The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, garnered a whopping 7 nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. The movie, starring Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones and Octavia Spencer, got nods in the categories of Best Director – Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, among others. Here are five reasons to keep Del Toro — and his movies — on your radar.
1. His protagonists are courageous female underdogs. The Shape of Water tells the story of a mute, lonely young woman fascinated by a mysterious creature. Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning lady in a secret government facility. Her world is turned upside down when she meets a scaled water creature who lives in a laboratory tank — isolated like herself. As their bond grows stronger, Elisa fights for her friend’s survival and her own hopes for a better life. The auteur explained to Variety: “We told a story not through the agents and the scientists, but through the janitors, the cleaning women who had to wipe the toilets, emptying the trash bins, and from that moment, you are already taking a political stance.”
Exploring similar themes, Del Toro’s most acclaimed movie to date, Pan’s Labyrinth, which won the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, tells the story of a young girl who escapes the horrors of Franco’s post–civil war Spain into a netherworld filled with mythical creatures. After her mother passes away, preteen Ofelia is left alone with her tyrannical stepfather, a Spanish army officer. A supernatural “faun” (from Roman legends) offers her salvation and leads her down a magical path where reality and fantasy — and good and evil — are intertwined.
2. He honors his heritage. The native of Guadalajara co-produced the animated film The Book of Life, which celebrates the Mexican tradition of El día de los muertos (the Day of the Dead) with lovable characters (voiced by Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Ice Cube and Channing Tatum) that go back and forth from the land of the living to that of their ancestors. The 2014 film has clever and colorful animation mixed with Del Toro’s trademark gothic vibe. The Book of Life brought Hispanic culture to the young American mainstream years before Coco and Ferdinand, two animated films nominated for 2018 Golden Globes.
3. He’s a fantasy geek. The 53-year-old filmmaker is not only drawn to classic fairy tales and mythology but also comic book characters and wizards and Hobbits. He was set to direct The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2012 and its sequel The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2014, but due to studio complications, his role was scaled back to co-writer. He did direct the Hellboy, a supernatural action adventure based on Mike Mignola’s comics series of the same name and Blade II, a Marvel-based franchise. He’s also a video game fan.
4. He’s besties with fellow famous Mexican directors. Del Toro formed Cha Cha Cha Films with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárittu (Babel, 21 Grams) and Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and has collaborated on various projects including “Rudo y Cursi” starring Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. Known affectionately, if tactlessly, as the “Three Amigos” around Hollywood, the trio all separately found commercial success and acclaim in the mid-2000s.
5. He’s got a wide range of critically acclaimed projects in the works. Fans of his multiple Daytime Emmy–winning Netflix animated series Trollhunters, about a hidden civilization of goblins and changelings, are in luck as a third season is in development. Meanwhile, the storyteller is also producing a documentary on the 43 students kidnapped in Mexico, a tragic and controversial 2014 event involving the government, army and drug cartels. Entitled Ayotzinapa, the Turtle’s Pace and told from the view of the victims’ families, the movie previewed at Mexico’s Impulso Morelia film festival where it took the Ambulante prize.
Will The Shape of Water take the Best Motion Picture – Drama Golden Globe? Tune in to the awards show on NBC Jan. 7 at 8p.m. EST.