It’s difficult to say which is harder to believe: the fact that it has really been more than 14 years now since Mimic first hit theaters (making this writer feel incredibly old) or that it’s actually taken that entire time for Guillermo del Toro to finally be able to release a cut of the film that is 100 percent his artistic vision and not Miramax’s, the studio behind the film’s initial mishandling.
For those of you who may never had heard about any of the controversy surrounding Mimic when it was released back in 1997, then now is as good a time as any to get you caught up. At the time, del Toro was an up-and-coming director from Mexico who had been hired by Bob and Harvey Weinstein to direct his first project within the studio system here in the States.
And while del Toro had proven the strength of his storytelling abilities with his inaugural feature film Cronos, it seems that the Weinsteins were never inclined to trust his approach for Mimic even from the start. See, del Toro had more of a character study style horror flick in mind while Bob and Harvey wanted more of an action-packed creature feature to unleash on movie-going audiences. So when everything was said and done, the theatrical version of Mimic was vastly differed from what del Toro had hoped for due to Miramax replacing a good amount of the footage he planned with more action-heavy sequences and unnecessary jump scares, leaving a lot of the story-driven moments of Mimic on the cutting room floor.
And while there is a fair amount of people who enjoyed the original Mimic (like this writer), it has remained one of those “what could have been” kind of projects for both del Toro and his legions of fans for many years now; would the movie have fared better had del Toro’s approach been upheld, or was it always destined to be a troubled project from a director who was only beginning to wield his cinematic prowess? It’s something that’s always been hard to tell…that is, until now.
Once Miramax was no longer under the thumb of the Weinsteins, del Toro made his move and took back Mimic in order to create a version of the film that would be the closest we’d ever get to experiencing the director’s original vision. And now that it has finally made its bow onto Blu-ray shelves and online retailers everywhere, Mimic: The Director’s Cut (review here) is something of a landmark both within the genre world as well as for other filmmakers everywhere who have also struggled with studio interference throughout the years.
In honor of del Toro’s arduous efforts to gain control back of the film so he could release a cut that was satisfying to both himself and his fans, Dread Central recently chatted with the visionary filmmaker for an exclusive in-depth interview discussing the brand new director’s cut of Mimic and why it was so important for him to get control of this project even after so much time had passed. Del Toro also shared his thoughts on familial themes that seem to pop up in almost all of his films, his approach to creating engaging movie commentaries for fans and filmmakers alike and so much more.
As a filmmaker, del Toro understands that being able to take criticism on your work comes with the territory and over the years as he continued to add more projects to his resume, he discussed how Mimic always loomed over his legacy as the only movie he never truly felt even he could defend to its critics throughout the years. Del Toro explained, “I’m someone who is okay with the fact that someone may not like a movie that I make. I’m comfortable with that; what I wasn’t comfortable with was saying that I was truly happy with all of my movies, because I wasn’t. I’ll be honest and admit that there are definitely some of my movies that I love more than others and Mimic had always been something I was never crazy about. It was the only one of my films that I just could never defend, but now that we’ve released the Blu-ray, I can finally say that I’m happy with this movie.”
“It’s not my original true vision for Mimic because that’s just something that would never happen- there were just a lot of scenes that we weren’t able to shoot and more changes that happened beyond that, but what I can say is that this version is better than the theatrical one and I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out,” added del Toro.
The director went on to talk about just why it took so long for him to regain control of Mimic even though the Weinsteins had been out of the picture at Miramax since 2005. “I had been following the ownership of Miramax very carefully and especially so when it was first announced that Disney was looking to sell it. So as soon as the sale was announced, I had a meeting within a week to talk about doing a director’s cut of Mimic. Surprisingly, it took a lot of convincing on my part to get the powers-that-be on board with this cut and release of the film because they weren’t sure about it so when they finally agreed to let me do this, about four years had passed.”
Del Toro added, “But this is one movie that I had always wanted to revisit for a long time, and even though I have a crazy workload already with so many other current projects, I knew I had to take my time with it so everything would look the best it possibly could. From the beginning, it took about two years for me to complete the Director’s Cut of Mimic. We didn’t work on it all the time, but it definitely took a while to track all the material down at first from the Miramax archives. Then, I had to very carefully go through every single piece of footage we had as I put together my edit of Mimic to make sure we had what we needed to do this properly.” Gathering footage was only one piece of the massive storytelling puzzle for del Toro, and he discussed how sound design and color timing were just as integral to a successful Director’s Cut of Mimic as the scenes that never made it in the theatrical version.
