Guillermo del Toro Hasn’t Used a Real Gun on Set Since 2007: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Necessary Anymore’

"From the practical safety point of view, there’s no reason to do it," the "Nightmare Alley" director says.
Guillermo del Toro at the "Nightmare Alley" World Premiere in New York City.

After an on-set accident involving a prop gun led to the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” last month, the use of guns on film sets has been a hotly debated topic in Hollywood. Several A-list actors and directors have pledged to stop working on films that use real guns. Guillermo del Toro would join them, but he has not fired a gun on one of his sets in over a decade.

Appearing alongside Jane Campion, Pedro Almodóvar, Kenneth Branagh, Asghar Farhadi, and Reinaldo Marcus Green as part of The Hollywood Reporter’s Director’s Roundtable, del Toro took a strong stance against the use of real guns in filmmaking. The Oscar-winning director said that he has not fired a real gun on set “since 2007 or 2008.” According to del Toro, the decision began as a practical necessity, but later became his preferred approach.

“It started with ‘The Devil’s Backbone,’ because we were forbidden to shoot in Segovia [Spain]. We were forbidden to shoot in a forest because the ignition could start a forest fire,” del Toro said. And after seeing how well the finished product came out, he began to question whether using real guns was worth all of the extra work and safety risk.

“All the paraphernalia that comes with [real guns], you have to put Mylar glass in front of the camera, everybody has to leave the camera crew, everybody has to be protected, you do a whole number,” del Toro said. “And from the practical safety point of view, there’s no reason to do it.”

Much of the Hollywood Reporter roundtable focused on the leadership aspects of directing, rather than the artistic ones. All four directors spoke about the job in terms of managing large teams of people, so the conversation naturally led to a discussion about the role that a director plays in keeping their cast and crew safe.

“Accidents do happen,” del Toro admitted. “I’ve had accidents in my sets. If an accident happens by the confluence of three, four factors that are unpredictable, that’s one thing. But if they happen and there’s one or two factors that are preventable, that weighs heavily on the director or producer.”

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