On Sunday, Guillermo del Toro won Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture for The Shape of Water. While us genre fans have known for decades about GDT's surreal aesthetics and beautiful storytelling, now the Academy — and the rest of America — has finally accepted his brilliance.
Another thing us GDT fans know is that he just may be the hardest working director in the game. At any given time, he might have a dozen projects in the works. Sadly, many of these projects never come to light, but Guillermo is unique in that he does not have a problem talking about such projects. That is probably why it seems like Guillermo has more projects fall through than most directors.
Now that he is an Oscar-winner, the hope is that Guillermo will get the opportunities - and the money - to make some of these fabled genre pictures we have all been waiting for. Below are some of his long-rumored projects and where they stand.
The Haunted Mansion
At 2010's San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced - complete with teaser art - that GDT would be writing and producing a film based on the Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride, remaking the ghastly 2003 film with Eddie Murphy. It sounded like the perfect fit, because Guillermo is a huge Haunted Mansion fanatic (the ride, not the 2003 movie). He told MTV.com that "Disney plans on taking the core mythology of the ride and are expanding it so there are many haunted mansions around the world. They are all part of sort of a web and the spider sitting in the center of the web is what fans of the Haunted Mansion would know by the nickname the Hat Box Ghost."
In my 2012 interview with del Toro, he told me he had delivered his drafts of the script he co-wrote with long-time collaborator Matthew Robbins. Unfortunately, due to Pacific Rim and The Strain, he wouldn't have time to do any more work on the script, so they hired another writer to do a draft. "We are doing one more revision, and we are very close to getting the movie made. I think we need a fresh point of view on the screenplay." When asked if he would direct it, he said it depended on scheduling, but he was hopeful he would.
The most recent news I was able to find about the project was from September 2016, when Digital Trends interviewed Disney executive producer Brigham Taylor, who said: "Guillermo is still very much attached and involved. It’s just been going at its own pace, because it’s a movie that I think will eventually get made, but should only be made when it’s absolutely ready to be made. There’s no reason to put a rush on it or back into a date. I’m happy to say we’ve been steadily working away to hone the right story for it."
I interviewed GDT in November 2012 for the dearly departed FEARnet.com. Back then, he was certain Pinocchio was going to be his next film. "I’m doing Pinocchio in the summer, right around the time when Pacific Rim comes out. I will be starting voice recording with Pinocchio and with a little luck we will be storyboarded or in the process of storyboarding and doing animation reels."
Five years later, in November 2017, GDT told IGN that Pinocchio was dead. “It’s not happening. But the idea was to do Pinocchio during the ascension of fascism in Italy, with Mussolini. It was a good time to discuss the idea of being a puppet or being a human, but you know, it’s not in progress.”
This has been GDT's dream project for decades. In November 2011, I interviewed del Toro during a set visit for Mama (again for FEARnet), and he had this to say about Frankenstein: "I have a Frankenstein fetish to a degree that is unhealthy and I’ve been talking with Sara Karloff about other projects. I’m just a Boris Karloff super fan and fan of Frankenstein the story. It’s the most important book of my life, so you know if I get to it, whenever I get to it, it will be the right way." A year later, he told me he was "finishing a deal to write the project for Universal. It's not done yet, but hopefully soon enough."
In 2016, he gave a press conference at Fantasia Fest, where he seemed to suggest the idea of directing a version of Frankenstein was better in theory than in practice. "Frankenstein to me is the pinnacle of everything, and part of me wants to do a version of it, part of me has for more than 25 years chickened out of making it," he said, according to Den of Geek. "I dream I can make the greatest Frankenstein ever, but then if you make it, you’ve made it. Whether it’s great or not, it’s done. You cannot dream about it anymore. That’s the tragedy of a filmmaker. You can dream of something but once you’ve made it, you’ve made it. That’s it."
Only a few months ago, in November of 2017, del Toro told the New York Times that the only professional decision he ever regrets is turning down the opportunity to oversee Universal's now-failed Monster Universe. "The only time I repent I didn’t do something was in 2007, when Universal in an incredibly gentle and beautiful manner said, 'Do you want to take over the Monster Universe?' And they gave me the reins of several properties, and I didn’t do it. That I repent. So this is a confessional moment, I repent. That’s the only thing."
At the Mountains of Madness
Another long-gestating project for GDT, this is an H.P. Lovecraft story - right off the bat, a tough sell. And even though Tom Cruise had agreed to star and James Cameron was going to produce, the studio still rejected the project. An R-rating didn't help, nor did the similarly-themed Prometheus underperforming at the box office.
At that same 2016 Fantasia Fest press conference, Guillermo compared losing Madness to a miscarriage. "That thing really gutted me. Before I went into the preproduction process, I had put over a decade and a half into it," he said, before going on to say that he and ILM did about 200 pieces of city and monster design, and had about 700 storyboards. "The ones that don’t happen break your heart, that’s for sure. But I’m going to keep trying," del Toro said at the time. We know you will.
Fantastic Voyage was all set to be del Toro's next film after The Shape of Water. In August 2017, Fox put the film on hold so that del Toro could focus on finishing and rolling out The Shape of Water. According to Deadline, Fantastic Voyage was supposed to go into production this spring, and release it for the 2019 holiday season. Pushing the project meant that shooting wouldn't have started until the end of 2018, which means a release wouldn't come until 2020. (It is an effects-heavy film.)
But then GDT decided after Water, he needed to take a break, and announced he was going to take a year off of directing (though he would still produce and, presumably, write during this time).
In November, he told Collider that he still plans to go into production on Fantastic Voyage in the fall of 2018. But with so many projects swirling around in that head of his, I wouldn't put any money on Fantastic Voyage being his next film.
Reports have been going around since 2008 that GDT would be writing and directing a stop-motion remake of the Roald Dahl classic. Alfonso Cuaron was supposed to co-direct with GDT; then it was going to be just GDT directing. In 2012 he told Variety that he thinks "it’s the best screenplay I’ve ever written in any form," and that Dahl's widow loved the script.
As of just a couple weeks ago, Hollywood Reporter mentioned that Warner Bros. was still shopping around GDT's script, and is said to be in talks with Robert Zemeckis to direct.
- The Bloody Benders - Based on the true-life tale of a family of serial killers that lured travelers into their Kansas home in the late 1800s, the script was written by Adam Robitel (Insidious 4) and optioned by GDT before he shot Pacific Rim. When nothing came of it, Robitel decided to direct it himself. GDT is still listed as a producer.
- Silver - This project has reached almost mythic stature. The tale of a luchadore who discovers all politicians are vampires and decides to slay them is still in the script stage. He got halfway through when he abandoned it in order to make The Shape of Water. However, he promised Alfonso Cuaron he would finish it. Maybe he will work on it during his sabbatical.
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - In 2016, GDT came on to develop - and potentially direct - a project based on a collection of kids horror stories with nightmarish illustrations. The film is still likely to go forward, with André Øvredal directing. Guillermo is still attached as a producer.
- Jekyll and Hyde - GDT planned a version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic that dealt with addiction. “In every story of addiction, people seem to [underestimate] what the addiction does to the person,” he told MTV in 2008. “And what does Hyde give Jekyll that is so powerful? That can be explored.” I have found no mention of this film since then.
- Saturn and the End of Days - GDT announced this project back in 2008 at NYCC, about a child who witnesses the end of the world during trips to the supermarket. There seems to be no word of this project since then.