Guillermo del Toro wanted Shape of Water to be black and white

SHAPE OF WATER is being touted as a serious Oscar contender, with critics falling in love with Guillermo del Toro’s love story between an aquatic creature (Doug Jones) and deaf woman (Sally Hawkins). Critics are praising the brilliant use of visuals and color and the overall artistic aesthetic, which would have come off very different if del Toro got to make the movie the way he originally pitched it.

One of the inspirations for the movie was classic Universal horror movies, particularly CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and that inspiration was supposed to be much more direct, as del Toro pitched the film wanting to do it in black and white. The movie’s production designer Paul Austerberry recalls talking with del Toro about shooting it in black and white and said the decision to switch it to color ultimately affected the movie’s overall budget:

When it was in black and white, the budget was $12 million [del Toro apparently put the proposed budget at $16.5 million]. And then Fox Searchlight said, “You know, if you make it color, we’ll make it $19.6 million.” We were struggling at even $19.6 million to get it all down, so thankfully it went that way.

Though del Toro very much wanted it in B&W, Austerberry said they found the silver lining in using color, using it to help convey emotion and have some symbolism:

I was a bit nervous about the black and white, because color is such a strong element that you can play with in a story or movie to help shape the mood. When people see the movie, they comment a lot on the color, so I’m glad we went that way.

It may have all worked out well in the end, but del Toro admitted it was a decision made solely to be a team player and to get the process moving along:

To be disarmingly and horribly honest, it was a pawn sacrifice. It was one of those things that I knew I was not really interested in, but I knew I needed to appear reasonable. “Oh, Guillermo. He’s such a nice guy. He gave up black and white.”

I have yet to see SHAPE OF WATER, but something tells me that what it would lose by not having color would be made up for with a unique kind of majesty. We're seeing that putting even modern movies like LOGAN in B&W can give them an entirely different effect, and make the thematic elements all the more palpable while giving the film a whole new vibe. SHAPE OF WATER could've been an entirely different experience in B&W, and here's to hoping he gets the budget to make a cut of it one day for a special release. 

SHAPE OF WATER hits limited theaters this weekend.

Source: EW



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