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‘The Shape of Water’ Was Originally Going to Be in Black and White

Fox Searchlight offered a higher budget to shoot it in color.

The Shape of Water black and white

Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Shape of Water” is as visually arresting as you’d expect of a Guillermo del Toro movie about a merman-like creature, but it differs from the director’s vision in one key aspect: It’s in color. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, production designer Paul Austenberry reveals that del Toro originally pitched his fantastical romance as a black-and-white project.

“When it was in black and white, the budget was $12 million,” Austerberry reveals, whereas del Toro has estimated the hypothetical black-and-white budget as being closer to $16.5 million. “And then Fox Searchlight said, ‘You know, if you make it color, we’ll make it $19.6 million.’ We were struggling at even $19.6 million to get it all down, so thankfully it went that way.”

“I was a bit nervous about the black and white, because color is such a strong element that you can play with in a story or movie to help shape the mood,” Austerberry added. “When people see the movie, they comment a lot on the color, so I’m glad we went that way.”

“Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Logan” both saw black-and-white home-video releases, but it doesn’t appear that “The Shape of Water” will follow suit.

Lest you feel bad for del Toro, know that he never appeared married to the idea in the first place. “To be disarmingly and horribly honest, it was a pawn sacrifice,” he tells EW. “It was one of those things that I knew I was not really interested in, but I knew I needed to appear reasonable. ‘Oh, Guillermo. He’s such a nice guy. He gave up black and white.’”

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