It turns out Guillermo del Toro only has one professional regret. The visionary director has turned down a lot of opportunities, in his life, including ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’, ‘The Wolverine’, ‘Thor’, ‘I Am Legend’ and ‘Man of Steel’, but there’s only one that has given him second thoughts.
“I’ve said no to things that are enormous and I’ve never looked back, you know? The only time I repent I didn’t do something was in 2007, when Universal in an incredibly gentle and beautiful manner said do you want to take over the Monster Universe? And they gave me the reins of several properties, and I didn’t do it. That I repent. So this is a confessional moment, I repent. That’s the only thing.”
Yes, in a parallel universe, the mastermind behind ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘Hellboy’ could have overseen Universal’s reboot of its classic monster franchise, which includes ‘Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘The Mummy’ and more. Instead, the reigns were handed to Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan.
Unfortunately, the rest is dark history. At Universal, the Dark Universe was launched unofficially with 2014’s ‘Dracula Untold’ but after that film flopped, it was disavowed and instead Universal insisted that the shared universe would really begin with this summer’s ‘The Mummy’ starring Tom Cruise. Then that movie bombed and lost the studio $95 million. The next movie, ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ was months away from filming, but Universal yanked it off their schedule and dispersed the pre-production crew. Kurtzman and Morgan cut ties with Dark Universe and now a building specially renovated to serve as the monster movie headquarters on the Universal lot sits almost abandoned.
Things haven’t been terribly rosy for del Toro either, though. Despite the first ‘Hellboy’ becoming a sleeper hit and a cult favorite, its sequel ‘The Golden Army’ not only flopped but also didn’t appeal to fans of the first. ‘Pacific Rim’ has a sequel coming (which del Toro did not direct), but that was only greenlighted after foreign box office and home video were added to the first film’s weak domestic tally. His gothic thriller ‘Crimson Peak’ also flopped, despite being released around Halloween in 2015. His latest, ‘The Shape of Water’ arrives next week, and the buzz is strong, with some critics declaring it his finest work. Here’s hoping it succeeds where his more recent efforts haven’t.
However, what could have happened if, in 2007, del Toro had said yes to Universal? He would have just been coming off ‘Hellboy’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, not to mention earlier low-budget successes like ‘Blade II’, ‘Mimic’ and ‘Cronos’. This would have been before his later missteps and many years before Universal’s ill-fated Dark Universe. Perhaps this would have been a match made in monster heaven? (Or is that hell?)
Sadly, we’re left to wonder what alchemy could have occurred by combining these two elements. Do you think del Toro would have done a good job with the Universal monster properties?
‘The Shape of Water’ stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lauren Lee Smith, Nick Searcy and David Hewlett and opens on December 8, 2017.