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Exclusive: Guillermo del Toro's Collection plus Mountains of Madness Update!

08.15.2016

Last month, we shared a video of Guillermo del Toro giving Andy Richter a tour of Bleak House, the filmmaker's insane home / horror museum / goth's wet dream. This past Thursday, I was fortunate enough to attend a guided artist walk through of del Toro's show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, thanks to a generous invite from assemblage artist Catherine Coan (check out her amazing work here). The show is called At Home With Monsters, and the presentation was given by author and photographer Paul Koudounaris (check him out here). Don't we make an adorably grainy bunch?

Left to right: Brian Bitner, Catherine Coan, Paul Koudounaris (yes, he's as cool as he looks)

Right at the onset, Paul informed us this would not be a run of the mill, clean cut exhibition. Instead of a linear chronology of del Toro's movies, we were instead presented with a labyrinth of different rooms, each with its own theme. The first room focused on childhood and innocence and the last on death, but as in life, you could get all kinds of lost along the way. Paul spoke about the eternal struggle of innocence vs. corruption and how it exists in just about every sci-fi and fantasy story out there. Perhaps the best representation of this in del Toro's work comes in Ofelia's dealings with the faun in PAN'S LABYRINTH:

Photo credit: Paul Koudounaris

...and how about a ridiculously cute photo of del Toro as a boy for good measure?

Next up was an area featuring, among other things, a few of the costumes from CRIMSON PEAK. Fun fact: While the major exhibits are from del Toro's own collection, many of the incidental pieces, like the wall art here, were provided by LACMA. Rather than just pawn off the task of choosing those works to someone else, though, del Toro went through their collection and hand-picked everything himself.

In case you need some nightmare fuel:

Some of del Toro's pets and automatons were in attendance:

And a collection of spirit photography rounded this section out nicely:

Now we come to the meaty bit. I started reading this site regularly around ten years ago, when there was a ton of of buzz surrounding David Fincher's adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA, Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's GOOD OMENS, and Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. Ridley Scott was even working on a MONOPOLY movie, but let's forget about that one. While none of those projects ever came to fruition, we have confirmation from del Toro's camp that AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS may still happen one of these days. After Paul gave a presentation in a room dedicated to the work of H.P. Lovecraft, magic, and the occult, he introduced del Toro collaborator Gary Deocampo, who spoke briefly about the initial writing of the script back in 2006 and then went into detail regarding the history of the ill-fated adaptation:

The studio said, 'we'll finance it,' so Guillermo started on the pre-production, and his friends started to read the script, and one of his friends, James Cameron... said, 'you know what? I want to help you. I want to be an executive producer.' So, Guillermo brought him along. They did some fantastic pre-visual 3D animation that in 2010 was just jaw-dropping, so you can imagine what they could do in 2016. And so, with that, also another friend of Guillermo's, Tom Cruise, said, 'well, I want to be in this movie.' So we have Tom Cruise and James Cameron all aboard, the studio's on board, the budget was set, everyone was happy with that. But Guillermo wanted to make his adaption of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, and it had to be rated R, not for, you know, Kthulu nudity, not for gratuitous blood and gore, but for intense situations, and if you've seen Guillermo's movies, you seen that he ramps up the intensity, so there would have been a lot of that. So they fought back and forth about doing it rated R, why can't we make it PG-13? So, come the winter of 2011, Guillermo was up in Toronto doing location scouting for exteriors, and he got an emergency phone call: 'you need to come back to LA.' So Guillermo came back- it was a Saturday- he came back for an emergency meeting, and unfortunately, that's when the studio decided, you know what, we can't make this movie... because it was going to be rated R and also, is there an audience for a 1930's expedition film where 90% of it takes place of the snow, and you know, there's monsters that no one's ever seen before.

I couldn't get a great photo through the glass, but this f*cked up looking penguin was made for AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS before production was cancelled. This is the first time it's been seen in public.

While this was a crushing blow to del Toro and his team, his dream to make the film was still very much alive- until 2012, when we reported that, after seeing Ridley Scott's PROMETHEUS, del Toro felt the film was so similar to his concept of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS that it would be pointless to continue pursuing the adaptation. Well, now, it looks like we may have a bit of an update on the project, or at least del Toro's attitude on it:

Now, 2016, he's like 'well, I can do it for cheaper.' Cameron's involved still. I don't know about Tom Cruise... and then also, he said he can do it for PG-13, because now the audiences almost ten years later are more savvy, and more, you know, they don't get scared of stuff. He can put stuff that's scary that is deemed PG-13 now. So, if studios are still interested, it's a matter of timing, 'cause now Guillermo is currently working on his new independent film, and then we have a big movie coming out after that... So, will it happen? If anyone deserves to do it, it's Guillermo, 'cause no one will do it justice and with so much love for it, so keep your fingers crossed. Hopefully we'll see it sooner than later.

