The winning partnership behind ‘The Shape of Water’ will continue.
For years, movies have been a labor of love for Guillermo del Toro. Sometimes his films don’t strike a chord with critics and audiences, but when he knocks them out of the park, beloved and enduring gems come to fruition. The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Shape of Water — last year’s awards favorite that finally gave del Toro his Best Director trophy at the Oscars — prove that the films he makes not only require a personal touch and an attention to detail, but also that his vision shouldn’t be altered.
That’s not to say that del Toro’s other work isn’t worth merit (well, Mimic is a dodgy one). However, Fox Searchlight garnered a huge win with one of del Toro’s passion projects, and as a result they’ve signed him for a first-look deal. Deadline now reports that del Toro is planting roots with the studio that supported his otherworldly amphibian romance vision from pitch. Within the parameters of this new well-earned deal, he will be able to write, produce, and direct films for Fox Searchlight, and will have his own banner there specifically aimed to house horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies.
It’s genuinely wonderful that along with fostering the careers of young Mexican filmmakers, del Toro himself is finally getting the opportunity to freely work on the many projects he always has on his mind. He is a curator of stories, constantly looking for the next fascinating narrative to tell that more often than not explores monsters, literal and metaphorical. There is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to del Toro’s unrealized projects, which gives us the perfect scope of the constant state of motion that he’s in at any given moment when it comes to filmmaking. The new relationship with Fox Searchlight at least guarantees some safety and freedom for del Toro’s films moving forward, which will hopefully lead to fewer dead ends in his creative process.
Nevertheless, he is obviously perfectly willing to produce movies between his own endeavors, uplifting other voices in the process. The block of time between Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Pacific Rim is a prime example of this. Del Toro was hard at work on The Hobbit at the time, only for that project to sadly fall through. Regardless, he lent his creative expertise elsewhere, co-writing Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and producing smaller Mexican and Spanish productions Rudo y Cursi, Julia’s Eyes, and Mama. Del Toro also produced a bunch of animated movies such as Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, and Rise of the Guardians in the lead-up to his epic ode to kaiju movies.
Per Deadline, Antlers (which we heard about in December) will be the first project to fall under the new del Toro-Fox Searchlight deal. Scott Cooper (Hostiles) will be at the helm of the film, which has reportedly been in the works for some time now. Antlers will tell the tale of “an elementary school teacher who takes in a troubled student that harbors a mysterious family secret with deadly consequences.” The quintessential del Toro themes of horror-tinged childhood and lost innocence are already present in the short description, making Antlers an ideal first project out the gate.
The Fox Searchlight partnership further proves that the sky’s the limit for del Toro at the moment. Once suffering a troubled relationship with Hollywood that began with Mimic, he has finally found the right niche for a filmmaker of his imaginative caliber. Nobody explains the deal better than del Toro himself, as his full statement demonstrates:
“For the longest time, I’ve hoped to find an environment in which I can distribute, nurture and produce new voices in smart, inventive genre films and channel my own. In Fox Searchlight, I’ve found a real home for live action production — a partnership based on hard work, understanding of each other and, above all, faith. After the wonderful experience I had with Fox Searchlight on ‘The Shape of Water,’ I am honored to have the opportunity to continue the relationship. I am more than grateful to Nancy, Steve, David, and Matthew for their trust in me and for joining me on this adventure.”