• 00:10
  • 22.05.2019
Del Toro creates magic in Shape of Water

Del Toro creates magic in Shape of Water

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Guillermo del Toro's new Cold War era science-fiction film The Shape of Water had the potential to be a disaster.

The two lead characters are mute.

One is a cleaning lady and the other is an Amazonian human-fish creature and when they meet in a top secret US laboratory they fall in love.
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It sounds like schlock

It's not.

"It's a fairytale for troubled times," del Toro told AAP in a recent interview in Los Angeles.
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Critics have called it a masterpiece and the film has blazed a path through Hollywood awards season, with wins including del Toro taking best director at the Golden Globes, the film named best picture at the Critics Choice Awards and Sally Hawkins, who plays the cleaning lady, a frontrunner for the best actress Oscar.

Del Toro knew his ambitious story had the potential to go off the rails, but, with a history of hits including Pan's Labyrinth and misses like Crimson Peak, he fearlessly pushed ahead.

"Movies are not easy to make physically," the Mexican filmmaker, a smile on his face, said.
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"You're not building a rock wall, but emotionally they are totally exhausting.

"When they work, it is pure magic."

The inspiration for The Shape of Water came during a breakfast meeting between del Toro and his writing partner on the Trollhunters book series, Daniel Kraus.
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Kraus spoke about a story he came up with as a teenager - a cleaning lady in a government facility befriending an amphibious man held captive.

Del Toro loved it and immediately began drawing the creature and writing the script.

He also set about recruiting a phenomenal cast headed by Hawkins, Doug Jones as the creature, Michael Shannon as a steel-jawed government agent and Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins as the cleaning lady's two friends.
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He also assembled Hollywood's best creature designers and visual effects wizards.

The goal was to create a creature with a soul.

"He's a god from a river in the Amazon - a fantastic, gorgeous, divine creature," del Toro said.
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It was the 192cm tall, skinny Jones who squeezed into the skin-tight foam latex rubber and silicone fish man suit and undertook four hours of make-up a day.

He also spent most scenes in water.

Jones has become del Toro's monster muse, first playing a large insect in del Toro's 1997 horror-sci-fi film Mimic and went on to play 11 other creatures in six other film or TV projects, including the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in Hellboy.
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They alll involved tortuous suits and hours of make-up.

"He wants to torture me," Jones laughed.

"This one was a bit different.
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"Guillermo presented it to me as I'd be the the lead romantic male who would be wearing a fish man costume, can't say one word of dialogue and had to fall in love with a woman who is also not talking back.

"They were the challenges, but knowing it would be directed by Guillermo del Toro I knew it would be a beautiful love story."

The Shape of Water releases in Australian cinemas on Thursday.
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