Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” is a surprise summer hit, an original car-chase saga set to a lively soundtrack that’s a far cry from reductive Hollywood formula. The movie, which generated more than $40 million in its first week of release, started its engines back at the SXSW Film Festival.
But it also benefited from a lot hype in the days leading up to release, and may have found no greater advocate than Guillermo del Toro. The “Hellboy” and “Pacific Rim” director tweeted out a lengthy string of praises for the movie just days before it arrived in theaters. Reached by phone over the holiday weekend while “Baby Driver” was steadily climbing to second place in the box office, del Toro — currently finishing up the score to his WWII supernatural film “The Shape of Water” — said that his impulse to advocate for “Baby Driver” came from a very personal place.
Del Toro watched Wright, a friend, go through the challenging experience of developing Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” only to leave the project due to creative differences; “Baby Driver” is effectively his rebound. Del Toro, who recently lost out on plans to make a third “Hellboy” movie when the studio decided to go the reboot route instead, could relate. “When a project dies, you get maybe a day or two of headlines, then the world moves on,” he said.
“As a filmmaker, when you sever your ties with a project, you’re leaving behind at least two years of history and at least two years of pain. You’ve gone through storyboards, production schedules — you’re in the middle of a painting when someone or something burned the canvas. Watching Edgar go through that, and having him use ‘Baby Driver’ to heal — I wanted to talk about that because it’s important.”
Del Toro added that the public profile of these projects only exacerbates the process of moving on. “As a filmmaker, you may have a public persona that people can look at, but as a human being, you have your own biography,” he said.
In the case of “Hellboy,” del Toro said he has found his own rebound with “The Shape of Water.” “Listen, I love it profoundly,” he said, noting the relatively small budget of the project, which he’ll follow up with a live-action “Pinocchio” early next year. “To jump back and forth from a larger budget to a smaller budget is useful because it keeps your reflexes sharp. With a lower budget, you permit yourself a lot more freedom. You can basically enjoy a different set of values.”
He said he harbors no ill will toward Mike Mignola, the creator of the “Hellboy” comic that inspired del Toro’s two films, and a third one that he had been developing before the new version took shape. “I think I was probably overenthusiastic and not exactly structured in trying it one final time,” he said. “Ron [Perlman] and I got very excited about it, but the father of the character is Mike. If he feels he wants to reboot it, that’s perfectly genuine and god bless. As always, I have a very full plate. I’m thankful for that.”
Pushed to elaborate on the lingering emotions of leaving a passion project behind, he struck a practical note. “The natural state of filmmaking is to try to survive disappointment and contain your enthusiasm. You can have both of them for an entire career,” he said. “Disappointment never goes away. The very nature of the craft of filmmaking is to distinguish between controllable and uncontrollable situations. The illusion of absolute control is impossible. Many times in a shoot, whether you’re Spielberg or Kubrick, you still have to negotiate from a realistic place. Much as some directors may want to believe it, we’re not holy creatures.”
In the meantime, he plans to continue lobbying for new films and other media from the influential perch of his social-media account. “Except for my political inclinations where I can get very worried about the world — and bad restaurant reviews — I promised myself that I would only tweet about things I love,” he said. “We live in a world that very often bars people from being enthusiastic. Sometimes criticism sounds smarter than praise. It was great to use Twitter to make people aware of these things and give them a reason to love them.”