Director Guillermo Del Toro and star Tom Hiddleston discussed their new film “Crimson Peak” out Friday. 


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Guillermo Del Toro

 

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Can you talk a little bit about your Mexican and Latino influences?

 

Guillermo del Toro: The fact is the way I see monsters or ghosts is very Latin. I open the movie and say ghosts are real, end of story. The opening scene is based on a visitation that my mother experienced. When my mother’s grandmother died, when she was a child, she was crying in her bed, and she heard the silk of the dress of her grandmother move in the corridor and she smelled her perfume and she heard the bed springs creak and felt the weight of the grandmother leaning on her back, and she jumped up screaming and left the room. So, that’s pretty Mexican because that’s my mother. I think that there is a difference between having a root and being folkloric about it. I’m not folkloric about my roots, I am my roots. The hard thing for me is to make a movie as if I am not Mexican, cause I am. Everything about the film. I have an affinity with melodrama of the Gothic Romance quality because it is a little bit overwrote. All these passions, the stabbings, it’s a part of the Latin temperament. It’s curious because Gothic Romance was born as a reaction to the age of reasoning. It was a countermovement of romanticism. It was birthed first as a gothic historian, the Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. It was seeking emotion instead of reason and curiously enough they found a perfect place for that in Latin countries in Europe, like Italy and Spain, Ann Radcliffe novels are set in Italy. The most famous gothic romance The Monk, is set in Spain, in Madrid, so there’s a lot of that Latin temperament and gore and this and that. I think it’s really important to assume those things are a part of that. Lord Byron was a romantic poet, who famously, said if everything else fails, scare them, shock them. Which is very close to the victim of a horror film. Crimson has all those things. I think those are what makes it Mexican, if it would.

 

Talk about your inspiration behind Crimson Peak.

 

Guillermo: All my life, I’ve read these novels, I’ve read E.T.A Hoffman, Ann Radcliffe, I mean the gothic impregnates literature all the way through our days. It resonates in Dickens with the Great Expectations. It resonates with Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. It resonates and is reconverted by Henry James in Turn of the Screw. For a while, it was the most popular style of literature in Victorian England, to the point there is an engraving of two ladies in a parlor reading The Monk and another looking so that no one enters because it was full, for Victorian era, full of sex and violence. They were rebelling against academia and the establishment and all that. So I fell in love with this spirit. I happened to be a filmmaker that is not postmodern. I’m not ironic, I’m completely high on my own supply. Everything I do I do with a passion and earnestly. So I love that spirit and that’s the spirit of romanticism. I thought, curiously, in the era that the Victorians were enjoying during the peak of Gothic Romance they were afraid to talk about sex, so sex became the sort of hidden subtext of Gothic Romance. Now, I think we’re afraid to talk about love. It becomes a corny emotion in an era that’s so cold and cool and distant and aloof. I thought that it would be great to tackle a Gothic Romance about love. About what is love really, and to switch it into a more female centric gender political arena. Normal these girls are all rescued by Fabio, and they go into the cliff and they catch the next ship into romantic island. I wanted, non spoilers, for the girls to take charge of themselves and to basically acquire the confidence. The love story for Edith, the really important part is that she learns to survive about herself. There’s a crucial moment in the movie, normally in this genre and horror, sex makes women victims or dooms, and I wanted sex to be used in a different way for both characters and to not use it as a gauge of purity, which I find a mainly male centric obsession. All these things, the violence is pushed a little. I loved when Mia says the lines that usually guys say, wait here, I’ll come back for you, I promise. That’s the line that the guys say to girls in the movie and I really love these things. The influence was, in fact, proto feminists, like the Bronte Sisters or Mary Shelley, I had such a crush on Mary Shelley and all the Bronte Sisters because I thought what a remarkable beings these are. They were magical when I was growing up and I thought the complexity, psychologically, of Jane Eyre, I love it. She fells in love madly with this man but he cannot take her. Mary Shelley, to me, writing that novel when she was a teenager, I mean it’s just mind blowing. The morals of the day was that women didn’t get published as easily as man, was involved still in 1901 when the movie takes place. I called her Edith for Edith Wharton, because she both embodies the spirit of that particular period, which is modernity, and she’s also in my opinion as good a writer as Henry James with whom she had a great literary relationship but also she writes these oblique ghost stories. I don’t want to use ghosts in the normal way where they are evil or demonic. I want to use them the way Henry James described them in Gothic Romance. Gothic Romance, the ghost represents our past, that immobilizes us from moving into the future. I’ve been obsessed with these things since I was eleven. There’s a whole shelf in my house that’s dedicated to Gothic Romance and an entire room, called the Dickens room, is where I sleep, and it’s all Victoriana. Spectacles, thievery, con men, criminal low lives, the criminal code of Victorian England. Until I do Pacific Rim, no one can know I love Kaiju and mecha. Until I do Crimson Peak no one can know I love [Gothic Romance].

 

 

Tom Hiddleston

 

 

How did you prepare for the role?

 

Tom Hiddleston: The preparation was really syncing up with Guillermo del Toro and his vision and his influences. He gave me some books to read. He directed towards Ann Radcliffe’s novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho and the Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. They are sort of the founding Gothic Romance novels. I talked to him a lot, he had such extraordinary collaborators, Kate Hawley, the costume designer and Tom Sanders, the production designer. Within about half an hour of my having said yes, I would like to play the part, Guillermo bundled me into his car, drove me over to the studio. Tom Sanders showed me a model of the house in miniature, so I got to see Crimson Peak five months before shooting, went back to London with the whole image in my mind and Kate Hawley had designed a wall as big as the one behind me with images that inspired her. Images from the 19th century, images of gentlemen, images of perversion, images of the way people worked on the land, paintings. I remember there was a painting of Casper David Friedrich, wanderer above a sea of fog that seemed to express the essence of Thomas Sharpe or at least the romanticism in the character. So yea, it was a mixture of so many things.

 

Do you prefer to play roles that involve being a master manipulator?

Tom: I don’t know why I’ve played those characters. I haven’t just played those people. I’ve always wanted to play lots of different types of people. So, I have played those characters but I’ve also played much straighter characters. I’m just interested in complexity or exploring different shades of humanity. It’s interesting, I’ve also played a lot of soldiers and I’ve played a bit of vampire, I don’t know if Hank Williams is a master manipulator, in fact I think he was the opposite of that. I’m honestly just interested in people, in complexity, in life. Life isn’t easy for anybody and when I see characters in scripts just wrestling with something, struggling with something, I find that compelling.

 

Going back to romanticism, you made The Deep Blue Sea before. What do the two films have in common in terms of romance and love.

 

Tom: Terrence Davies used to say every character in The Deep Blue Sea needs a specific kind of love that cannot be requited and in a way that’s true in Crimson Peak. A trio of people who need specific love and care and it’s unrequited until the very end. Which is when things get very complicated. It’s such a different treatment of the subject matter. I feel like The Deep Blue Sea is very much a comment by Terrence Davies on what it was like to live in the 50s in London in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was a very repressed time when people tended to go along with what was appropriate with what was truthful and the character of Hester which was played by Rachel Weisz is about the triumph of feeling over propriety. In Crimson Peak it’s something else. It’s about exploding the truth from the shadows and shining a light on the truth and actually the truth is the only way you can be free.

 

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