Films

Guillermo Del Toro Reveals His Influences

Published

Ahead of his new film The Book Of Life, legendary director Guillermo Del Toro talks us through his key influences

Illustrations from the time of the Jack The Ripper Murders

Victoriana

“I am obsessed with Victorian culture. I have a room of my library at home called ‘The Dickens room’. It has every work by Dickens, Wilkie Collins and many other Victorian novelists, plus hundreds of works about Victorian London and its customs, etiquette, architecture. I’m a Jack The Ripper aficionado, too. My museum-slash-home has a huge amount of Ripperology in it. I saw the recent theory on Jack The Ripper from supposed DNA evidence, but there’s no way of proving anything, thanks to the amount of time that has passed. It’s impossible [to prove], at least until someone invents a DeLorean so you can travel back and witness the murders first hand.”

Mexican folklore

“In The Book Of Life, I wanted to show the Mexico that isn’t out of a tourist guide, but has the explosion of light and sound you get when you go to the country. There’s an incredibly rich folklore that’s not explored often in cinema – we have two supernatural characters in the film that embody it. One is La Muerte, a personification of death, and the other is Xibalba, inspired by the idea of hell in southern Mexico that’s survived from Mayan times. It’s fascinating how the old magical ideas of death and the afterlife were merged with the influence of Spanish Catholicism.”

Hammer Horror Dracula Poster from 1958

Hammer horror

“It’s no secret that I’m a fan of classic horror films, but I’m working on a new film called Crimson Peak that’s a gothic romance, and Hammer did those so well. It broke with black and white horror to make vibrant Technicolor movies. These are films I was looking at [while making] The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth; traditional narratives of a heroine going to a dark place and discovering secrets. We’ve been trying to recreate the beautiful look of those films with modern technology.”

Ron Perlman as Hellboy

Ron Perlman

“I [cast] Ron simply because he can do anything. I’ve worked with him repeatedly [most famously in the Hellboy franchise], and he’s almost a good luck charm to me. He gets cast as these heavies, but he can do comedy so well. I thought he was perfect for Xibalba. Ron is so good at that blend of charm and creepiness. I’m a better writer when I write for him.”

HP Lovecraft

“Lovecraft is so important to the history of the horror genre. He created a universe of old gods and cosmic monsters and mutants – he’s incredibly influential, and I’d be a very different filmmaker without him. We’ve been trying to make a movie of [Lovecraft’s story] At The Mountains Of Madness for years. A lot is riding on how the next couple of movies do – I’m an acquired taste. It wouldn’t be a gory movie, but it would be very intense. People forget how graphic the book is.”

The Book Of Life is at cinemas from 24 October

(Images: Rex/Kobal/Fox)