Why Oscar-Winner Guillermo Del Toro Never Visited His Native Mexico for 17 Years–Because They’re Kidnappers
Oscar winning director Guillermo del Toro, the Person of Pallor who made a speech about art erasing “lines in the sand,” personally lives in, I believe, the idyllic suburban hills west of the San Fernando Valley. And/or he may have moved to Toronto in Canada recently. Guys at his level often have multiple homes.
But one place Guillermo del Toro definitely doesn’t live is in his native country of Mexico. Del Toro did not even visit his home country from 1998 until 2015.
When he wants to make a Spanish language movie he goes to Spain rather than home to his native Mexico.
Why does del Toro take full advantage of the line in the sand between America and Mexico?
DARIEL FIGUEROA 10.10.14
After growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico — and experimenting with Super 8 films — Guillermo del Toro immersed himself in creature and makeup creation, learning his trade from famed The Exorcist SFX artist Dick Smith. He would go on to to shoot several short films and TV episodes in his native Mexico, before beginning work on what would become one of the greatest fantasy-vampire films of all-time, Cronos, in 1993.
During pre-production on the film, in the early 90s, del Toro would meet James Cameron at a Fourth of July party. Cameron had just finished one of the most important films in his catalog, T2: Judgment Day, and the two filmmakers found kindred spirits in one another. Cameron would even let del Toro stay in his guest home for “extended periods of time”. …
For del Toro’s follow up, he would get his first crack at writing and directing an American feature film, Mimic. …
Something else troubling was happening, though, as del Toro was shooting the sci-fi horror film. His father, Federico del Toro, was kidnapped off of the streets of his Mexican hometown, Guadalajara, and held for ransom. del Toro had sunk all of his money into Mimic, and had no idea how he would get his father back home.
del Toro and his two brothers began receiving ransom notes. The three brothers would take turns speaking with the kidnappers, with del Toro taking control over the last leg of the negotiations.
“We would get ransom notes with many syntax and spelling errors. It effects you.”
Mexico is plagued with kidnapping; it has become an epidemic. In fact, The nonprofit Citizens’ Institute for Crime Studies estimates that there are 500 kidnappings reported per month, and that doesn’t include the ones that go unreported.
The kidnappers were asking for $1 million in order to return the elder del Toro home, unharmed. Guillermo and his family had nowhere near that kind of money, and they seemingly were running out of options. As the days in the negotiation process dragged on, the del Toro family would run through at least three negotiators, most of them specialists from England.
… When finding out about his old friend’s kidnapping ordeal, Cameron promptly shuffled del Toro into a car, and hastened him over to his bank, promptly handing over $1 million in cash. He also recommended a negotiator that would help bring Federico del Toro home in one piece.
Somehow, I’m not surprised that James Cameron can put you in touch with the world’s best ransom negotiator.
After 72 days, del Toro’s father was released without harm. In the aftermath of the kidnapping, a few men connected with the crime were arrested, but most of the criminals were able to make off with the money and no criminal repercussions.
del Toro’s family had also begun receiving death threats. In response to the threats and the kidnapping, del Toro decided to take his family to America—for good.
“Unfortunately I have to leave Mexico after the kidnapping of my father. Creatively I would be back, but as a parent I find it very difficult to return with the assurance that it will not be a problem …”
As del Toro’s decision demonstrates, it’s actually nice to have “a line in the sand” between America and Mexico …
From Film News, we learn that it took 17 years after his father’s kidnapping for del Toro to get up the confidence to visit Mexico again:
Del Toro and his family fled Mexico after the kidnapping ordeal and at one point he feared he’d never return.
In 2013, he told Nylon magazine, “All of us lived a block away from my parents, and we used to eat together three times a week. After the kidnapping, some of them (family members) went to Texas, some to another city, and I came to Los Angeles. We ended up scattered, and that pains me more than ever.
“Mexico is my home, so I miss it more than anything. If I could, I’d live there and make movies there. I can’t go back because of security.”
But he did return two years later (15), for an appearance at his hometown’s Guadalajara Film Festival, which he helped co-found 30 years ago.
During a speech at the movie event, he touched upon his fears for the safety of his fellow Mexicans, stating, “It’s like walking into a cantina with a pistol and there’s no structure in place to stop what happens next. It’s one thing to talk about a social crisis, but another to talk about absolute social decay.”
Del Toro is, I presume, an extremely sensitive person, so this must have been even more terrible for him than it would be for most people.
Interestingly, his father had built a car dealership empire after winning the national lottery. It sounds like there would be a good story in that.
Oh, a different del Toro …
Here’s the inside of Guillermo’s house in a golfy suburb of Los Angeles about 20 miles west out the Ventura Freeway: