where the writers are
The night I met Guillermo del Toro (reposted from Ellie Bea's Soapbox from 08/09/11)

Being back in NYC for the past 5 weeks or so has been rejuvenating for my psyche. One of the reasons is the almost immediate access to so much cultural, exciting and varied activities. Last night, I went to a Lincoln Center Film Society/Film Comments Selects screening of the Guillermo del Toro scripted and produced Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark with a discussion afterwards with the filmmakers. I could go on and on about the film…but I will save that for a paper – a comparison of the themes of childhood and fairytales in del Toro’s films Pan’s Labyrinth and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Instead, just a brief description of my encounter with del Toro and how it dovetailed with some of the things that he said regarding the journey of this film to the screen…

According to del Toro, he began working on the script (a remake of the 1973 film of the same name, which starred Kim Darby - the actress from the original film of True Grit) with Miramax. He wrote a number of drafts, but the formulaic Hollywood machine kept wanting him to make changes that fell neatly and exactly into the genre formula. Apparently, del Toro finally said that’s not the movie I want to make, find someone else to write it the way you want. And he went off and did Mimic. This anecdote intrigued me. Here is a Mexican filmmaker who gets noticed by Hollywood, and yet, on some level, wasn’t going to let himself be Hollywoodified.

During the Q&A, one of the comments that kept recurring from audience members was in regards to the strong female characters he had written and has written in other films. There really were so many connections between this film and Pan’s Labyrinth (which, by the way, according to del Toro, is the reason he didn’t want to direct it), including the strong female characters. So those of you who know me, know that I sometimes like to be provocative. So I had a question for the filmmaker regarding this onscreen representation of women, about which he was very passionate when he discussed it (even going so far to refer to the Guy Pearce character as the ‘useless father’), but I didn’t get called upon. C’est la vie, right?

Here’s the thing. I don’t like to sit in the front row when I go to the movies. I don’t like looking up at them. I prefer to sit in the back where I can look at the screen straight on. But I got to the Walter Reade Theatre last night at about 7:20 for the 7:30 show…and the only seats available were in the very front row. Well, my being late and having to sit in the front row ultimately provided me with an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Chairs were set up on the stage for the discussion after the film. So when I didn’t get called up during the session, I was right there to just walk one step and see if I could ask him my question one-on-one. So I did. I wanted to know, since he was so passionate about strong representations of women on the screen, if he had ever worked with women writers or directors – strong behind the camera, so to speak. He was incredibly gracious and immediately said yes. Just as he was about to continue and give me more information about these women a handler of some sort came up and whispered in his ear. Del Toro had to step away for a moment to see a ‘special’ visitor. He and the handler said he would be right back. I returned for a moment to my insecure self and immediately said it wasn’t necessary, that I could look up the women he worked with, but he and the handler both said that he would be right back. So I waited and watched as he went to the wing of the stage where he met a man, gave him a brief hug, a brief chat, and then returned to me and the others waiting at the side of the stage. He then talked to me for a few more minutes and I left.

So who was the special visitor, you might be asking? (Or not…) Well, let me take you back just a bit. The information about the screening and panel on the Lincoln Center website said that del Toro, director Troy Nixey and actress Bailee Madison would be in attendance. What the website left out was that there was another panel member, not advertised…Katie Holmes. So when she was announced as being there as part of the panel, there was of course hubbub and excitement in the audience. My reaction was…oh God! If she’s here, then the husband must be around somewhere. So, do I have to say who the special visitor was that took Mr. del Toro away for a moment? The reason this was all so remarkable to me was that Guillermo del Toro said his quick hello to Mr. Cruise and then came back and finished talking to me. Talk about not being Hollywoodified…

Well…it was a fun night. The movie was lovely, quite scary at times and certainly worth analyzing and writing about. Plus, I got to meet one of my favorite filmmakers. Who can argue with that!?

I love New York…

Until I return…