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Del Toro’s labyrinth: Where does the director go from here? -- UPDATED

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Two days after Guillermo del Toro walked away from ‘The Hobbit,’ Hollywood remains abuzz over what the filmmaker will do next. Almost every studio is champing at the bit to get at Del Toro, a director with a proven touch and a strong track record at the box office (and one who, not insignificantly, can give any project instant fanboy credibility). Champing hardest is Universal, which signed a lucrative producer deal with the Mexican auteur not long before he decided to spend years on ‘The Hobbit,’ and which wants to start seeing some fruit from that deal.

Now that Del Toro is coming back to Southern California -- and now that his representatives are eager to put him in a new film -- it likely won’t be long before he signs on to make a movie (and, in all probability, a movie that won’t spend years languishing in development). He’ll also, of course, continue keeping several plates spinning as a mentor and producer, as he refines an incubator role that he and a select few other director brands (Judd Apatow comes to mind) have practiced.

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Here’s a breakdown of some of the projects Del Toro is developing as a producer and director -- and his prospects for working on them.
‘The Witches’ -- The animated take on the Roald Dahl classic has plenty of Del Toro hallmarks. Like his landmark ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ it puts a young child at the center of some evil supernatural forces. And because it’s animated, it will allow Del Toro to play with technology that wasn’t around when he last directed a movie four years ago. The snag: It’s set up at Warner Bros., where Del Toro doesn’t have his deal, and where there may be less incentive to make a film.

‘The Orphanage’ -- The remake of chilling 2007 J.A. Bayona ghost story, which Del Toro godfathered, is moving forward, with indie director Mark Pellington at the reins. Del Toro, as a producer, could now take a more active role, though with the script said to be a near-verbatim repeat of the Spanish-language film, it’s hard to imagine why the director would have any reason to get more involved (or, for that matter, why there’d be any reason for the movie to get made in the first place). ‘Hater,’ Bayona’s next movie, could be of renewed interest to Del Toro too, but again in a likely producing/godfathering role.

[UPDATED: ‘Hellboy 3’ -- As a few commenters have pointed out, del Toro could make his return with the third film in the ‘Hellboy’ series, about the title character’s fight against the Archangel and other Nazi foes, as well as his learning curve as a father. We initially omitted the superhero hybrid because del Toro has said he believes any new Hellboy film is several years away -- but of course that was when he was going to spend the next several years on ‘Hobbit.’ So we’ll toss that on to the list. We’ll also mention ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ the epic passion project based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short novel, though the idea here is to handicap his next movie, and given the long-term nature of the ‘Madness’ development, it seems hard to believe he’ll be shooting that any time soon.]

‘Saturn and the End of Days’ -- Another story about a young person facing disaster (this time a boy bracing for the end of the world). This is a movie that Del Toro is attached to direct, and that’s part of Cha Cha Cha, that rich film-financing deal Del Toro has with filmmakers Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón. The deal was for five pictures and only two have been made, so there’s money sitting there ....
‘Mama’ -- A Universal movie based on an acclaimed Spanish-language short. Del Toro finished writing a draft of the script just about a week ago, as he perhaps knew he was walking away from ‘The Hobbit.’ The film already has directors -- Barbara and Andy Muschietti, who directed the short. But expect Del Toro to keep his hand on the project as it moves forward into casting and beyond.

‘Champions’ -- A promising story about superheroes, government agents and an advanced civilization. And the script has a serious pedigree -- it’s written by ‘The Usual Suspects’ writer Christopher McQuarrie. The problem: It’s set up at United Artists, part of MGM, the same company whose troubles caused Del Toro to walk away from ‘The Hobbit.’ So you can pretty much scratch it.

‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ -- There have been numerous attempts to take the Robert Louis Stevenson classic to the big screen, most of them failures. The one appealing aspect here: It’s at Universal, which would be highly eager to get a movie with built-in adventure story off the ground. Ditto for a new ‘Frankenstein,’ also set up at Universal with Del Toro loosely attached to direct (and which Del Toro has spoken of as an area of interest, as our colleague Geoff Boucher reports).

‘Shadow of the Colossus’ -- It’s a long shot -- as far as we know, Del Toro has never had a single meeting on the Sony project. But the film, based on the hit video game, is a known favorite for Del Toro -- he once called it the ‘Citizen Kane of video games,’ and the movie, which will likely be in 3-D, could be the right vehicle for a director looking to make a big adventure with art house touches.

-- Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT




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