The success of a film at the box office during the long hot days of summer relies on a fairly straight forward recipe: big-budget action sequences, loads of jaw-dropping special effects and a kiss or two for a happy ending to please audiences of all ages. But “Pacific Rim” doesn’t fit that mold – despite its $150 million estimated budget and gargantuan robots – says director Guillermo del Toro.
“This movie is a reflection of me just as much as ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,” explains the Oscar nominee about “Pacific Rim,” released nationwide on July 12. “For me, this movie represents a story and elements that I feel strongly about, all in something new and different that I think audiences will love.”
“Pacific Rim” – a lavishly told futuristic tale about mankind’s use of fantastic robots called Jaegers in a struggle to survive the onslaught of Godzilla-like deadly monsters known as Kaiju – is a film that del Toro says came to him as he was battling depression which erupted when two projects he had been tied to dissolved.
First, he had been tapped to direct “The Hobbit,” a series that ultimately went to New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Then his passion project, a 3D sci-fi thriller adapted from the novel “At the Mountains of Madness” that Tom Cruise had already agreed to star in, failed to be picked up for studio financing.
“For four years I had toiled for important projects that ultimately failed,” says del Toro, who had spent nine months co-writing and designing “Pacific Rim” with the understanding that he would direct the project if his schedule freed up. “And when ‘Mountains’ collapsed, I was so depressed, crying. And when the opportunity came for ‘Pacific Rim,’ I wanted to die for this movie. I wanted to put all my life into it. And when I was told I had the complete support of the studio, that feeling of support and unique belief in me was amazing. It saved my life.”
Although del Toro is no stranger to large-scale film projects – 2012’s “Rise of the Guardians” cost Paramount a rumored $145 million – he prides himself on being able to create movies that look far more costly than they are. With many of the summer’s films in the $200 million budget range, like “World War Z” and “Iron Man 3,” del Toro considers his cost-conscious ways an asset when it came to producing the mammoth battles between man and monster in “Pacific Rim.”
“A singer can sing a rock song or a painter can choose a different medium far easier than a director can create variety in his work,” says del Toro, who first became enthralled with cinema as a young boy in his native Guadalajara, Mexico. “As a filmmaker, variety of scope and scale are only given if a director can prove his previous success. So yes, this movie is huge but I have been making movies that look twice as expensive as they are. I’ve gone to bat with every movie I’ve made and fiscally, I’m a producer and am always very involved in the financials of my films.”
And del Toro – whose inspiration for the film is driven by his love of Japanese cinema and comic books, known as manga – wants fans of all ages to enjoy his newest venture. Unlike his last film, “Mama,” a horror movie which became a smash hit among Latino audiences, del Toro says “Pacific Rim” is intended for families.
“I wanted to show that men and women can be friends without having a relationship,” says del Toro of the relationship between the two main characters Mako (played by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi) and Raleigh (“Sons of Anarchy” star Charlie Hunnam). “Theirs is a story about partnership, equality and a strong bond between partners. It’s important for little girls to know not every story has to be a love story and for boys to know that soldiers aren’t the only ones to triumph in war.”
And yes, while dads get to enjoy the on-screen special effects and moms will undoubtedly appreciate the presence of Idris Elba as one of the film’s lead actors, del Toro says he can’t emphasize enough how much this film means to him as its director, executive producer and writer.
“This is the first film I’ve created that I feel has everything going for it, in terms of support and creative freedom,” says del Toro, who counts “Pacific Rim” as one of his three all-time favorite films alongside “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Cronus.”
“I love it with a passion. It may have been directed by a 48-year-old, but it was dictated by his inner child with a love for movies.”