Biography of Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo Del Toro was born and raised in the Mexican state of Guadalajara to a middle-class, devoutly Catholic family. He was obsessed with movies from an early age and picked up a video camera to make his first film at the age of eight. Dating back just about as far is his fascination with the macabre, informed in part by the imagery of the Catholic church. A profile in the New Yorker magazine notes that one of Del Toro's earlier toys was a werewolf stuffed animal he stitched together with the help of his great aunt, and that he asked for mandrake root for Christmas one year for the sake of performing black magic.

Driven by his love for cinema, Del Toro entered the filmmaking program at the University of Guadalajara, which ultimately put him on a trajectory to work in the Mexican television and film industry in a variety of roles. The most remarked-upon gigs that Del Toro took during this early stage of his career were his make-up and special effects jobs, as those help explain his fascination with elaborate practical effects that have come to define his films. But Del Toro was also writing and directing television during this time for shows like Hora Marcada, a Mexican knock-off of The Twilight Zone. During this period, Del Toro developed a close friendship with Alfonso Cuarón, best known for directing Y Tu Mamá También (2001) and Roma (2018).

Del Toro made his first feature, Cronos, in 1993. A tale of a device that grants its owner eternal life, the film is notable as Del Toro's first collaboration with the actor Ron Perlman and for its international acclaim. It attracted the attention of Miramax, which worked with Del Toro on his 1997 film Mimic, the first entry in a longstanding collaboration with the former mime Doug Jones. Del Toro considered the film a disaster thanks to Miramax's heavy hand in the production, and tension that famously spilled over into the 70th edition of the Academy Awards when Del Toro's friend James Cameron confronted Miramax's Weinstein Brothers about the fiasco.

The film that really helped launch Del Toro's career as an international director was Blade II (2002), which is considered one of the strongest entires in the edgy vampire series. The film was Del Toro's first comic-book adaptation, and opened the door to him making two adaptations of the Hellboy comics in 2004 and 2008. Between those two films came one of Del Toro's most lauded films, the mystical, surreal fairytale Pan's Labyrinth. It was nominated for a litany of prizes including at the Academy Awards and the Goya Awards in Mexico. Pan's Labyrinth helped establish Del Toro's reputation as a serious artist.

The next several years would find Del Toro working with higher and higher budgets, peaking with the 2013 sci-fi action blockbuster Pacific Rim. During this period, Del Toro was in talks to take the reins from Peter Jackson and direct The Hobbit prequels to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. After conflicts over character design and budget, the production company ended up dropping Del Toro and Peter Jackson reluctantly signed on to make the prequels.

Del Toro's 2015 film Crimson Peak is regarded by the filmmaker as a film with too big of a budget to ever become a success, so he learned from his mistakes and took a significantly smaller budget for his next project, The Shape of Water. For that 2017 film, Del Toro stretched every penny to assemble a top-notch cast and a crack special effects team while cutting costs where he could on the set-building and shooting schedule. The result is one of Del Toro's most critically successful movies to date. The Shape of Water won several Academy Awards in 2018, including Best Picture and Best Director.

There isn't a firm indication of what Del Toro's next project will be. He's had a Pinnochio film and an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness in the works for a long time running now, and it's entirely possible that his resounding success with The Shape of Water will earn him the budgets he needs to see those projects through.


Study Guides on Works by Guillermo del Toro

Cronos is Guillermo del Toro's first feature film. Released in 1993, It set him off as one the freshest directors to watch for as critically the film was praised, though it did not receive a wide American distribution (only 28 theaters). It was...

The Shape of Water—released in 2017—is rare in Guillermo Del Toro's oeuvre as a film that's relatively optimistic. It's also the first film of Del Toro's to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, which it did in 2018. The film also snagged awards...