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Toro! Toro! Director Guillermo del Toro on BLADE 2

The filmmaker discusses his latest picture, the vampire hunting sequel to BLADE

By Arnold T. Blumberg (Additional reporting by Eric Moro)     March 18, 2002


Director Guillermo del Toro (right) with a Reaper on the set of BLADE II
© 2002 New Line Productions

If he had his druthers, director Guillermo del Toro would be at your local cineplex right now, making sure the sound balance was properly adjusted. It's that desire to address all the details that has made him a standout in the industry. But of course, he won't be showing up any time soon.



"If I could, I would go to all the 3,000 theaters and do that, because I hate to hear it and it's not good, or see it and it's too dark," says del Toro. "A movie can be fun even in the worst conditions, but why try it? The sound has to be as subtle as the movie. And this movie is as subtle as a fart in a scuba diving suit. It's in your face. It's a movie made of energy."



del Toro is referring to BLADE 2, the hotly anticipated sequel to the Wesley Snipes hit that put a new vampire slayer on the map. Joining the saga after its initial installment, del Toro saw the chance to add his own distinctive voice to the mix and ratchet up the horror elements while retaining the action that made BLADE such a smash.



Director Guillermo del Toro (right) with a Reaper on the set of BLADE II



"I felt that the two things I could offer to the mythology of BLADE was to upgrade the horror, which the first one didn't have much of, and I felt I could up the ante on the type of action in terms of the camera style and colors," says del Toro. "[I could] make it more like a comic book or a Japanese cartoon very kinetic, but in a different way than the first one."



del Toro assures us that his work on BLADE 2 differs markedly from his previous outing, DEVIL'S BACKBONE, which paints its story on a far different canvas.



"It's completely different," says del Toro. "It plays different emotions. It flexes different muscles. It's like the difference between painting a little veneer or painting a big mural for announcing Coca-Cola by hand. It's completely different brushes, different colors. I'd like to think that as a director I'm a craftsman. I wanted to try my hand at this with a little more freedom and a little more joy than I did with MIMIC. I enjoyed this."



del Toro's challenge is crafting a film that entertains while pushing the horror envelope. And he doesn't hold back.



"I think that whatever is used that has an intelligent storytelling decision behind it, whatever it is and I'm not saying YOU will find it intelligent, but I consider it an intelligent and wise decision for the story then I'm cool with that," says del Toro. "I can create an outlandish style of violence and action in a movie like this, which is essentially a comic book, but is so far removed from reality that I don't think it has any practical consequence.



Wesley Snipes (left) and Director Guillermo del Toro discussing a scene on the set of BLADE II



"I'm not shooting teenagers shooting someone in a mall, and I'm not shooting a terrorist attack. I'm not showing anything that's reality. It's pure, unadulterated catharsis. It's a world populated by vampires, subterranean cities all of this stuff. If someone gets decapitated, the head blinks and diffuses whatever violence was there. I think it's quite cool to use it in that context."



The MPAA was not an obstacle either, granting the film an R rating. del Toro believes the organization understood the context of the material well enough.



"In submitting the movie to the MPAA, they understood the type of universe this took place in," says del Toro. "It's completely escapist. A lot of traditional theater in a lot of cultures, certainly in the Mexican culture, has traditional violence. In Japan, Kabuki is certainly violent. I find this to be the equivalent to the western comic book sensibility where you have things happen in a hyper-real mode. Nothing in the movie is real. It's a popcorn machine."



One interesting innovation comes into play when the uber-vampires, known as Reapers, demonstrate their ability to split their chins down the middle, exposing a feeding mechanism similar to that of the Predator. This was a touch del Toro added to the mix.



"The idea was in the original script," says del Toro, "but it said they were shape shifters. They wouldn't mutate into things with spikes, they would just change one little thing. I felt it would be interesting to have this thing happen like in leeches where most of their head is taken up by a feeding apparatus, and then just become a thing that is hungry for blood."



Blade (Wesley Snipes, foreground) being stalked by Reapers in BLADE II



For del Toro, this represents the vampire mythos at its very core, evoking the fear that has made them figures of legend for centuries.



"Vampire mythology, being so open, can be interpreted socially, religiously, sexually, in all sorts of forms," says del Toro. "But the basic thing is a fear of being fed upon. I wanted to go back to the most non-Brad Pitt, non-Tom Cruise type of vampire, back to the giggly fun of people fearing the vampire."



del Toro is pleased with the results, and he makes no bones about it.



"I love the f***ing movie," says del Toro. "I think that the movie does exactly what I expected it to do. Is this a movie that I consider personal, a statement? No. Is it a fun movie that puts the best of my craftsmanship forward? Yes. This is completely different from MIMIC, where I would love to go back and change at least 30 or 40 percent of the movie."



del Toro may gravitate toward the horror genre, but for him, it's not about the genre so much as the challenge of creating something seemingly real out of pure fantasy.



"Horror and fantasy, whether people like it or not, are feats of craftsmanship," says del Toro. "[It] challenges and amuses me to carve out of marble a likeness of a living being. My tendency is to craft a thing that does not exist in reality, and that makes me happy. I'd rather carve a gargoyle than a likeness of someone. It illuminates an aspect of human creativity to tell stories about things that do not exist. I don't know if New Line's idea was to create a franchise, but my intention was to create a kick-ass fairy tale with great monsters."



Part of his affinity for horror stems from his upbringing in Mexico, a part of himself that he brings to every project he tackles.



BLADE 2 one sheet



"Mexico is full of everyday horror in a really casual way," says del Toro. "My approach to all of those things is very natural. I enjoy seeing these monsters as part of my everyday life. I can deal with it in a way that is less atavistic. I don't have a lot of hang-ups about stuff like that. I'm pro the liberation of the psyche."



Next up, del Toro might take the helm on BLADE 3, but he doesn't intend to direct another film that he didn't write. Retaining that creative control is important to del Toro, because the audience expects quite a bit from the movie experience these days. del Toro sees that relationship in an interesting way.



"A movie is like a blind date," says del Toro. "A movie has a blind date with 300 people at the same time. Some of them go to bed and some of them just have a cup of coffee."



And unlike a real blind date, fear and terror seem to enhance the situation according to del Toro. Horror films give audiences just the right kind of high, and it's a high that del Toro is only too happy to provide.



"The scary in real life doesn't make sense, and you realize how f***ed up the world is," says del Toro. "Scary in a roller coaster and in a movie is when you have fun and you close your eyes, but you realize that it's just a ride and you feel safe. There are mechanisms that work perfectly. Never underestimate the power of a good horror movie."

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