Guillermo del Toro made a surprise appearance at the Saturn Awards on June 24. He was not on the list of expected guests and didn't have a film up for any category, but he came to celebrate with his buddies anyway. Even he didn't know yet that Peter Jackson would step in and direct the two Hobbit movies. Del Toro just got back in town and was already thinking positively about moving ahead with new films.
"I want to be, if possible, shooting in May next year," del Toro said in Burbank, Calif. "So I need something that is ready to go into preproduction immediately."
That rules out Hellboy III and the Frankenstein project del Toro wants to direct. Neither could have screenplays ready to go by May. "I'm presenting the storylines [for Frankenstein] to Universal, but the screenplay's not ready. Hellboy III is the same, so if we went into Hellboy, it would need to be the next movie after this one or whatever, but I don't know yet."
Del Toro added that he is choosing among three scripts and hopes to make his announcement at Comic-Con in July. He won't get to do Middle-earth, but del Toro has plans to create whole new worlds.
"Those are projects that are really great associations, world-creation projects, big projects," he said. "For me the only alternative was to do a very small movie right now, one of the ones I write that are very freaky, or do a movie where it was a world creation, to sort of go dive in really quickly."
The two years spent in preproduction on The Hobbit won't be a total waste either. The films will ultimately become Peter Jackson's visions and not del Toro's, but the lessons del Toro learned in New Zealand will apply to his next film. That includes script notes from Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
"There were many, many questions that were asked or process that the screenplay was put through that was absolutely new for me," he said. "From the design point of view, I think I learned a lot from John Howe and Alan Lee, who were, in my view, new to my world, and from working with Weta. So what was beautiful was I never stopped learning."
The one thing del Toro's next movie won't be is a quick and easy paycheck. "I didn't want to do a rebound movie. I didn't want to wake up the next morning and say, 'Oh my God, what have I done?' What I was very careful with was reading stuff that I feel completely passionate about."
Actually, leaving The Hobbit allowed del Toro to return to an older idea. Now he's figured out how to make it work, if it becomes his next film. "If the one that I think will happen happens, it's something that started 15 years ago. I wanted to do it 15 years ago. We started, we couldn't do it, it went completely into a beautiful roundabout way and came back to me."