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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

Guillermo del Toro, Director

"I thought, 'Oh my God, this could be the greatest profession on Earth.'”

A still from The Passion of Berenice by Jaime Humberto Hermosillo.  

I wanted to make movies for a long time, since I was a kid. I saw 2001, Taxi Driver, and I saw a movie by Luis Buñuel called The Young and the Damned. And I thought those were masterpieces, and I thought they were great, but they were still done by people in the international arena. And then one day, there was a Mexican director visiting my hometown, Guadalajara, and he had a movie he had done, a melodrama called The Passion of Berenice. I was probably 15, 16. I was very geeky, but very actually at peace with that, and I was sort of a voracious reader. I really read so much from childhood to my young-adult life. For at least more than a decade, I would read at least one book a day. So if you do the math, I did most of my reading between the ages of 7 to 17. I read voraciously. But I saw this movie and I thought it was fantastic.

It’s the story of a woman that has — nobody knows really where she comes from — she has burns on her face, she has the scars from a fire. And she falls in love with a man — it’s in the provinces in Mexico — and she falls in love with this guy who comes from the capital. And she lives with her aunt, who is a loan shark, a 90-year-old loan shark. She like loans with extraordinarily high interests, but she’s this fragile little 90-year-old. And she falls in love with this guy, and we see the oppression that she has under her aunt. And finally, this guy leaves her and she burns the house with her aunt in it — walks away. And it was such a beautiful, magical, strange melodrama I fell in love with the idea of directing pieces like that.

And then I met the guy! He was the first flesh-and-blood, live filmmaker I’ve ever known. And I said, “That guy makes a living making movies.” I was making Super 8 movies, and I was making little shorts, but I never imagined really that you could make a living. And this guy was so smart, so intelligent, so charming, and I thought, “Oh my God, this could be the greatest profession on Earth.”

Del Toro’s most recent film is Crimson Peak.