FILM SPECIFIL ‘
Road to perdition
Miles Fielder takes a trip through ‘development hell’ with a Mexican director and a comic book artist who decided to turn HELLBOY into a major movie.
ye-to-eye creative collaboration is a rare enough thing
between a filmmaker and the originator of a film‘s
source material. And it‘s even more uncommon for the vision of two minds to make it to the big screen hacked by Hollywood money and unscathed by studio interference. Hell/my. written and directed by Mexican horror movie auteur (iuillermo del 'I‘oro. working from the cult comic book of the same name created by Mike Mignola (who acts as design consultant on the lilml is a rare case in point. Moreover. it's to Del Tom and Mignola's further credit that their adaptation of a relatively obscure cult comic should please both in-the-loop fans of the strips and regular cinema goers unfamiliar with the film's origins. arriving at this summer blockbuster season armed with high expectations.
Although a happy creative partnership is no guarantee of a great. even a good. movie Del Tom and Mignola‘s backgrounds appear to have followed a path of convergence which finds its zenith in Hal/buy. Del Toro began his career in cinema as a special make up artist (ie dressing actors with wounds. as monsters. etc) in low budget movies. Since he's been directing his own. visually stylised films — modern day vampire thriller (mum. giant cockroach tlick .lli'mi'c. Spanish (‘ivil War ghost story The Dori/iv Backbone — Del Tom has worked from note hooks full of illustrations that are almost comic books themselves.
Mignola. on the other hand. started out as a comic strip artist. before graduating to write his own strips. the most successful of which is Hell/my. a superb. knowingly ironic mix of pulp horror. B-movie action hero adventures and German lixpressionism visuals. Since then. Mignola has lent
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his considerable design skills to animation. most notably on Dark Knight-style Batman television series. The lilmmaker and the comic strip creator‘s careers have. coming from opposite directions. criss—crossed one another.
It's unsurprising. then. that there was a real meeting of
minds when del Tom and Mignola got together to develop a Hell/my movie. lior a start they both arrived. independently mind. at the realisation that there was only one actor on the planet fit to play the hrawny. red-skinned. wisccracking demon and that man was Ron l’erlman. whose hulking physique and gravelly voice were put to good Use in both (mums and the animated But/mm.
So far so good. but creative minds can meet all they like — their vision won‘t make it to celluloid without big bucks. and a supernatural superhero movie. with its attendant special effects. sets and props. is going to eat up a budget well into the tens of millions of dollars. L'nsurprisingly. given the obscure source material. no one in Hollywood wanted to give Del Tom and Mignola the green light to make their movie. So. Hell/20v languished in what they call — oh. the irony — 'development hell‘. All the frantic fanhoy rantings on websites such as comicsonlilm.com wasn't going to get [It'll/my made.
'l‘hen Del Toro made Blur/c II. the sequel to the Marvel (‘omics vampire hunter hero starring Wesley Snipes. The film. on which Mignola is credited as concept artist. was a box office success. Suddenly Del Tom was a hot property in Hollywood. He was offered Blade: 'I’ri'm'lv and Harry PHI/('2' and the l’risrmr'r of .»\/kahan. but turned both down to make his long gestating labour of love.
.-\nd then the studio interference began in earnest: Who is
A SUPERHERO MOVIE, WITH ITS SPECIAL EFFECTS, SETS AND PROPS, IS GOING TO EAT UP A BUDGET WELL INTO THE TENS OF MILLIONS