The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro says his upcoming adventure fantasy was inspired by the 1954 horror film classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. The filmmaker, of course, has examined all things otherworldly in his 25 years of making movies; from the vampire drama Cronos and mutant insect chiller Mimic and Hellboy films, to his Gothic horror films Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak, and giant monster epic Pacific Rim.
Yet, for a child inspired by the classic monster movies from Universal Pictures growing up, the writer/director has never had an opportunity to realize his dream of remaking The Creature From the Black Lagoon, which featured the prehistoric Gillman (Ben Chapman on land, Ricou Browning for the underwater sequence) – and his fascination with Kay (Julie Adams), who is part of a group of scientists on an expedition in the Amazonian jungle.
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In an interview with THR for The Shape of Water – a romantic fairy tale about a woman (Sally Hawkins) and amphibious humanoid (Doug Jones) set in 1960s Baltimore – del Toro revealed that the film’s inspiration was drawn from the happier ending he imagined for The Creature From the Black Lagoon since he first saw the film as a 7-year-old. He says:
“The creature was the most beautiful design I’d ever seen, and I saw him swimming under [actress] Julie Adams, and I loved that the creature was in love with her, and I felt an almost existential desire for them to end up together. Of course, it didn’t happen.”
Undeterred, del Toro started conceiving ideas (“I had them eating ice cream, on a double bicycle, having dinner,” the filmmaker says) and in his 30s, he tried to launch a remake of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but he never could get permission from the studio that owned the rights. He says:
“I went to Universal and I said, ‘Can we do the movie from the point of view of the creature?’ They didn’t go for it. I said, ‘I think they should end up together.’ They didn’t go for that, either.”
The filmmaker will finally realize his fantasy of a creature-type of film when The Shape of Water is released in theaters in December. In addition to directing, del Toro wrote the original story for The Shape of Water and co-wrote the script, and originally wanted to make like the film that inspired it, in black-and-white (for economic reasons, color won out, and he made the film for $19.4 million).
It will be interesting for fans of the classic Creature From the Black Lagoon to see the Gillman/Kay influences in The Shape of Water, which is already considered to be an awards season contender. Plus, for the time being, the film may be the closest thing to a Creature From the Black Lagoon film fans will get, since Universal’s Dark Universe – which had plans to remake the classic Creature – appears to be on indefinite hold given the tepid response to its first offering – the modern-day remake of The Mummy.