“I had a horrible childhood, emotionally,” says the director of The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. “I was not a child who was beaten or locked in a closet, but I really have a very intense relationship with the horror of Catholic guilt and the dogma. My grandmother was like Piper Laurie in Carrie. I was like a chubby version of Carrie. It was very difficult for me to get over that.
“I jokingly say I spent 40 years trying to recuperate from the first eight, but to a degree it is true. I really suffered intensely in the first 10 years of my life. I would cry at the concept of burning in hell, or the concept of purgatory and original sin.
Mexican Catholicism is very, very brutal and very, very gory. That all affected me.”
Mama, his latest producorial effort, is a spooky tale of two abandoned girls raised by a supernatural nanny. Del Toro came to the story after seeing a three-minute short film by director Andrés Muschietti.
“The short is brilliant,” he says. “Atmospheric and creepy. You can see a storytelling will. You can see a voice. There is a filmmaker in that short.
“Very often you see shorts that are glossy but have very little to say. Or they’re really intense and interesting but they are badly done. But this short had the perfect balance of form, function and story.”
Muschietti is just the latest director to be discovered and mentored by Del Toro, who himself was given a helping hand by people like James Cameron.
“I’ve been very, very blessed by finding good people who believed in me at the right time. Obviously I try and pay it forward. Right now I’m 48-years-old and have been doing this for 30-something years, 20 directing. I’ve been able to produce close to 20 movies between Mexico and America and Spain and I would say in 99 per cent of the cases it has been really, really beautiful. A couple of cases it has been hard or the movie has been disappointing but Mama is one of the good ones I am really proud of.”