Guillermo del Toro and his dark, eerie world
And why the director of Blade keeps a close eye on the BO
Four years ago, director Stephen Norrington brought to life Blade, a dark tale of a half-human, half-vampire who sets out to avenge his mother's murder. Based on the popular Marvel comic book Blade connected with audiences worldwide, bringing in over $120 million.
It also did several million dollars' worth of business on home video.
The film's success gave birth to a franchise. Actor Wesley Snipes, who starred in such action films as Passenger 57 and Demolition Man, was praised for his charismatic performance as the title character. Blade's success also pushed the martial arts expert into the upper echelons of Hollywood heroes.
When Norrington decided he wasn't going to helm the sequel, Guillermo del Toro stepped in. Del Toro's first film Cronos in 1993 was a critical disappointment. He followed it up with 1997's Mimic, a thriller starring Mira Sorvino. It received mixed reviews but managed to match its $25 million budget at the domestic box-office. Both films had something in common: they were eerie, dark and atmospheric.
These elements became the director's trademark, part of the reasons he took over Blade 2 that was released in March. Once again, del Toro's vision was clearly evident: Blade 2, with its graphic visuals and moody setting, was a box-office hit with over $150 million worldwide. The sequel finds Blade joining forces with other vampires to bring down a deadly breed of super vampires.
"I wanted to try and make the movie as exciting as the first because fans of the comic and the movie want to up the ante on the sequel," del Toro tells Rediff.com about filming the sequel. "The other challenge was to make it visually different than normal action-oriented Hollywood movies with an Eastern European setting that is Gothic and colourful, full of eerie moments."
Blade 2 is now available on home video. Its sales and rentals are expected to match the $80 million domestic gross in theaters. New Line Home Entertainment has presented the DVD in a deluxe two-disc edition packed with numerous extras. Del Toro has been on the press circuit since early August, promoting the movie's release on video before jetting off to Prague to begin filming Hellboy, an action thriller.
The Blade sequel was physically demanding because it required extensive preparation, del Toro says. "I was basically trying to not only do a movie I loved but also be true to the spirit that was established in the original which had an irreverence," he notes. "Stephen Norrington and Wesley Snipes were the primary forces on the first one. And Wesley came back for the sequel."
Snipes' presence on set was valuable for del Toro. The director looked to the actor for tips on choreographing the action as well setting the mood on the set in Prague. "I do think Wesley Snipes is Blade," del Toro, 37, says. "His vibe and essence to the character on screen are huge. Wesley has a deep understanding of his character."
With the lacklustre performance of his earlier movies, del Toro says he kept a close eye on the box-office receipts for Blade 2. "Almost daily," he says about tracking the numbers, with a chuckle. "I am eager to see how it will do on video and it is still playing well internationally."
The Blade 2 DVD contains a production workshop taking the viewer into the filmmaking process. Commentary tracks, music videos and a video game are just some of the reasons it is a dream for fans and film enthusiasts, del Toro says. "We had a great time putting it together. The 'making of' is a definite document and we wanted to make it as good a set as possible."
A native of Mexico, del Toro also touched upon his friendship with other Mexican American directors such as Robert Rodriguez and Alfonso Cuaron. Just like Indian American filmmakers, there are only a handful of Mexican directors working in Hollywood today.
Rodriguez has made back-to-back hits with Spy Kids and its sequel, released earlier this summer. And Cuaron's deft handling of child actors (in such films as Y Tu Mama Tambien and A Little Princess), has landed him to direct the third Harry Potter movie.
"I am incredibly good friends with them," del Toro says. "Robert Rodriguez and I are neighbours in Austin (Texas). I've been a friend with Alfonso since I was 21. "I feel a lot of pride," he continues. "We come from a country where it's hard to make movies, basically where it's hard to live. For one to succeed, you have to go beyond geographic frontiers. When you see someone succeeding who is from your country there is that much more pride and pleasure."
Del Toro's next film Hellboy will star Ron Perlman, who played the villain in Blade 2. Like Blade, Hellboy is also based on a comic book, with a graphic action and dark setting.
"It will be similar to a degree," del Toro says about comparisons between the Marvel characters. "But it will also be its own creature."