“Sound was another huge aspect here because not only did we have to do sound design on all the new footage, we also had to recreate parts of the score and get everything to match up once the cut was assembled,” said del Toro. ” We also originally designed Mimic for 360 degrees of sound for the theatrical release because we always wanted a very bold, very active sound with the murmurs of insects surrounding you as you’re watching it. But I knew when we started this process that we’d need to approach our sound differently for the Blu-ray because how you listen to movies in your home is very different than how you listen to them in theaters so we had to dial some of that back. But despite the changes, I still think Mimic sounds stunning, especially when watching it at home.”
“Color timing on this was incredibly important as well. If you’ve seen any of my movies, then you know that I work within particular color palettes, and Mimic how it originally was released didn’t really reflect any of that. This version does, and I think this presentation actually revitalizes the film in some ways because the movie still looks good despite its age, and the visual and audio improvements give it a contemporary feel now. I spend a lot of time when shooting my movies lavishing a lot of details on the way things look, and with Mimic I probably spent far more time worrying about how the insects looked than a lot of other things in the film. In fact, when we were shooting, Mira joked with me that because of the amount of time and attention we spent on creating these insects that she thought I was pretty much on the side of the bugs throughout the story. And maybe I was…just a little bit,” joked del Toro.
Even though he admits to putting a large emphasis on the insects throughout the film, del Toro also spoke about how family also played heavily within the story of Mimic as well as all of his projects that followed. “I think why I like exploring familial themes in my movies is because it’s the source of all of our joy in life and also the source of some of our greatest pain as well. There are no better or worse experiences you can have in life than what you go through with your family. I know a lot of my movies have terrible father figures in them, but there are some happy families in my movies as well, just not nearly as much as the messed up ones. Actually, the idea of the ‘perfect family’ is kind of a fascist idea when you think about it. That’s why I wanted Mimic to end the way it did- with these middle-class yuppies who want to start their ‘perfect’ family but end up taking in an ‘imperfect’ boy at the end of everything. It was a nice ending I think.”
“What’s interesting, though, is that Jeremy Northam wasn’t my first choice to play the male lead in Mimic,” del Toro added. “Jeremy was wonderful and all, but I had actually wanted Andre Braugher for the role because I wanted there to be an interracial marriage in the story, but the studio turned the idea down. I had always thought what an amazing shot that would have been at the ending- a Latin kid, an African-American man and an American woman- representing the whole of humanity- all imperfectly clinging together at the conclusion.”
Despite the fact that Miramax’s involvement while making Mimic drastically changed a lot of aspects of del Toro’s original concepts and vision for the film, he discussed why he didn’t want to focus on any negativity surrounding the project during his candid audio commentary on the recent Director’s Cut Blu-ray.
Del Toro explained, “Of course my initial experiences making Mimic were not what I would call great, but I didn’t want this commentary track to be filled with nothing but gripes and complaints the entire time- that’s not productive for anyone, especially me. I made sure that when I was talking that I never mentioned any specific names and I treated everyone with the utmost respect. Why? Because I will be the first to admit I’ve made my mistakes as a filmmaker over the years and there’s nothing productive about pointing fingers now.”
“I’ve always seen commentary tracks as an instrumental tool more than anything- so many people spend that time patting each other on the back and going on about how great the movie is- it’s almost like hearing a very long Oscar acceptance speech, and that doesn’t interest me at all. When I do commentaries, I like to walk people through how we did things, and I do so much preparation and research beforehand just so I make sure that the fans watching or listening will get a lot out of their experience, and that’s something I have always believed in. You can always expect a lot of candor in my commentaries, but you should know that I make sure there’s a lot of really good information in there, too, especially for up-and-coming filmmakers,” he added.
Now that he’s got almost 20 years of feature filmmaking under his proverbial belt, we asked del Toro what it is about his approach to all his films that continues to resonate with both his longtime fans and newcomers alike.
“I think the thing about my films is that at their core they’re really B-movie concepts, and I think that’s something that fans appreciate about them,” explained del Toro. “Mimic is definitely a B-movie, and I love that now it really feels that way with this cut. But I think the reason why we’ve always been able to elevate people’s perceptions of my B-movies is that we always take so much time and effort with extensive production design and attention to every last detail so it seems like you’re watching an A-movie concept.”
Del Toro added, “I’ve always believed that if you’re going to make a B-movie and you treat it like a B-movie while making it, fans will enjoy it, sure, but that’s about it. You have to give fans something more than that so if you take a B-movie and treat it like a high-concept A-movie, then I feel like an entirely new experience can be provoked for fans of both B-movies and mainstream movie fans as well. That’s always been my trick; give every concept the attention and time it deserves even if it is a movie about killer bugs running around eating people in the New York subway system.”
Look for the Director’s Cut of Mimic on Blu-ray now! Special thanks to Guillermo del Toro for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to chat with us here at Dread Central!
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