One of the great pleasures of Comic-Con is hearing film-makers talk to us about their movies. But it gets exponentially better when we get to listen in to them talk to each other. The infinitely generous Guillermo Del Toro (he gave out his email address and invited fans to write to ask to visit him on set) shared the stage at Comic-Con’s largest venue in two separate events, one with Jon Favreau and one with protege Nicolas Winding Refn.
Del Toro co-wrote and produced a remake of the cult classic “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.” The original, a 1973 made-for-television movie starring Kim Darby and Jim Hutton was about a young wife who discovers scary creatures in a house she has inherited. In the new version, it is a little girl living with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) who hears the creepy rasp, “Saaaaaally, Saaaaaaally….” In the first-ever Comic-Con event from impressive new studio Film District, he appeared to discuss the film with Danish director Refn, of “Drive,” also produced by Del Toro. “It is our duty to produce first-time film-makers,” Del Toro, told the crowd. He spoke about the power of fantasy. His background was in special effects and creature fabrication and he speaks lovingly of the monsters he creates and the importance of details. “Context is everything in a fable because every story has already been told.” Refn said that “tracking is good, but still imprints on our brains.” He loves the images where what matters is what is behind, when what is in the background engulfs the image.
Later, Del Toro appeared with Favreau to compare and appreciate each other’s approach. Favreau, as shown in “Iron Man,” likes mechanical effects. Del Toro (“Hellboy”) takes advantage of whatever illusions technology can provide. “There was not a single real thing in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth.'” Favreau called in Del Toro for advice on some of the action scenes in “Cowboys & Aliens.” And he urged us all to be on the lookout for a new book about Del Toro’s “Bleak House,” his very own haunted mansion. Speaking of which, one thing these two directors have in common is forthcoming films based on Disney theme park attractions. Favreau is working with Michael Chabon on “The Magic Kingdom,” and Del Toro will direct “The Haunted Mansion,” which will do its job if it erases the memory of the Eddie Murphy version. Del Toro assured us that this one will not be a comedy.