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Guillermo del Toro dreams big on ‘Hellboy II: The Rise of the Golden Army’

Guillermo del Toro, Hellboy II: The Golden Army
BOY WITH TOY: On the set of “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” director Guillermo del Toro tries out the title character’s mighty fist.
(Egon Endrenyi / Universal Pictures)
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

PRETTY much everything in Guillermo del Toro’s world is oversized.

The bearish filmmaker’s video and comic book collection is so immense that he recently had to buy an extra home to accommodate it. Del Toro’s passion for classic monster movies is of such magnitude that he interrupted editing “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” to record an audio commentary for a DVD reissue of 1932’s “Vampyr.”

And then there’s the “Hellboy” sequel itself: Where the first comic book adaptation had but five animated creatures, the follow-up, out July 11, is stuffed with more than 30.

“We are trying to maximize what we are able to do,” Del Toro said during a March editing session in London, as he began cutting in part of composer Danny Elfman’s “Hellboy II” score.

With many of summer’s highest-profile films tipping the scales at close to $200 million, Del Toro has only half that (before British rebates saved the production $15 million) at his disposal.

Faced with the possibility of needing to cut what he considered a crucial “Hellboy II” prologue for budgetary reasons, Del Toro instead surrendered some of his salary and reconceived the sequence with computer puppets in place of live-action actors.

“In my view, this is more original and more beautiful,” he says of the film’s barer-bones opening.

The comparative belt-tightening is a bit surprising, as the Mexican-born director has become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after filmmakers. His previous movie, 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” won three Oscars. He produced last year’s acclaimed Spanish thriller “The Orphanage.” And Del Toro recently signed on to direct “The Hobbit” in back-to-back movies that “Spider-Man’s” Sam Raimi pursued.

But “Hellboy,” adapted from Mike Mignola’s cult-hit graphic novels, has always been a tricky proposition.

The first movie was originally developed at Universal, which ultimately punted. “Hellboy” then landed at Revolution Studios, home of lowbrow comedies. Revolution’s film grossed more than $59 million and sold a ton of videos, but getting the sequel started was no easy matter. Sony passed on it, as did Paramount. And then Universal brought “Hellboy” back into its fold.

Ron Perlman returns as the titular hero, joined at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense by his flaming-hot friend Liz ( Selma Blair). An ancient truce has been breached and the theoretically unstoppable Golden Army is on the march. The battles are bigger, the beasts more magnificent.

“In a weird way, it’s looking more like a sequel to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ than ‘Hellboy’ -- it’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ on speed,” producer Lloyd Levin says. If there are two strands to Del Toro’s career, Levin says, it’s genre movies on one side (“Blade II,” “Mimic,” “Hellboy”) and fantasy films on the other (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” “Cronos”).

“For the first time,” Levin says of “Hellboy II,” “it feels like both aspects of his career have merged.”

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