And I suppose in some sense it was. The Cronos machine [a device in the movie that bestows immortality upon its owner] was partly mechanical but also comprised a living organism, so to make it look right we used real bits of offal. When I went away, I forgot to clean it out; it really stank."
Thankfully for del Toro, the police were satisfied with his explanation, leaving him free to release first the odour and then his film, Cronos. A surreal and chilling re-imagining of a vampire tale, it proved just as potent as the odour, quickly establishing his reputation as a promising and unusual writer-director. The film won the Critics' Prize at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival before going on to scoop nine Mexican Academy Awards.
Since then, del Toro has made films both inside and outside the Hollywood system, He has had varying degrees of commercial success with his studio projects, from the spluttering Mimic to the soaring Blade II and Hellboy, while winning universal praise for all his Spanish-language films. This month he adds to that canon with Pan's Labyrinth – a dark and intoxicating blend of wartime drama and gothic fairy tale.
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