A month after he won two Oscars, fantasy maestro Guillermo del Toro is making another big splash in Hollywood. The Mexican filmmaker is getting his own film label at Fox Searchlight, the studio where he directed this year’s best picture winner, The Shape of Water.
The Fox arthouse studio will create a new sci-fi, horror, and fantasy division in which del Toro will produce and curate feature-length projects, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The new label is part of a wide-ranging, exclusive deal with Fox Searchlight del Toro signed yesterday (April 3).
Del Toro took home the best director award for The Shape of Water at last month’s Oscars, in addition to the film’s win for best picture. He became the third Mexican filmmaker to win the award, after Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman and The Revenant). A week after the Oscars, del Toro launched a scholarship program for aspiring Mexican filmmakers to study their craft abroad.
A beloved director whose work has spanned languages and genres, del Toro is best known for his terrifying fantasy creatures and settings. He’s also something of a gothic horror aficionado, whose unabashed love for the genre is contagious. It was perhaps only a matter of time that he got his own fantasy/horror label to curate.
Fans of fantasy and horror (and del Toro’s unique mix of the two) should be excited that the label is part of Fox Searchlight. As the ominous Disney takeover of Fox looms, the new label demonstrates not only Fox’s commitment to del Toro as a storyteller, but also its interest in the kinds of films that Hollywood studios increasingly eschew in favor of the next blockbuster.
At the Critics Choice Awards in January, The Shape of Water producer J. Miles Dale called out Disney and its CEO Bob Iger, pleading with the company to keep their hands off Fox Searchlight if and when the takeover is finalized. Iger has said he has no plans to change the awards-friendly indie film division, but there’s still a sense of unease among the filmmakers who work with the company. After all, Disney—which has historically succeeded with grandiose, tentpole pictures, has shown little interest in films of del Toro’s modest size. (The Shape of Water, for instance, cost a mere $20 million to make.)
Fox’s investment in del Toro could signal that it’s confident Disney ultimately won’t meddle in its current studio system. It’s also a big step forward for genre filmmaking as horror or fantasy specific labels within Hollywood film studios are historically uncommon. The closest analog might be Blumhouse Productions, the production company responsible for horror films like Get Out, Split, and The Purge series that recently signed a first-look deal with mega studio Universal Pictures. A24, an indie distributor whose industry clout is increasingly growing, has also shown an admiration for sci-fi and horror.