With Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Guillermo del Toro finally got the chance to make the movie he loved as a child -- or, rather, the movie he thought he loved.
"It was a TV movie I saw when I was 9 or 10 years old," del Toro, 46, says of the 1973 original. "In those days, you didn't have VHS or any way to replay something you'd seen. So we'd tell the story to our friends and recreate it for ourselves.
"After more than a decade of telling it, I finally got a VHS player and found a copy. And I realized that a lot of my favorite beats in the movie were not in the movie at all -- they were things I had imagined. I still loved it. But I remember being very shocked by that. It was still an effective, chilling movie that I loved, although there was no way I could say it wasn't a little dated."
The result is a new version of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, opening Friday (8/26/11), starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce. It was directed by Troy Nixey, from a new script del Toro co-wrote with Matthew Robbins.
"The original movie was like a cult film for my generation," del Toro says. "So when I decided to make this feature, I wanted to retell it the way I imagined it had been. We weren't trying to remake it as much as revive it, give the story a new origin and a new set of characters. In a lot of ways, it's entirely new. We wanted it to resemble a dark, dank fairytale."
Del Toro meant to direct the film, but couldn't because of delays on The Hobbit, which he was going to direct first. So instead he served as the film's producer, a role he's filled several times in the past for other filmmakers: "It's either tough as hell or fun as hell," he says. "I like producing for first-time directors, like I did on The Orphanage. I'm proud to bring Troy into the filmmaking world. I love it because I learn a lot when I'm producing."
Del Toro is a superstar to fans of fantasy and horror, based on a career that includes films such as Cronos, Mimic and the Hellboy films. Yet his take on the paranormal and supernatural have also won him fans among serious film lovers, for his work on films such as The Devil's Backbone and the Oscar-nominated Pan's Labyrinth.
Still, his recent track record in making films of his own has been spotty: He spent two years committed to directing The Hobbit -- only to bail out when he realized just how much more of his time the film was going to consume.
"I spent two years and 10 months on The Hobbit, but the experience was so great that I love having done it," he says.
He's less sanguine about his experience with his long-time passion project, H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.
This interview continues on my website.