That Guillermo del Toro is a sneaky one. This summer I sat down with him for an extensive interview, and one of the subjects that came up was his current reading.
What are you watching these days? What are you reading these days?
Del Toro: I’m reading mostly Tarzan novels right now. I’m reading the entire canon of Tarzan, in order.
What is it about Tarzan that made you pick up the books?
Del Toro: He’s one of those characters that you remember one way as a kid, and you say, ‘Was he that cool?’ I had read 15 of the novels – I was lacking a good chunk – so I said, why don’t I go complete the collection, buy them all, and read them in order?
What’s interesting about Tarzan is that we have this one ape man image of him, but the Burroughs books get very weird.
Del Toro: Extremely weird. They’re much nastier than the Tarzan in the movies, and much more complex than the Tarzan in the movies. They have more monsters and adventures and lost cities. They have a lot more going in the fantasy aspects.
But was he reading the books just for the heck of it? Today it was announced that GdT might be directing a new Tarzan movie. The script is being written by John Collee, who wrote the excellent Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. "He’s got a great sense of adventure and the wilderness,” del Toro told Variety.
The darkness and complexity that Guillermo mentioned to me is something he wants to explore in this new movie. "I’d love to create a new version that is still a family movie, but as edgy as I can make it," Del Toro said. "There are strong themes of survival of a defenseless child left behind in the most hostile environment." But what about the fantasy stuff? There’s none of that in the first book, but if del Toro is looking back to the original Burroughs source material, and if he’s thinking franchise – and how could he not be? – he might be setting up the Ape Man for some very, very fantastical adventures.
I love Guillermo, but I also have a soft spot for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, written by Bob Towne under his dog’s name. Maybe that soft spot is in my head, but I dig that version, and any new Tarzan has to compete with that for me. Somehow I think Guillermo’s up to it.
But what does this mean for future projects? Guillermo is about to head off and begin Hellboy 2, so that’s safe, but the guy has so many projects coming up. When I saw him earlier this month he said he would really like to direct Deadman himself, and he’s going to be definitely doing a trailer for At the Mountains of Madness, the HP Lovecraft adaptation he’s been attached to forever – Warner Bros is giving him the cash to make that happen so that they can see what his vision would be. I think Guillermo has a Spielbergian tendency to get involved with lots of projects, but as long as they all turn out as good as Pan’s Labyrinth (for the serious ones) or Blade II (for the wacky ones), who am I to complain?