UPDATED with video: After a series of wins including the directing prize at the Golden Globes, BAFTA and the top DGA Award, Guillermo del Toro has converted his season-long favorite status into a Best Director Oscar for The Shape of Water. “I am an immigrant, like Alfonso and Alejandro my compadres,” he said in his speech. “I think the greatest thing our industry does is erase the lines in the sand, we should keep doing that as the world tries to make them deeper.”
He tipped the hat to Jimmy Cagney with his thanks. “I want to say like Jimmy Cagney said once: my mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my brothers and sisters thank you, and I thank you.”
His win completes the hattrick for the “Three Amigos”, Mexican directors and lifetime friends del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The three directors came up together and have supported one another through the years. Cuarón won Best Director for his 2013 movie Gravity. Iñárritu dominated in 2014 and 2015 with back-to-back wins for Birdman and The Revenant. In 2006, each of them had movies that stirred the Oscar conversation: del Toro with 6-time nominated Pan’s Labyrinth, Cuarón with Children of Men and Iñárritu with Babel.
Del Toro wins his prize ahead of nominees Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, Jordan Peele for Get Out, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, and Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread. Introducing the award, last year’s Best Actress winner Emma Stone zinged, “These four men, and Greta Gerwig, delivered their own masterpieces this year.”
Deadline has followed The Shape of Water for the past 18 months, from its production in Toronto in the fall of 2016 and through the long road to tonight. It was an extremely arduous shoot, as del Toro struggled with the ambitious scale of this modestly-budgeted $19.5m creature feature. This has been a persistent struggle in his career, as his imagination clashed with the business of big moviemaking. “I do contemplate how many times you can give your blood to this particular brother, which is cinema,” del Toro told me earlier this year. “In my case, I have bled quite a lot.”
With a Best Director Oscar now ready to rest on his mantle, perhaps del Toro will have better luck mounting his dream projects, which have included his own take on Frankenstein, At the Mountains of Madness and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Here’s my cover story with del Toro, from the set of Shape in 2016 through its premieres in Venice and Los Angeles earlier this year.