Guillermo del Toro’s home is crawling with monsters. There are life-size sculptures of the beloved creatures from classic literature — Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his bride — and then there are those that del Toro himself has brought to life on screen: the horned creature Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth and the demon superhero from the cult comic book Hellboy.
Those monsters and other rare and historic props, costumes, objects, and artifacts from the director’s suburban L.A. home known as Bleak House — a nod to the Charles Dickens novel — are now on display in “At Home With Monsters,” a Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition that opened Monday and runs through November 27.
But ask del Toro which monsters scare him the most and he won’t point to any of the ghoulish, other-worldly creatures in his own collection. Instead, the horror filmmaker looks to the political arena.
“The real monsters in our lives are in really finely tailored suits,” he told reporters during a preview of the exhibition last weekend. “There’s nothing more scary than people that are profoundly ignorant and profoundly certain. They always come together,” he said, adding that some of the most certain people in the world are bigots.
The comment, which immediately followed his remarks about his pride for his Mexican heritage, could easily have been interpreted as a dig aimed at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has pledged to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, if elected.
“It is important for me to be here as a Mexican,” del Toro said, adding that he hoped to show politicians that “we are a very diverse and rich community that is vibrant and alive.” When fans ask him what makes his movies so quintessentially Mexican, the filmmaker said, he responds simply with one word: “Me.”
Del Toro, who has written and directed more than a dozen films including Mimic and The Devil’s Backbone, grew up in Guadalajara, where he turned to monster movies and science fiction novels as a form of escape from his strict Catholic upbringing.
“I found in these monsters a very moving essence of outsiderness, with which I identified,” he told reporters while being interviewed alongside LACMA director Michael Govan and curator Britt Salvesen on Saturday. “I also understood that the world as defined by adults was a complete lie and a complete fabrication,” he said.
As a child, del Toro once wrote to science fiction writer Forrest J. Ackerman (who is widely credited with coining the term “sci fi”) asking to be adopted by him — “a letter which was found by my father who beat the crap out of me,” he said. He finally got to meet his idol years later in Los Angeles, when he called up Ackerman, toured the sci-fi collection at his Los Feliz home, and took him out for cherry pie at House of Pies.
Today, del Toro believes there’s no film genre that’s more inherently political than fantasy — even if his films offer a brief escape into a far more magical, wondrous universe. “You can see my movies and over and over again, you will see, I adore monsters. I absolutely love them,” he said. “I think humans, we are pretty repulsive.”