''Blade 2'''s director on vampires boozing in Prague. Guillermo del Toro talks about freshening up the action genre with beer and brutality
Forget Buffy. On Friday, the biggest, baddest vampire slayer returns to theaters in ”Blade 2,” again starring Wesley Snipes. EW.com talked to Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, age 37, about revamping the franchise, bringing Whistler back from the dead, and why his vampires prefer absinthe to blood.
In your first film, ”Cronos,” you used vampires to explore the issue of mortality. What’s different about these blood suckers?
Vampirism is rooted in this terrifying concept that creatures not unlike us physically want to drain us of our life force. But that idea has been romanticized so much in films that the brutal aspect of a vampire has been lost. I really wanted to recuperate that aspect of the mythology, creating this new breed of vampires that are fearsome and brutal.
Did you have any reservations about stepping into an established comic book franchise?
Oh yes, I had a lot. But I felt that with ”Blade 2” I could tweak the material enough to feel comfortable. Visually I thought I could be more outlandish, more comic book and Japanese anime than the first one [directed by Stephen Norrington in 1998]. And I really wanted to try making a hyperkinetic movie that is moody but has a whimsical color palette, too.
This was your first action movie. Were you intimidated?
I was worried enough to study and work my ass off to be prepared. I had a few conversations with Jim Cameron [”Terminator 2”] about how he approached action, and he told me, ”Once you start doing it, you’ll realize all it takes is a knack for movement and good preparation.” And he was right. I’d like to think my take on action in this movie is really fresh and fun.
How did you make the action fresh?
I wanted the camera to move so fast you would be able to go from a shot to a reverse shot as quickly as you could with an edit. There’s no way a human camera operator could do that, so we found a way to meld two and three shots together digitally. I wanted to make it active without resorting to wire fighting or ”Matrix” style effects, which are kind of dead now. I told Wesley, there’s not enough sweat in action movies anymore. My favorite scene is the last fight, which is almost bare knuckles fist fighting. It’s not based on technique, just pure rage.
You’ve said you felt ”Mimic” [del Toro’s 1997 horror film starring Mira Sorvino] was a failure. What did you learn from that experience?
I think if I had known a little more I could have fought more effectively for what I wanted. It wasn’t a personal enough movie, and yet not enough of a popcorn movie either. And it was probably misguided to try to make a philosophical statement with a movie about giant roaches.
”Blade 2” was shot in Prague, in the dead of winter. Did that spell stir crazy for you and the cast?
It was wet, it was snowing, and I was working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for 110 days. A good component of the cast found their way into the Prague nightlife with a vengeance. We called the guys who played vampires the blood pack, but halfway through the shoot they became the six pack. They were trying the virtues of absinthe. But as long as they showed up the next day in okay shape, I had no problem with it.