As part of the wave of Mexican filmmakers who have made an indelible mark upon American cinema in the 1990s, director Guillermo del Toro - along with compatriots Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón - attained a remarkable level of critical and box-office success in an environment not conducive to international filmmaking. Unlike his peers, however, del Toro steered away from making art house films about his native Mexico, focusing instead on helming old-fashioned horror movies. Bursting onto the scene with his first effort, "Cronos" (1993), del Toro learned how to deal with Hollywood the hard way with his first studio effort, "Mimic" (1997). After directing "The Devil's Backbone" (2001), a return to independent film and his native Mexico, he took on Hollywood a second time with "Blade II" (2002), only this time with more success. His critically acclaimed adaptation of the comic book "Hellboy" (2004) was followed by the critically acclaimed "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006), a stark, but dream-like horror fantasy that earned three Academy Awards and helped to make del Toro a rare success in both the United States and his homeland. He went on to direct the successful sequel "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008) while stepping into a producer's role for "Biutiful" (2010) and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (2011). Whether as a writer, director, producer and even novelist, del Toro drew upon an eclectic mix of horror, science fiction and fantasy to create unique and sometimes bizarre films that earned him a loyal following.
Born Oct. 9, 1964 in Guadalajara, Mexico, del Toro was struck by the horror genre at a very young age - he remembered being terrified at age two by the "Mutant" episode from the original sci-fi/horror series "The Outer Limits" (ABC, 1963-65). After seeing green ants on the walls and monsters in the closet, del Toro made a pact to devote his life to the monsters, but only if they would let him into the bedroom without harm. Apparently the monsters agreed to the terms and del Toro spent his formative years making monster movies with a Super-8 camera, action figures and a bottle of ketchup. He graduated to 16 and 35mm shorts, eventually attending Dick Smith's Advanced Makeup Course, where he learned the ins and outs of special effects makeup. Del Toro spent a better part of the 1980s and early 1990s working as a special effects makeup artist, though he did get an early jump in filmmaking by producing "Dona Herlinda Y Su Hijo/Dona Herlinda and Her Son" (1984). Del Toro broke away from Smith and formed his own company, the now-defunct Necropia, in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, del Toro directed numerous episodes of Mexican television programs, including the horror anthology "Hora Marcada" (1986). Del Toro also taught film workshops and co-founded Film Studies Center and the Mexican Film Festival, both of which resided in his home city of Guadalajara. It was during this period, however, that del Toro began thinking about his first feature film.
Del Toro began shooting "Cronos" (1992) in February of 1992 in his native Mexico. A highly original telling of the classic vampire tale, "Cronos" swept Mexico's Ariel Awards with nine wins, including one for Best Picture. Mexico also made "Cronos" their official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1993 Academy Awards. The film also made the festival rounds, winning the critic's prize at Cannes while being shown at Sundance and the San Francisco International Film Festival. But most significantly, "Cronos" marked the first collaboration between del Toro and actor Ron Perlman, an alliance that would prove fruitful in later movies. As was typically the case with successful independent filmmakers, del Toro had a chance to direct his first Hollywood movie. The result was "Mimic" (1997), another foray into the horror genre that turned out to be much different than what del Toro originally wanted. Starring Mira Sorvino as one of two scientists - the other played by Jeremy Northam - who genetically engineer cockroaches, only to have the experiments come back to haunt them with a vengeance, the movie left del Toro unhappy because of constant studio pressures. But it was a learning experience; one that would assist the director in Hollywood confrontations to come. Meanwhile, in 1997, del Toro's father was kidnapped by criminals looking to make bank on the ransom. Del Toro and his brothers negotiated his release, which occurred 72 days after his capture. Unwilling to expose his family to such an enterprise, del Toro involuntarily left Mexico to take up residence in Los Angeles.
