With 13 Academy Award nominations (and already a few other trophies under its belt, including a Golden Globe for Best Director), the extraordinary love story between an amphibious creature (Doug Jones) and a lonely janitor (Sally Hawkins) at the centre of The Shape of Water could be the most successful cinematographic tale of the year.
Whether you have seen the film in theatre or have your curiosity now piqued, there’s a whole other world lying behind the making of Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece yet to discover. With the series of featurettes below, learn how the script of the “fairytale for troubled times,” as del Toro calls it, came to life, from writing the script, to the director’s interesting casting method, to creating a charming monster thrown in the middle of a hostile era.
Making a remarkable movie takes a lot of remarkable people, that’s why Guillermo del Toro chose his team carefully in order to develop his atypical love story idea, which he had been working on since 2011.
Taking place in the midst of the Cold War, when Russia and the US fought relentlessly to be first to step into the future, The Shape of Water focuses on a creature kept confined in a secret facility to be used as part of the US space program and its growing romantic relationship with a mute and discreet cleaner.
To portray the characters of this unique tale, del Toro explains in the video above that he chose Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer not just because they were great actors but mostly for their eyes, which, according to the Mexican director, are what drives the scenes of his films.
But the greatest challenge in making The Shape of Water was finding the right fit for its creature. Having to be a monster you could fall in love with, del Toro wanted an actor, not a performer, to play the part, even if buried under thick layers of makeup. “If you don’t have an actor inside of that suit, you don’t have a movie,” says the director. That’s why Doug Jones, who already appeared in 5 of the filmmaker’s movies and has demonstrated an incredible ability to bring light and humanity to characters other than human, was the obvious choice.
To translate his strong vision, del Toro wanted the amphibian creature to be handsome, athletic and almost sexy, which is why the makeup and special effects crew worked hard to create a charming monster unlike anything ever seen before. Manlike, with plumped lips, mesmerizing eyes and a very masculine posture, the result came as close as possible to making the peculiar character very attractive.
By reversing the classic agent-monster plot concept, like a Beauty and the Beast where the Beast doesn’t transform at the end, supported by an extraordinary cast and crew to build piece-by-piece a magnetic universe, Guillermo del Toro, with his latest creation, succeeded in making us believe that the shape of water truly is the shape of love.