Friday, January 12, 2007


On the table in front of Guillermo Del Toro at the Hotel Inter-Continental -- where the good-natured, bespectacled Mexican filmmaker was holed up as the Toronto International Film Festival premiered his amazing Pan's Labyrinth -- there's a heavy, handcrafted, leather-bound notebook.

It's the book that Del Toro kept in the months before and during the making of Pan's Labyrinth. Its pages abound with intricate, detailed notes (in his native Spanish) and incredible sketches of some of the film's characters and sets: the half-man, half goat; skullheads; eyeless faces; spooky houses; gnarled trees; owls, and a little girl that looks like Lewis Carroll's Alice.

"I always keep a notebook on the movies, and I started this one on Pan," says Del Toro, handing the book over to peruse. "When the movies come out on DVD, one of the extras I put in are the pages from the notebook that belonged to that movie. But maybe one day I'll publish them too. I'll have to do some editing, however, because they also serve as diaries. ‘I woke up this morning and washed my socks.’"

Nothing scandalous?, I ask.

"Unfortunately not. I wish there were," he laughs.

"Each of them is a different art project. Like this one, for Pan, I call it the psychopath book, because I changed my writing, I modeled it after the psychopathic writing in Seven. And the other ones, if you see them, they’re all different....

"I think eventually when film goes absolutely to hell, I’ll just go to school, learn to paint, and I’ll just paint, and do books. And I’ll live in a little coastal village....

"Because, at the end of the day, the satisfaction I get is creating the image -- that’s 99 percent of my satisfaction. Then showing it and all that -- all of the work that goes with promoting and distributing and presenting a film -- I suffer, mostly. But when you create the image and it’s incontestibly beautiful, that’s most of the fun."

For a look at some of the pages in Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth book, click on this link to the Guardian UK.,,1949730,00.html

Friday, January 05, 2007


Some stuff from the interview with Hilary Swank at her house in New York last week, quotes that I wasn't able to squeeze into the Sunday, Jan. 7 story.

On playing real-life figures, like transgendered Nebraskan teen Brandon Teena -- or Teena Brandon -- in Boys Don't Cry, and Erin Gruwell, the idealistic young teacher in Freedom Writers:

"With Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry, I felt yes, [it was] a big responsibility, just to tell the story in a way that that person would want their story told. But they’re not alive, so how do you know? With Erin, she’s alive, so I felt it was brave and courageous of her to be willing to have her story told. That must be such a scary thing. I mean, how do you tell someone’s story in two hours or less? How do you do that? It becomes everyone’s responsibility, my responsibility, the director’s responsibility."

On what she looks for in a project:

"I don’t ever want to say, ‘I want to tell important stories.’ It’s not my goal in life. My goal in life is just to find stories that I find fascinating, or that inspire me, or scare me, or make me reach deeper, and be a part of telling it."

On the huge changes brought on by winning an Oscar, for Boys Don't Cry:

"I was suddenly getting lots of offers, lots of scripts, and all of that was incredible. But on the flipside, it was also a reminder of how easily we’re judged by first impressions. Because I was sent a lot of scripts that had to do with similar issues. For being one of the most creative businesses -- Hollywood, the movie business -- sometimes you find that the people don’t think outside of the box. It takes a real open-minded and visionary person to see people in different ways.

"For all the amazing doors that opened, which were enormous and life-changing, it also opened another door of challenges. And that's, well, that’s life: everything has a double side to it. People knew me like that [the Boys Don't Cry role], but they didn’t know me as the girl that I am. It was interesting to get people to learn who I am."

And Richard LaGravenese, the screenwriter (The Horse Whisperer, The Fisher King) who penned Freedom Writers and directed it, had this to say about P.S., I Love You, the romantic comedy he just wrapped shooting in Ireland and New York with his Freedom Writers star, Swank:

"What’s wonderful about doing this project with her was that it was a chance for me to give her an opportunity to show herself in a way that no one’s ever seen before. It’s more of an Audrey Hepburn part, it’s more of a beautiful, bubbly, feminine, funny, clumsy, beautifully dressed kind of role. And a love story, something where she can show herself as a woman, in a relationship....

"Hilary’s commitment is so enormous that you just throw any idea out there and she’ll do it 100%. She has one scene where she mimes a song in her apartment by herself, and she was just doing take after take after take and having so much fun… she does Judy Garland’s "The Man That Got Away," and again, she got the mannerisms down, she studied the way Judy had performed that song in A Star Is Born, and she just does the best, the greatest job of it."