Guillermo del Toro: ‘I Don’t Fear Artificial Intelligence. I Fear Natural Stupidity’

“Guillermo del Toro: Crafting Pinocchio,” the roving, ever-expanding, 8,000-square-foot exhibit dedicated to the art of making Guillermo del Toro and co-director Mark Gustafson’s meticulous Oscar-winning stop-motion film, has made its way from New York’s Museum of Modern Art to the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.

This past weekend, the three-time Academy Award winner came in person to the Rose City to accept a Cinema Unbound award from PAM CUT (the Portland Art Museum’s new-media-focused Center for an Untold Tomorrow) and later sit down for a relaxed chat with PAM CUT’s curator Amy Dotson. As usual, the director sounded off unguardedly about a range of topics, from struggling to get even his own passion projects greenlit to his commitment to animation and the threat of artificial intelligence looming over the creative community.

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“Since I was a kid, all I wanted to do was monsters and stop-motion animation, and that’s what I’m doing, so why the fuck should I not do it?” the “Shape of Water” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” director laughed. His next film — also for “Pinocchio” distributor Netflix — is an animated adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantasy novel “The Buried Giant.” The film, which is two years out from production, utilizes stop-motion but is certainly less monster-based in centering on a version of England where King Arthur actually existed. “Pinocchio” animators ShadowMachine back the project.

Del Toro, who recently said that five of his projects have been turned down by studios this year so far, told the Portland museum audience, “But we keep going. With ShadowMachine, Mark, everybody, when we were involved with ‘Pinocchio,’ you have no idea how we were involved in meeting after meeting after meeting, and hearing no … if you have the conviction that it must be made, ‘no’ is a ‘yes’ waiting to happen, and you just have to say, alright, your loss. You literally have to believe that. You should not question your material. You should not say, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ The last time somebody passed on ‘The Buried Giant,’ I wrote an email, and I said, it’s easier for me to do it than to argue with you. I’ll just show it to you. And you’ll see I was right. Or not. There’s a lot of things to do, but it’s very important to have that certainty.”

Del Toro said that as he continues to develop movies like “The Buried Giant,” he still watches “three movies a day” for inspiration, and often that means rewatching. “If you see all ‘All About Eve’ when you’re 15, and you see ‘All About Eve’ when you’re 40, you see two entirely different movies.”

When asked about his optimism for the state of creativity in general right now, del Toro said, “I remain enthusiastic but skeptical, meaning I know we are a horrible human race, but we do great stuff, and many people are great. What brings me hope and makes me think that it’s worth it? The next generation because we undoubtedly fucked it up… in that hope, it can only come with your full support,” motioning to the people in the standing-room-only crowd at the Portland Art Museum.

He added, “When I see people who are fearless, I get inspired and I like it, and I like the possibilities when people talk about now, and how it’s all dire, and [how] people are afraid of artificial intelligence… I don’t fear artificial intelligence, I fear natural stupidity. Any intelligence in this world is artificial. When I look at the people coming into the art scene and how they are in spite of all the things that are hardships and all the things weighing against it, they love art, and that’s what makes my spirit sing.”

While praising the next generation, del Toro also cautioned that ages 14 through 24 are “hell,” adding, “Since I was seven, I’ve been looking forward to being old. The real crime in our existence is to look for perfection. We should all aspire to imperfection.”

The advice for his eight-year-old self he wishes he could tell now? “Don’t eat that fucking cupcake.”

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