Why Del Toro warned Pacific Rim designers never to watch Godzilla

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Dec 17, 2012, 3:27 PM EST

After a triumphant presentation at San Diego Comic-Con of the first footage from his upcoming monsters (Kaiju) versus robots (Jaegers) film, Pacific Rim, director Guillermo del Toro talked to select reporters and boldly pronounced that making the movie was "a huge experience. The best I've had on any film set in all my life."

"To me, this movie was a big, big growth for me as director," del Toro shared. "It represented the chance of, in the same way Pan's Labyrinth represented the chance to do something in the Spanish language ... to me Pacific Rim represented that on a bigger scale. As a director, I concentrated on things that I felt personally that I needed to improve from the other films and concentrate on other things I hadn't tried. I shot the movie very differently in many ways, but with the same philosophy and visual style."

While many have called Pacific Rim del Toro's Godzilla, the director dispelled that comparison and clarified that "one of the points I made clear to my designers, every head of department, is we should not reference other movies. We should not re-watch Gamera, or re-watch Gojira, or re-watch War of the Gargantuans. We said, 'Let's create the world that we're doing. It falls in here and falls in there, but we should not be doing a referential film.' If things happen, they happen because they're being made by people who love those genres. But I didn't want to be postmodern, or referential, or just belong to a genre. I really wanted to create something new, something madly in love with those things. I tried to bring epic beauty to it, and drama and operatic grandeur. Many of the quirks are going to be executed a different way than you normally would. I cannot say more because I would be spoiling stuff, as it's a year away, but there are things in the movie that I'm the proudest of I've ever been."

Pacific Rim features Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Antrobus, a washed-up former Jaeger pilot who's pulled out of retirement to join other soldiers desperate to stop the Kaiju from decimating the planet. Del Toro says of the Jaegers, "each comes from a different country. We have Cherno Alpha, which is a Russian robot, Crimson Typhoon, which is a Chinese robot, and so on and so forth. They each have a name, and they are as much characters as the pilots. I wanted each robot to have a personality and for you to feel when the robot gets hurt or when the robot wins. Frankly, also for the Kaiju. There are very unexpected things that I will do with the Kaijus."

Always a proponent of practical creations in his films, del Toro says they built huge portions of the Jaegers and put his cast right into them to get a real performance out of them.

"We built the control cockpit of the robots in the head. It's almost three stories high, and we mounted it on hydraulic shakers so every time they get hit, you would really hit. I wanted to do it with the actors. I didn't want to do it with the doubles. The first time they were in, Charlie [Hunnum] came to visit the first group of actors, I won't say who they were, but he said, "Babies. Crybabies." And then he went into the machine, which is the interface between them and the robots, and which flows with their bodies. It was a huge engineering feat. It was real. We could've done it CG, but why? Why do that?"

Del Toro laughs evilly, "Every guy broke. Every guy broke! The only one that never complained was Rinko Kikuchi [playing pilot Mako Mori]."

Pacific Rim hits theaters July 12, 2013.