Guillermo Del Toro

On Doug Jones’ Special Quality as a Performer

Among the many disciplines of puppeteering and creation, there is one thing called Bunraku, in which an actor dressed in black operates a puppet in a black stage. It’s a beautiful discipline, very magical. The good Bunraku artist moves the character, but the excellent Bunraku artist fuses with the puppet. That’s what Doug does. There’s a rarified type of performer that can work in a suit. Then out of those performers, there is the rarest of the rarest: a guy who can actually act and be an actor under the makeup. That’s Doug Jones. He can do it.

One of my favorite anecdotes was about Richard Jenkins. His first day of shooting was with this creature in the bathtub, and he comes in, and Doug is eating a bagel and sipping coffee from a foam cup. Richard comes to me and says, “What the fuck? There’s a guy in a fish suit, what are we doing?” I go, “Relax.” Doug goes into the bathtub, and he’s talking to Richard, and he has this really folksy Mr. Roger’s voice when he talks. I’m doing it with my terrible American accent that sounds Danish [Laughs]. I say, “Action,” and Doug instantly goes into acting, and it’s a creature that has never seen a bathtub, and has never seen tiles. Richard immediately said, “I’m in.”

On Using Fantasy to Tackle Real World Problems

Ideology is separating all of us, separating us more and more in the most intimate spaces. We are constantly told to fear the other, and I try to ask, “Can we embrace the other?” It’s the process of youth to draw lines in the sand, and as you age, you say, “Can we erase them?” We realize that it’s only us. I’ve always believed that, by creating visuals and ideas, you can take what is fantasy and make it truth, make movies that are truthful, and deal with the fantastic as a parable. I’ve done it in Pan’s Labyrinth, in Devil’s Backbone, this one and many others, I’ve done it in different ways, and you can present it and transform it. I think that it’s a very crucial moment right now. At the time the Lumiéres Brothers filmed a train arriving at the station, cinema was born. Almost at the same time, there was a guy called George Méliés, who gave birth to film, and made the impossible possible. Now, Dreyer, Bergman, Kubrick, and many of the greatest filmmakers have given us eternal images in the genre of the fantastic. It’s time that we are part of the conversation in some way.


Director Guillermo del Toro (right) interacts with fans at the Outstanding Directors Award panel during The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Photograph by Rebecca Sapp



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