So, not much of an update, but it's nice to know the filmmaker is still very much considering making the film, and with a post-AVATAR James Cameron on board, there's probably a much better chance the studio will be willing to accommodate his vision.

Concept art for THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE.

Next, we moved on to an area dedicated to monsters, which as you might expect in a Guillermo del Toro exhibit, was quite extensive. Looming over the area was a giant sculpture of Boris Karloff's head from James Whale's 1931 adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN. Paul gave us some insight into the piece itself, as well as the film's influence on del Toro:

The history of monsters for Guillermo starts right up there. The biggest influence of all on him is Frankenstein. FRANKENSTEIN is really- it's kind of the beginning of a modern discourse on monsters. That giant head is from his house, it's by a sculptor by the name of Mike Hill, it is absolutely immaculate, and it sits in Guillermo's house right over the entrance way when you come in at exactly this height. The point of that is that it's supposed to be the exact size and at the exact height as you would have seen it in the 1930's if you went to a movie and saw FRANKENSTEIN on the screen.

In the original film, Karloff was credit simply as: ?

Karloff undergoing a rigorous makeup and tea-sipping session. Photo credit: Paul Koudounaris

The Monster and his Bride, with Victor Frankenstein looking on. Photo credit: Catherine Coan

While we're on the subject of lovable monsters, what would a Guillermo del Toro exhibit be without some HELLBOY gear?

Photo credit: Catherine Coan

As we progressed toward the final death-themed room and the end of the tour, we stopped at a sculpture of Edgar Allen Poe, which was bookended by two windows simulating rain. LACMA Department Head and Curator Britt Salvesen spoke about the significance of this:

Guillermo wanted a rain room in his house, because living in Southern California, we never get any rain, and he finds that to be the most conducive environment for thinking and writing and musing and building his imaginary world. So, what he did was create a set of false windows with rear projection; he scattered silicon raindrops on the glass and uploaded a soundtrack from iTunes of thunder and rain and basically hacked a thunderstorm in his house. He started out in the film industry as special effects and makeup artist, so he brought those hands-on skills to his movies and to his environment.

Clockwise from top left: H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Dick Smith (the makeup artist behind THE EXORCIST), and Ray Harryhausen. Photo credit: Paul Koudounaris and Catherine Coan

The tour ended here, leaving us a few minutes to revisit any areas where we wanted a closer look, which for us included checking out del Toro's collection of classic comics and horror magazines:

A couple of the characters from the 1932 film FREAKS:

Photo credit: Catherine Coan

Shelves upon shelves of goodies, including some concept models for PACIFIC RIM:

A terrifying statue of Santi from THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, complete with an animated, holographic aura:

Photo credit: Catherine Coan

And of course it's disrespectful to leave without paying your respects to the Pale Man:

Photo credit: Paul Koudounaris

Finally, as we arrive at the Angel of Death, we find ourselves back where we started:

Photo credit: Paul Koudounaris

It's too much to get into here, but along the way, Paul treated us to some fascinating mini-lectures on the history of some of the subjects that inspire Guillermo, including fantasy, spirit photography, the occult, monsters, deformation, and death. The exhibition itself was amazing, but Paul's narration took it to another level and gave us that much more of an insight into what it must be like inside the filmmaker's head. I asked Paul if he had any closing thoughts about the show, to which he graciously provided the following quote (along with several of the photos above):

There's a certain cynicism that tends to creep in when it comes to blockbuster-type museum shows. Because museums have to exist in a marketplace, it always kind of feels like big shows in the end are about money. This one feels a bit different, though. When you walk through those galleries and look at not just the things that are presented, but the wonderful way in which everything is put together and borders are freely crossed, it feels a lot more like a labor of love. And you really get that feeling when you talk to people who worked on it- it always seems like it was more than just a job or project, it became something they were passionate about and took great pride in. It was certainly that way with my own contribution, to the catalog. It became important to me that it really express something, rather than be just another essay in a book, and I think that's a direct reflection of and tribute to the man himself, Guillermo del Toro. He's so passionate and open about his influences and so humble that people around him seem to naturally reflect that. I remember at the gala opening, he came in pushing someone around in a wheelchair. A girl said, 'isn't that sweet? He's pushing his father in a wheelchair.' And a friend of mine started laughing and said, 'that's not his father.' 'Who is it?' 'It's a friend of his who also has a big collection of vintage movie paraphernalia.' And I could only think, geez, this guy shows up at his own opening in a major museum pushing his friend around in a wheelchair; can he be any better? He's a lovely man, and this is a lovely show.

Paul Koudounaris can be found at empiredelamort.com and on Instagram. Guillermo del Toro's At Home With Monsters runs through November 27th at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and you can order the hardcover companion catalog to the show, presented by and featuring interviews with del Toro as well a contribution by Koudounaris, here.

Source: JoBlo.com

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