Doug Jones Says Universal’s Dark Universe Killed del Toro’s ‘Hauntingly Beautiful’ Frankenstein

Jones believes Universal's failed Dark Universe is to blame for killing del Toro's "Frankenstein" movie.
Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff in "Bride of Frankenstein"
Everett Collection

Doug Jones is responsible for bringing to life Guillermo del Toro’s most legendary creatures, from the Faun and the Pale Man in “Pan’s Labyrinth” to the Amphibian Man in “The Shape of Water,” but one monster that has eluded the collaborators is Frankenstein. In a recent interview with Collider, Jones looked back at the life and death of del Toro’s short-lived plan to direct a Frankenstein movie. Pre-production on the project advanced enough where Jones got to check out the plan for the director’s reimagining of Frankenstein’s physicality.

According to Jones, del Toro had no intention of recreating the Frankenstein look made famous by actor Boris Karloff in “Frankenstein” (1931), “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), and “Son of Frankenstein” (1939). Instead, del Toro was interested in a more gaunt Frankenstein figure that resembled the illustrations drawn by “Swamp Thing” co-creator Bernie Wrightson.

“He was more emaciated, little skinnier, little more pathetic looking,” Jones said of del Toro’s Frankenstein. “And yet, [he] had an unnatural physical prowess, an unnatural athletic-ness to him. He was sewn together with spare parts of a couple different bodies. Very bony face, long, stringy, drawn hair.”

Jones saw del Toro’s Frankenstein plans during a visit to Spectral Motion, the creature shop that was working with the director on the project during pre-production. Shop owner Mike Elizalde showed Jones “a head and shoulders bust of me with this monster makeup built on it,” and it left Jones speechless.

“It was like, honestly, my eyes welled up,” Jones said. “It was so hauntingly beautiful, and it did pay reverence to Bernie Wrightson’s artwork and gave you a different-looking Frankenstein’s monster than what you’re used to.”

With del Toro’s Frankenstein being designed and built, why did the film ultimately get shelved? Jones has no concrete answers, but if he had to guess he’d say Universal’s failed Dark Universe is to blame. The studio wanted to create an interconnected movie universe of monster characters featuring Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, and Johnny Depp, but the plan collapsed after Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy” bombed at the box office.

“The idea came to do what Marvel is doing, where there’s an entire Universal Monsters Universe,” Jones said. “Where they can interplay with each other and guest in each other’s movies, that sort of thing. That new era was going to start with the new Mummy movie that Tom Cruise was a part of. My guess would be, and again, I have no authority to say this, but my guess would be Guillermo probably wanted to make a standalone movie that was just his piece of art, that would be an homage to the book and an homage to the original film.”

Jones implied it’s been years since he last heard any updates about del Toro’s Frankenstein, but he stressed “I would kill to [do it]” if the opportunity ever arose. The actor currently stars on CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery.” Next up for del Toro is his Searchlight-backed adaptation of “Nightmare Alley.”

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