Guillermo del Toro speaks at the Pacific Rim panel at Comic-Con on Saturday, July 14, 2012 in San Diego, Calif.
ANAHEIM, California — There are few people who can hold court at a fan convention better than Guillermo Del Toro. The adorably geeky filmmaker unleashed a bunch of new footage from his summer giant-robots-versus-giant-aliens flick Pacific Rim at WonderCon Anaheim (i.e. the baby bear cousin of July’s monstrous San Diego ComicCon). And to say the crowd enjoyed what Del Toro had to offer is a bit like saying a crowd the Meadowlands would be happy to see Bruce Springsteen.
Between the trailer — which Del Toro said he cut especially for WonderCon — and Del Toro’s subsequent Q&A with HitFix’s Drew McWeeny, the panel illuminated a few nifty new things about the film, and what else is cooking inside Del Toro’s fertile noggin.
1. Del Toro avoided green screens whenever possible.
Rather than rely entirely on CGI, Del Toro says that he strove to build as many sets as he could, including the four-story tall cockpit for the movie’s giant robots (or “jaegers”). “We built several blocks of Hong Kong — to destroy,” he explained. “And then we destroyed them.”
2. Charlie Day has the Jeff Goldblum role.
Which is to say, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star plays the part of the uncommonly attractive scientist who warns the larger military-industrial complex that they just don’t know what they’re dealing with. “If you want to stop them,” Day said in the trailer of the giant, rampaging alien monsters (i.e. kaiju), “you have to understand them!”
Del Toro said he’s been a longtime fan of Day — he called out Day’s rat killing speech from Sunny — and was thrilled to give him a real showcase role to spread his wings. “Charlie Day throughout the movie looks like Rick Moranis, JJ Abrams, [and] the short brother of Bradley Cooper,” said the director, clearly meaning all those things as compliments.
3. Del Toro kind of identified with the giant robots — or at least how they moved.
Del Toro made a point to note that he did not use any motion capture for the film. It’s not that he has anything against the technique of using an actor’s live movements to inform the movement of a CG character. It’s just that since these CG characters are “25-story high buildings,” they’re not liable to walk quite like a human being — a line of conversation that set Del Toro up for one of his trademark cracks about his ample size: “The weight — and I know something about weight — makes things move differently, as my wife tells me.”
Instead, Del Toro had animators design by hand the way the kaiju and jaegers moved through a scene. Which meant some lucky animator got to create the sequence that capped the WonderCon trailer in which a jaeger uses an oil tanker as a baseball bat. C’mon, that’s awesome.
4. Ron Perlman has a perfect Ron Perlman role.
Del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham dreamt up a fabulously specific role for the filmmaker’s regular collaborator, Ron Perlman: A black market dealer of the organs harvested from dead kaiju. Apparently, that shit is potent, y’all.
5. Del Toro isn’t leaving the geekosphere any time soon.
Del Toro is one of the most famously prolific developers in Hollywood right now, with about a dozen possible projects spinning in various stages of evolution but very few actual green lights. He spoke briefly about two such projects at WonderCon.
First, he said his next directorial effort will likely be a turn-of-the-20th-century ghost story called Crimson Peak.
Then he dropped a new nugget about his in-the-works adaptation of the new comic book series Justice League Dark — essentially a chance for DC Comics to bring together its supernatural characters like Madame Xanadu, Deadman, and Zatanna. Del Toro says he hopes to announce the screenwriter soon, but the plan is for the film to be seen through the eyes of occult detective and morally questionable magician John Constantine, as he brings the team together.