Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to fantasy and adventure -- his imaginative art and production designs and knack for breathtaking practical effects have helped anchor and inform the Hellboy franchise, whose sequel opens next week, as well as the politically-tinged, Spanish-language films, including 2001's The Devil's Backbone and the Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, that have made him an arthouse darling and critics' favorite. For his next big screen endeavor, though, del Toro is tackling the biggest fantasy adventure of them all -- following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson's blockbuster The Lord of the Rings trilogy by adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit into not one, but two films.
"I think a lot of people say, 'Oh, it's a children book,' and I always say, 'Yes, therefore it should be taken seriously,' says del Toro. "On the first film, the creative endeavor is to be faithful to the feel, drive and spirit of the book. With The Hobbit we are obviously utilizing the materials that are available to us, and the discipline [is] to know everything -- not necessarily to use it all, but to know it and not step on those things. Then, there is enough narrative abridgment and suggestions and appendix notes to guide and create something that will not infringe on anything else. I think that that's the real creative endeavor on the second film."
All told, the movies will be a four- or five-year undertaking for the Mexican-born filmmaker, which means other projects will get put on the back burner, or taken off the stove altogether. "Every time you take one movie, you are postponing others -- like another of the smaller movies I'm trying to write, called Saturn and the End of Days, which is the apocalypse seen through the point-of-view of a 10-year-old boy," says del Toro. "Every day you drive on the freeway, you're not climbing Mount Everest."
While the established level of craftsmanship might be daunting to some, del Toro seems not only emboldened by the opportunity, but downright enthused by the challenge. "The way I see the five films, provided we do everything right, is as a symphony, and what I'm doing is an overture," he says. "Therefore it can be a different color and energy, and lead you into something that is already filmic legacy. All we've got to do is create an almost freestanding piece that can then, if viewed together, make sense as a symphonic whole. If the two first pieces are crafted with their independent merits, but also the second film leads seamlessly into the first film of the trilogy, we would have created perhaps one of the most beautiful symphonies, filmically, that has been done. The idea that I'm going to have the tools that exist in Weta, that exist in New Zealand, to create those films..." Here del Toro pauses briefly, a wide grin breaking out across his face. "I am ready to build the Pyramids, or the Temple of Ra!" A legion of Shire fans anxiously await...