Del Toro returned to independent filmmaking when he directed the critically acclaimed period piece "The Devil's Backbone" (2001), an ambitious take on the fabled ghost story. Set during the last days of the Spanish Civil War, the film told a mournful tale of ghosts haunting a school shelter for orphans and abandoned children. Hailed for its ominous mood and fine performances, the film reconfirmed del Toro's artistic prowess. Confident in his ability to take on Hollywood again, del Toro jumped back into the lion's den with the vampire action-thriller "Blade II" (2002), starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson and Ron Perlman. Del Toro had more control over the final product, which resulted in a better movie, happier filmmaker and more box office dollars. Del Toro reunited with Perlman to make "Hellboy" (2004), another in a wave of comic book adaptations churned out by Hollywood. As a longtime fan of the Dark Horse comic book series written and illustrated by Mike Mignola, Del Toro waged war with studio executives once again, mainly over his choice to cast as the title character. The director insisted on Perlman from the very beginning, while the studio predictably demanded a more bankable name. Del Toro managed to get his way and Perlman was cast to star as a spawn of Hell who is raised from the flaming depths by Nazis at the end of World War II, only to be captured and reared by the benevolent Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt). Although the comic book was often short on story and the movie occasionally followed suit, del Toro delivered on mood and character, with many scenes looking like Mignola's comic book panels come to life, while his decision to cast Perlman proved to be wise one. With the success of "Hellboy," del Toro managed to separate himself from his fellow directors-in-arms to become a truly international filmmaker.
Touching upon the time and place covered in "The Devil's Backbone," del Toro directed the powerful and haunting "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006), a stark fantasy set during post-civil war Spain about a lonely young girl (Ivana Baquero) who escapes her violent surroundings and her ruthless, authoritarian step father (Sergi López) by creating a fairy tale world filled with fantastic creatures. Summoned by an ancient faun, the girl learns she is a princess and sets about solving a series of tasks where she must come to terms with the fascism and violence of the outside world, as well as the equally disturbing underworld of her own creation. As he had done since his days in television, del Toro turned to fellow directors and best friends Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu for artistic guidance and support. All three had a banner year in 2006 - Cuaron's "Children of Men" and González Iñárritu's "Babel" were more often than not mentioned in the same breath as "Pan's Labyrinth" in an effort to underscore the importance of their influence on filmmaking. Meanwhile, "Pan's Labyrinth" earned six Academy Award nods, including Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.
Going back to the well, del Toro returned to direct the sequel "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008), which took the character's tale in an even more fantastical direction. Stepping into a producer's role, he helped bring Iñárritu's Spanish-language drama "Biutiful" (2010) to the screen and was the executive producer on the animated hit "Puss in Boots" (2011). Meanwhile, he was slated to direct the highly anticipated "Hobbit" prequels to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy for producer Peter Jackson and spent years developing the story with him. But in 2010, del Toro announced that he was departing the project due to the financial woes of MGM. He remained as one of the co-writers, while Jackson took hold of the directing reigns. Del Toro continued to produce, shepherding "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (2011), a remake of a creepy 1983 TV movie. The update, co-written by del Toro, starred Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce as a newly married couple who move into an old manor with his neglected daughter (Bailee Madison), only to discover strange and murderous little creatures lurking in a basement furnace.
Settling into his more prominent role as an executive producer, del Toro supervised the holiday-themed animated adventure movie "Rise of the Guardians" (2012) and the eerie horror hit "Mama" (2013), starring Jessica Chastain as a reluctant caregiver to two girls linked to a malevolent supernatural being. In the summer of 2013, almost exactly five years after the release of "Hellboy II," del Toro finally unveiled his directorial follow-up, the massive sci-fi movie "Pacific Rim," which indulged in his childhood love of giant robots and monsters to create a visually stunning story of survival, and, of course, huge city-destroying battles. Del Toro's next work as director and writer, the dark Gothic romance "Crimson Peak" (2015), starred Mia Wasikowska and garnered mixed reviews, with many praising its atmosphere and cinematography while finding fault with the plot.
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Made writing and directing debut with "Cronos"; first collaboration with Federico Luppi and Ron Perlman
Directed the American produced "Mimic"
Directed critically acclaimed gothic horror film "The Devil's Backbone"; again collaborated with Federico Luppi
Produced Spanish film "The Orphanage"
Formed an independent production company with fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu
Signed a deal with Universal's Focus Features to finance and co-own five movies, which had combined budget of around $100 million
Helmed sequel "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" with Perlman in starring role
Co-wrote The Strain with thriller novelist Chuck Hogan
Produced Alejandro González Iñárritu's Spanish language film "Biutiful"
Executive produced and voiced several characters in "Shrek" (2001) spin-off "Puss in Boots"
Executive produced animated feature "Rise of the Guardians"
Executive produced the horror movie "Mama"
Directed Gothic romance "Crimson Peak"