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Guillermo del Toro opens up on 'The Hobbit': 'It wasn't just MGM'

July 27, 2010 |  7:30 am

Deltoro

As Peter Jackson makes progress -- in theory -- on getting "The Hobbit" moving forward again, Guillermo del Toro has a few things to say about the movie he spent two years developing.

The genre auteur says he has no regrets about departing the New Zealand production, but says that anyone who think that MGM's financial mess was the main culprit for his departure is oversimplifying the issue.

"People kept misconstruing that it was MGM. It came from many factors," Del Toro told 24 Frames in an interview at Comic-Con. "It wasn't just MGM. These are very complicated movies, economically and politically. You have to get the blessing from three studios."
 
Instead, he said, it was the cumulative effect of all of these problems that began to wear him down. "It was really the fact that every six months we thought we were beginning, and every six months we got pushed [back]. And before you could blink, it was a year, and then it was two years."

So was there was a last straw in this bundle of woes? Some insiders have said that Del Toro and Jackson clashed over creative-control issues. The director said that in all their time working on the movie, he and the "Lord of the Rings" filmmaker were nothing but copacetic, though Del Toro didn't entirely rule out that it one day could have become fraught. "We were at the stage where the collaboration was good. If there were going to be any issues, we never got to that stage [in development]," he said.

Del Toro was in San Diego to tout two Disney projects -- a newly announced reboot of "Haunted Mansion," based on the theme-park attraction, and his latest godfather/producer/co-writer project, the Gothic scare-fest "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," which the studio will release in January.

"Dark," which stars Katie Holmes and remakes a little-known 1973 movie, tells of a young girl who moves into a house with her mother and stepfather and begins to realize there are supernatural beings in the basement who want to pull her down with them. It fits with the themes of Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Orphanage" (which the filmmaker also godfathered), in which supernatural events reflect more subtle emotional truths.

"We're combining the dark European fairy tales of creatures who would substitute babies, creatures from a world older than ours, and we also borrowed what I think it a very interesting idea from 'The Birds,' where the monsters are a manifestation of the tensions in the family," Del Toro said.  "It's a classic tale with a modern level of intensity."

The genre community has played the game of 'What will Guillermo do (next)?' practically since the moment the auteur left "The Hobbit." While Comic-Con shed light on some of his longer-term projects -- he could eventually direct "Haunted Mansion," he said, but it's not his next movie (Matthew Robbins and he need to write the script first) -- it still left tantalizingly open what he will tackle in the immediate future.

And that future is indeed not far off. In the interview, Del Toro said he would shoot a movie in the first quarter of 2011. The film, he said, was a big movie he'd been writing and developing (so anyone hoping he'd jump on, you know, "Superman: The Man of the Steel" might be disappointed). "It's something that has been with me for a while," he said.

Of course, that still leaves the possibilities pretty open, and gives fans even more to chew on. The new movie could be anything from a new "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde "to a "Van Helsing" reboot to the Roald Dahl adaptation "The Witches" --  but it particularly could be his long-gestating "At the Mountains of Madness," based on the H.P. Lovecraft novella for which he's long professed enthusiasm. We mentioned that title, and Del Toro flashed an impish grin and said, "We'll see."

As for the film he left behind, Del Toro threw his support to the man whom fans have been calling for. "I would love for Peter to direct it." But couldn't that be difficult for Del Toro to watch, knowing it could well have been his own creation? "Parts of it would be, but I'll be really happy to see the designs we did come to life," he said.

Del Toro did still sound a rueful note about his decision to pack his bags and return to Los Angeles without seeing "The Hobbit" through. "It is the hardest professional decision of my life," he said. "I still feel very emotional about it."

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Guillermo del Toro. Credit: Miguel Villagran / Associated Press

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