The name Guillermo Del Toro is almost guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any genre fan when they see or hear it. He’s just as likely to give us a weird horror-tinged spectacle as he is an Oscar-worthy experience. Hell — sometimes in the same movie!
But his journey to America began on an incredibly sour note. If not for the right interventions, we could have seen a very different future for Del Toro.
When you hear the plot for Mimic now, it unmistakably sounds like a Del Toro movie. A disease carried by cockroaches is killing the children of Manhattan. An entomologist by the name of Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) creates a special kind of insect that secretes a fluid that will kill cockroaches. The plan works, but three years on, the superbug meant to have a one-year lifespan has seemingly resurfaced in a frightening new form.
So what went wrong? This was Del Toro’s second feature film after the well-received Spanish vampire allegory Kronos, so he was still honing his craft. This was also his first Western movie, so that’s a hurdle in itself. Yet these were not really what caused Mimic its problems.
Those problems were both named “Weinstein.”
Cockroach Vs. Cockroach
Yes, Miramax’s brotherly duo were a constant thorn in the side of Mimic’s filming. Unhappy with what Del Toro was making, Bob Weinstein would frequent the set to make silly demands about what should and shouldn’t be in the film. Things came to a head when it looked like Del Toro would be booted from the movie. Thanks to an interjection from star Mira Sorvino and her then-beau Quentin Tarantino, he stayed on and got to finish the film.
Unfortunately, the Weinsteins had a say over the final cut and mangled what Del Toro had made. (A mistake Hayao Miyazaki historically refused to let happen again.) The director would disown Mimic for many years before he was able to compile a director’s cut. Unsurprisingly, Del Toro would not work with Miramax again.
Things got at least a little better for Del Toro after that. The Devil’s Backbone helped get him back on track, and then came the impressive career escalation of Blade II, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth (which was nominated for two Academy Awards).
Nowadays, Guillermo Del Toro is a multimedia giant. He’s won Best Director and Best Picture at the Oscars with The Shape of Water, and almost helped revive the Silent Hill game series alongside longtime cohort Norman Reedus and Metal Gear Solid head honcho Hideo Kojima. That was another case of studio interference leading to a firing. This time, however, there was no Sorvino or Tarantino to save the day.
It’s admirable that Del Toro faced that early obstacle to his career, and is undoubtedly better for the experience. Mimic, even in its director’s cut form, is imperfect by the higher standards of the director’s other work. However, it will forever play an important part in his legacy.
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