A Minute With: Guillermo del Toro at Comic Con

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Since he first caught Hollywood’s eye with his directorial debut, the Mexican vampire film “Cronos,” writer/director Guillermo del Toro has pursued the types of fantasy and horror films he would watch as a fan.

Director Guillermo del Toro poses for photographers during the premiere of the movie "Hellboy II The Golden Army" in Los Angeles, California, June 28, 2008. REUTERS/Hector Mata

His passion has led to the successful translation of the cult favorite “Hellboy” comic books into two blockbuster films and another comic book movie, Marvel’s “Blade II.” He had planned to work on the “Hobbit” movies, which he co-wrote with producer Peter Jackson, but delays forced him to shift his focus.

He spoke to Reuters at Comic Con about how he hopes to frighten audiences with “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”

Q: What is it about Comic Con that you connect with?

A: “Comic-Con is a celebration of pop culture -- anime, sci-fi films, horror, anything that is within the scope of geek culture and is interesting for them. It’s paradise. I normally try to travel with an empty suitcase, and then I end up coming home with a suitcase and four or five boxes filled with stuff.”

Q: Why is “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” a passion project?

A: “This is a movie I’ve been dreaming of being involved with ever since I started making films professionally. It took me seven years to secure the rights and then another 13 years to get made. So it’s been a 20-year journey altogether.”

Q: What separates it from recent horror films?

A: “We are returning to a really classical gothic horror film with very, very interesting creatures. We are not going for the hardcore, borderline porn and gore of a teen movie. There are no teen protagonists. It’s closer to a fairytale gone horribly wrong. And the creatures are quite interesting and very faithful to the original creatures in the 1973 movie.”

Q: What scared you as a child?

A: “For me, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” remained one of the scariest movies as a kid alongside other really great horror movies done by Dan Curtis like “Trilogy of Terror,” “The Norliss Tapes,” “The Night Stalker,” and “The Night Strangler,” which were really, really fantastically made. I think that for a long time growing up, the scariest things I saw were on TV -- “Night Gallery,” “Kolchak,” “Death Moon.”

Q: Hollywood has been remaking a lot of horror films recently. Do you think they’ve run out of original ideas?

A: “I think that’s a cliche because the most famous “Frankenstein” version, which is James Whale’s, had been done before as a silent short film by Edison. And after James Whale came Terence Fisher with a brilliant take on “Frankenstein” and so on and so forth. I think that when you think about some of the best movies in the genre, many of them have been remakes. I think that Cronenberg’s version of “The Fly” is a huge improvement. Rouben Mamoulian’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is superior to the versions that came before it.”

Q: What’s the secret to success with a remake like “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark?”

A: “I believe a remake needs to be driven by a filmmaker’s passion to tell the story and not a studio’s marketing department. That is, I think, a huge difference. If you have a filmmaker who’s very passionate to tell a story -- case in point, I am absolutely insanely passionate about redoing

“Frankenstein,” the book -- then there is a valid intent.”

Q: Will you be directing a new “Frankenstein”?

A: “I cannot comment any more. I’ll be announcing something right after Comic Con because we are finalizing a deal during Comic Con. It’s a big announcement for me, the biggest movie I’ve done, and it’s a very cherished property, but I think we’ll find out very soon.”

Q: What was it like to walk away from “The Hobbit”?

A: “It was the biggest heartbreak I have experienced professionally, but at the same time it was what I needed to do because it was not a decision that was taken lightly. I am entirely at peace with it. I was very blessed to be immersed in that world, and equally excited about being out working in the other films coming up.”

Editing by Patricia Reaney