Jump into any Guillermo del Toro project and you’ll experience the best when it comes to the exploration of the human condition. Even when he’s tackling kaiju’s or ghosts, del Toro has a keen understanding of what inspires us, what holds us back, and how grief wraps its arms around us in startling and fascinating ways. He’s especially good at that last bit there and it shows in his latest project, Pinocchio.
Remezcla got a chance to interview Guillermo del Toro about how grief transforms those walking down its path, how he sacrifices for art and doesn’t regret it, and inspiring other artists, including Taylor Swift, to create. And he even gives us a sneak peek at what inspires him.
At the heart of Pinocchio is the grief that Gepetto carries for his son after his death. This grief tears him open, changes the kind of man he is, and shifts the movie into more of an exploration of the father than the son. In turn, the creation of the wooden puppet known as Pinocchio acts as a crutch for a man that isn’t ready to let go.
According to del Toro, “The core of the fable for me is grief. And the fact that Pinocchio is a way to deal with that grief, a crutch if you would, for Gepetto to continue. But you needed to see not only his history, but his history with the kid while the kid was alive. And how deep their bond was, and how much he really loved them. And I think that when you see the whole movie, it’s about making sense out of loss in a life-affirming way.”
For del Toro, he knew that this was the direction he was taking Pinocchio in from the beginning, even when he was writing the screenplay. Because to him, Gepetto and the viewer had to feel the pain of loss in their bones to understand the joy that follows, because it goes hand in hand. “I’m Mexican. So for me, the beauty of life is that it is limited,” del Toro explained, “And for me, that’s essential in life, in my everyday life, that life is finite. I like it. I like the fact that we understand that against the cosmic vastness of not being, being is a brief and beautiful experience.”
These essential truths guided del Toro from start to finish. And he doesn’t regret one second of it. In fact, he doesn’t regret any of the stories he has taken on and woven into his own life’s story. As del Toro explained, “There are only so many stories that are worth sacrificing your life for because these things are not a filmography. They’re a biography, and you give them chunks of your life one at a time. So everything I’ve done, no matter what it is, has to have that.”
For del Toro, that means that he doesn’t regret the years that it took to bring Pacific Rim, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, or even The Devil’s Backbone to life. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie about a demon from hell that becomes a superhero or it’s a devil’s backbone, they’re all equally personal to me.” And when asked about what’s next, del Toro, was honest that he wasn’t sure, but that they need to invoke a feeling in him where “they demand that you stop your life, you stop your family, you get off every social train and you dedicate yourself to telling a really ultimately personal story. So I don’t know what’s next, but it will be worth it.”
In trying to find inspiration for his next project, and just being a creator in general, del Toro is very aware of how his work inspires others. Most recently, Taylor Swift opened up about how she watched “Guillermo del Toro movies back to back” and how “My whole world turned into folktales and forests and mythical creatures.” When asked about Swift, and if he knew about her comments, del Toro told Remezcla, “I contacted her to thank her and you know, I think it’s very moving at the end of the day.”
Ultimately, del Toro is just “an artist who hopes to connect with other artists.” Yes, he has a higher budget and can reach more people with his art. But to him that moment of connection, “when it happens… it’s beautiful.” He knows this because he himself has been inspired by those around him or those he grew up with. “I can listen to Georges Delerue composing something. I can look at Luis Buñuel’s Los olvidados as a seminal moment in my life where I said, “I want to be a film director.”
So, if there’s anything that you take away from this interview, whether it be the part about Pinocchio tackling grief or inspiring Taylor Swift, remember that “You’re here. You’re here in this world to take or to give.” And the more you give, the more you receive in turn. For Guillermo del Toro, he’s giving Pinocchio to those who need it as a part of his legacy and to leave the world a little better than when he got here. And he hopes that you do the same thing on whatever journey or path you find yourself on.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is available now on Netflix.