Visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has managed the rare achievement of sustaining success in Hollywood while refusing to compromise on his artistic principles.
The acclaimed director, screenwriter and producer is known for his distinctive style, combining a fascination with fantasy and the supernatural with blockbuster success.
While perhaps most strongly affiliated with critical darlings such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape Of Water, del Toro is equally adept at handling Hollywood films including Blade II, Hellboy and Pacific Rim.
Del Toro, who has been honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said directing is like “orchestrating an accident”, describing filmmaking as “hostage negotiations with reality”.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1964, del Toro’s early filmmaking experiences were with his father’s Super 8 camera as a child.
He spent his early career studying special effects and make-up and released his first feature film, the horror drama Cronos, in 1993.
He arrived in Hollywood aged 33 with the 1997 horror movie Mimic.
The film was a Miramax production, meaning del Toro had to work with producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
Speaking in 2017, shortly after dozens of women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against the now disgraced Harvey Weinstein, del Toro said the experience nearly put him off Hollywood forever.
“I really hated the experience,” del Toro said at the BFI London Film Festival.
“My first American experience was almost my last because it was with the Weinsteins and Miramax. I have got to tell you, two horrible things happened in the late Nineties, my father was kidnapped and I worked with the Weinsteins.”
He added: “I know which one was worse … the kidnapping made more sense, I knew what they wanted.”
Del Toro’s father, Federico del Toro Torres, was released unharmed in 1997 after Titanic director James Cameron, a close friend of del Toro, handed over one million US dollars in cash.
The trauma led del Toro to leave his native country and Mexico’s loss was Hollywood’s gain.
The director is now one of the most revered figures in the industry.
Pan’s Labyrinth won three Academy Awards at the 2007 Oscars, including best art direction, while the two Hellboy films were box office successes, as was 2013’s science-fiction monster film Pacific Rim.
However, the high point of del Toro’s career so far came in 2017 with romantic dark fantasy The Shape Of Water.
Telling the story of a mute cleaner at a government facility who falls in love with a captive human-amphibian creature, it won best picture at the Oscars and earned del Toro his first best director win.
He is good friends with fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G Inarritu and collectively they are known as The Three Amigos of Cinema.