Del Toro Talks ‘The Hobbit’
Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth, but he’s not doing it alone. As previously announced, Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro will direct The Hobbit and an untitled sequel that leads into the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson will serve as executive producer.
As part of The New Yorker Festival series of talks, Guillermo Del Toro spoke at the Director’s Guild of America regarding his foray into the Tolkien universe. For the director, finding Middle Earth isn’t as easy as a walking into a magical wardrobe. He describes his method:
"I find you have to discipline yourself to write in the morning, and then watch and read in the afternoons stuff that seems relevant, even in a tangential way. For example, reading or watching World War I documentaries or books that I think inform The Hobbit, strangely enough, because I believe it is a book born out of Tolkien’s generation’s experience with World War I and the disappointment of being in that field and seeing all those values kind of collapse. I think it’s a turning point that you need to familiarize yourself with. I’m starting. Peter Jackson is such a fan of that historical moment and obsessive collector of World War I memorabilia, and he owns several genuine, life-size working reproductions of planes, tanks, cannons, ships! He has the perfect obsessive reproductions of uniforms of that time for armies of about 120 soldiers… each. I asked him which books he recommended… because I wouldn’t be watching Krull or The Dark Crystal, I need to find my own way into the story. That’s the same way I did Pan’s Labyrinth or Devil’s Backbone, by watching stuff you wouldn’t think about."
The star of The Hobbit, for Del Toro, is going to be the nefarious dragon Smaug. Literally "The Magnificent," Smaug embodies "greed [and] pride" to Del Toro, who has been interested in dragon lore his entire life. He speaks about Smaug passionately, citing the villain with "some of the most beautiful dialogue" in the film. As for the character’s design, Del Toro is "pretty sure that will be the last design we will sign off on, and the first design we have attempted."
Del Toro is itching to talk more about the project, but insisted that he couldn’t due to something a little less subtle than a gag order.
"Warner Brothers has a sniper right here in the theater," he jokingly warned.
"Listen," he later said, taking a more serious note, "If we were having a drink two years from now I would spill the beans, because I’m a pretty easy guy about spilling the beans, but I can’t in this instance. I can’t because it’s three years from now."
Three years is probably generous, given that Del Toro has a large slate of films on the horizon. Variety reported earlier this year that Del Toro is booked solid through 2017, with films such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, At the Mountains of Madness and Frankenstein. He spoke briefly about Frankenstein, saying that his vision would be something entirely original.
"I’m not doing Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I’m doing an adventure story that involves the creature. I cannot say much, but it’s not the central creation story, I’m not worried about that. The fact is I’ve been dreaming of doing a Frankenstein movie since I was a child."
He then promised that "compared to Kenneth Branagh [director and star of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein], I will not appear shirtless in the movie!"