“Guillermo del Toro: Crafting Pinocchio,” the ever-expanding 8,000-square-foot traveling exhibit dedicated to the art of crafting Guillermo del Toro and Academy Award-winning co-director Mark Gustafson’s meticulous stop-motion film, it made its way from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.
This past weekend, the three-time Oscar winner came to Rose City in person to pick up a Cinema Unbound award from WFP CUT (the Portland Art Museum’s New Media Center for an Untold Tomorrow) and then sit down for a relaxing chat with PAM CUT curator Amy Dotson. As usual, the filmmaker spoke recklessly on a range of topics, from the struggle to get even his passion projects to his commitment to animation and the threat of artificial intelligence hanging over the creative community.
“Since I was a kid, all I’ve wanted to do was monsters and stop-motion animation, and that’s what I’m doing, so why the fuck shouldn’t I do it?” the director of “Shape of Water” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” laughed. His next film – also for “Pinocchio” distributor Netflix – is an animated adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantasy novel “The Buried Giant”. The film, which is two years out of production, uses stop-motion but is certainly less monster-based as it centers on a version of England where King Arthur actually existed. “Pinocchio” animators ShadowMachine are behind the project.
Del Toro, who recently said that five of his projects so far have been rejected by the studios this year, told the Portland museum audience, “But let’s move on. With ShadowMachine, Mark, everybody, when we were involved with ‘Pinocchio’, you have no idea how we were involved meeting after meeting after meeting, and to hear no… if you have a belief that it has to be done, ‘no’ is a ” yeah” waiting to happen, and you just say, okay, your loss. You literally have to believe it. You shouldn’t question your material. You shouldn’t be saying, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ The last time someone aired “The Buried Giant,” I wrote an email and said, It’s easier for me to do that than to argue with you. I’ll just show you. And you will see that I was right. Or not. There are many things to do, but it is very important to have this certainty”.
Del Toro said that as he continues to develop films like “The Buried Giant,” he still watches “three films a day” for inspiration, and often that means re-watching. “If you see all of ‘All About Eve’ when you’re 15, and you see ‘All About Eve’ when you’re 40, you see two completely different movies.”
When asked about his optimism about the state of creativity in general at the moment, del Toro said: “I remain enthusiastic but skeptical in the sense that I know we are a horrible human race, but we do great things and a lot of people are great. What gives me hope and makes me think it’s worth it? The next generation because we undoubtedly fucked it up… in that hope, it can only come with your full support,” motioning to people in the standing-only crowd at the Portland Art Museum.
He added: “When I see people without fear, it inspires me and I like it, and I like the possibilities that people are talking about now, and how it’s all terrible, and (how) people are afraid of AI… I don’t I know I don’t fear artificial intelligence, I fear natural stupidity. Any intelligence in this world is artificial. When I look at people entering the art scene and what they are like despite all the things that are hardships and all the things that weigh against them, they love art, and that’s what makes my spirit sing.
While praising the next generation, del Toro also cautioned that ages 14 and 24 are “hell,” adding: “Ever since I was seven, I’ve been dying to get old. The real crime in our existence is to seek perfection. We should all aspire to imperfection.
The advice for himself as an eight-year-old he wishes he could say now? “Don’t eat that fucking cupcake.”