It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Guillermo del Toro (mastermind behind dark phantasmagoric fantasies like Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy flicks) dresses like a mortician: Black jacket, black shirt, and black pants hang off his pear-shape frame.
Or that he possesses a jaundiced view of homo sapiens: “I have some very disturbing shit to tell you,” the author and Oscar-winning filmmaker informed a legion of similarly dressed and shaped fans at EMP’s Science Fiction Museum last night.
Goaded by interviewer Warren Etheridge (grand inquisitor of Kim Ricketts Book Events, which hosted the conversation), Del Toro haunted the audience with tales of real life kidnappings, schoolyard stabbings, and descriptions of how a human body, trapped in a car fire, looks and sounds as it burns. (It twists like a spent match, and hisses and whistles as the boiling fluids spill out, in case you were wondering.)
But here’s the thing: Guillermo del Toro is funny. Like Judd Apatow funny. Like man-hit-in-groin-with-football funny. His jokes ranged from the scatological (“Diarrhea fascinates kids but that’s a hard thing to market”) to riffs on his own corpulence (“I’m the morbidly obese, badly dressed version of Benjamen Button.”)
And each time the roar of audience laughter calmed, Del Toro cut in with an axiom that doubled as an exegesis of the Del Toro oeuvre. “Imperfection is our most universal human trait,” the director said, explaining one of the reasons he populates his films with monsters, and why the most corrupt characters—like the sadistic yet handsome, exquisitely coiffed military captain in Pan’s Labyrinth—are perfect-looking human specimens whose flaws, through the course of the film, rise to the skin’s surface and present themselves as deformities or scars.
Although Del Toro was in town to chat up the The Fall, the latest book in his Strain trilogy—an apocalyptic vampire epic that makes the bloodsuckers in Twilight look like the Count from Sesame Street—the audience wanted to talk about film and TV. And he was happy to oblige, but not without pressing the infallibility-of-man theme.
“We’re led to believe that life should be a 1950s Better Homes and Gardens cover, but life isn’t like that.” The AMC show Mad Men is the perfect antidote to such faulty thinking, he said. "Everyone wants to be Don Draper, but we learn that there is no Don Draper. Not even Don Draper is Don Draper. It’s a beautiful metaphor.”