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Guillermo del Toro's 'The Shape of Water' pretty much guaranteed the TIFF audience award

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer star in Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water." (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer star in Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water." (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Guillermo Del Toro's beauty-and-the-beast love story "The Shape of Water" had its Toronto premiere Monday at the city's historic Elgin Theater -- the same venue featured in a couple key scenes in the film.

Here are five takeaways from the evening:

  1. Toronto's top prize -- the People's Choice Award -- isn't given by a jury but by audience members dropping their tickets in boxes held by volunteers at the exits. I've never seen the bins as stuffed as they were Monday night. Of course, Del Toro's strong presence in the city -- he has lived here off and on for the last few years -- might have a little something to do with that.
    "I identify with Canada," Del Toro said, introducing the movie. "I identify with Canadian bacon."
  2. "The Shape of Water" -- a lush romantic fantasy about the relationship between a mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) and creature straight out of a B-movie -- won the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice Film Festival.
    Its Toronto reception proved equally rapturous. Ticket holders began lining up hours before the movie's late-evening screening time.
  3. When asked about the film's modern-day resonance, Del Toro pointed to its Cold War setting and elaborated: "When people say 'Let's make America great again,' they're dreaming of that era. Everything was great if you were white Anglo Saxon and Protestant. If you were anything else, you were [screwed]. So it's a false memory of that time."
  4. Del Toro trumpeted the film's Canadian credentials, noting that nearly every production head hailed from the country.
    "We're not just here for the rebate," he said. He added "Shape" was a $60-million movie made for $19.5 million.
    "It's as close to an indie movie as you could get with a Mexican in the middle," Del Toro said.
  5. The festival's ultimate souvenir, a signed "Shape of Water" poster, went to two lucky audience members sitting in the exact seats in the Elgin where major moments in the movie occurred.

"The Shape of Water" opens in theaters Dec. 8.

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