Pan’s Labyrinth is over ten years old now, but it’s still one of Guillermo del Toro’s most enduring films. The haunting imagery and bizarre backdrops have stayed with us for well over a decade. So in celebration of del Toro’s upcoming, possibly equally as weird The Shape of Water, let’s look back on Pan’s and some of the surprising information behind the scenes.
For the love of the game
Director Guillermo del Toro was so passionate about Pan’s Labyrinth that he forewent his director’s salary to ensure the movie was made the exact way he had in mind. Explained del Toro:
I gave back my entire salary in order to get the film made the way I wanted it. I probably should have abandoned it the moment the funding fell through the first time, but I stuck with it for almost two-and-a-half years and refused to back down. It’s the first time in the six movies I’ve directed where I’ve said: I’m doing this one my way, no matter what.
He also went on to say:
Financiers ran out on me and everyone involved in my career was saying it was the biggest mistake I could make. But I’m very happy with the result. And for me, nothing will be the same again.
The first outline of the movie’s script began with an adult woman finding a hidden labryinth behind a book case in an old house. Once she went inside, she was raped by an animal dwelling in there, and gave birth to a magical baby, who would have become the movie’s protagonist. Guillermo del Toro has some out-there ideas, but this one may take the cake.
Besides that…bizarre original open, the toad in the movie was originally going to be far more adversarial than what made the movie. The original idea was for it to leap around in a large cavern, physically attacking Ofelia. Believe it or not, this idea was changed when it was determined the animatronic model wasn’t up to snuff to perform these types of movements, and GDT did not want to resort to heavily CGing the toad. So, the toad we get in the actual movie is far more lethargic, and is in a narrow hall instead of a giant cavern.
No habla Español
Doug Jones, who played the faun in the movie, doesn’t actually speak a lick of Spanish. To get around this, Jones memorized both his and Ofelia’s lines phonetically so he knew when to speak. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, he couldn’t actually hear Ofelia’s lines when it came time to act out his scenes, because the servos inside his costume were too loud. As a result, he had to read lips. In a language he doesn’t even speak. Now that’s dedication.
Of course, in the final product, his lines were dubbed over anyway. But the dub actor noted that Jones’ work was not all for naught, as it went a long way to show where to place the lines and how to say them.
According to del Toro, the Pale Man in the movie is supposed to represent the Catholic Church. More specifically, the Church’s role in aiding fascism.
In an interview with Screen Anarchy, del Toro said the Pale Monster “represents fascism and the Church eating the children when they have a perversely abundant banquet in front of them. There is almost a hunger to eat innocence. A hunger to eat purity.”
He was asked in the interview why Pan’s Labryinth seemingly goes out of its way to avoid Catholic imagery, when his previous movies were more overt about it. And why, despite that, Pan’s is arguably his most Catholic movie to date. He responded, “It’s a personal choice and it’s a personal experience. I don’t shame myself about being a lapsed Catholic and so if that cosmology appears in my movies, I’m fine with it.”