Rational Discourse: Levine And Del Toro

Guillermo Del Toro: "videogames are the bridge to the future of genre narrative"

Do you enjoy conversation between passionate individuals? If so, the recent Irrational Interview featuring Ken Levine and Guillermo Del Toro is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an hour of your day. The Mexican author/director is working on a horror game and the first part of this audio was posted on Halloween so I expected a focus on spooky happenings but the conversation is much more wide-ranging. There is some discussion of monsters but mostly it’s two men discussing the joy of the creative process, as well as the frustrations that can arise in the film and game industries.

Del Toro is frank as ever, at one point describing working on projects with no personal interest as like trying to “fuck without a boner”. He does swear a lot. Ken slowly warms to the idea of this navvy-like behavior and by the end they’re both at it. Two parts. Downloads here and here.

I always think the best conversations are the ones I wish I’d been part of and that’s true here. It’s informative without being dour and it certainly doesn’t have the shadow of scripted responses and PR box-ticking creeping across it. Hearing Levine draw a comparison between scripting companion behaviour in Bioshock Infinity with Larry David ensuring the cast hit the narrative beats in a Curb Your Enthusiasm scene opens a window onto overlapping cultural objects that I find fascinating. And then Del Toro offhandedly refers to Levine as a “deco fetishist”.

IF you’re here you’re probably interested in the work of at least one of these men, but even if not it’s a funny and insightful discussion about what it means to be a creative professional. If you don’t want the downloads (one and two) you can listen at the Irrational site. First part here, second part here.

This is not an image from the recording of the conversation. Ken Levine is not a head on a wall, of any species.

I always imagine Del Toro as a sort of excitable magpie, flitting around popular culture and pecking at all the shiny bits. At times, I think he’s too ready to share his imaginings and I don’t know if that would make him the ideal person to visualise The Mountains of Madness. It doesn’t seem like the kind of film that should necessitate an enormous budget. I don’t know if he’d be able to resist throwing in a sketchbook’s worth of creature designs and my idea of a Lovecraft film doesn’t involve building the indescribable.

I’d quite like to see what an Aronofsky take would come out like.

There’s mention of a game called Gadget at one point, which I’d never heard of. I found the trailer for anyone interested though. Think of this post as the DVD extras that came with the interview. I also learned that Gadget has been jazzed up and released on iPhone and iPad. Facts!

One day I’ll play through loads of these esoteric FMV games and then publish my garbled memoirs.


  1. Balhazer says:

    Yes first, suck on that guys!!

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Oh dear

      Haha First to troll the guy who firsted!

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Down with this sort of thing. There is no honour in being “first” without substance. You merely show your callow lack of wit. Why, in my day, we’d have thrashed the scoundrel who piped up first without anything of value to say!

    • Durkonkell says:

      You have dishonoured the entire RPS community and disgraced your family.

      *Durkonkell crosses his wrists in front of his chest and turns his back on Balhazer

    • Chris D says:

      /shakes head sadly while unsuccessfully trying to hide look of profound disappointment.

    • TheApologist says:

      /stares, unblinking

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      You’ve gone too far, I’m going to have to turn my back on you.

  2. Gesadt says:

    Guillermo is awesome unfortunately At Mountains of Madness movie aint happening

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      He talks about it in the interview. If memory serves he says it’s “on hold” and then goes on to say that “every movie in Hollywood is on fucking hold”.

      There’s a brilliant bit where he talks about being offered Seven as well. I did not know that had happened.

    • Deadly Habit says:

      damn it
      need more lovecraftian movies and games

    • Elltot says:

      As much as I love most of the projects Del Toro has been involved in (yes even the Hellboys) I’m glad he didn’t make Seven

      Fincher NEEDED to make that film after Alien 3.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Well, it’s on hold in that he still wants to do it, but Universal flat-out cancelled it. When he was asked about if it was still happening there, he said “The opposite- Dead. – G.” So I wouldn’t hold your breath unless Pacific Rim is a smash hit.

      Anyway, I got a kick out of the fact that Rabbit Murdoch was the interviewer. Good choice and great interview.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      They should have offered Del Toro the Benjamin Button movie.

    • Screamer says:

      ” “every movie in Hollywood is on fucking hold” ”

      Unless its a remake :/, like a PG13 Total Recall…..

  3. phlebas says:

    I played Gadget. It was kind of beautiful but rather light on the actual game bit – completely linear and no puzzles to speak of, it’s always clear where you should be clicking next. Still a bit sorry I didn’t hang onto it though.

  4. Fox89 says:

    Del Toro, on anticipating what annoying players will do “It’s like playing a game of chess 20 moves ahead of your opponent…before they even show up for the game!”

    He has such a great was of expressing this stuff. And it’s a spot on observation as well. Thanks for this guys, it’s a great listen. 40 minutes well spent :D

  5. Urthman says:

    The Irrational podcast mostly just makes me sad that Chris Remo isn’t doing more podcasts.

  6. RagingLion says:

    I literally just finished listening to this (on my way home from work). Absolutely excellent – there’s little that gets me more excited than seeing that a new Irrational Interviews has been downloaded automatically by iTunes and is just waiting for my ears.

  7. kyrieee says:

    Didn’t even know who the guy was but he seems to have the best sense of games of anyone from the movie industry that I know of

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I’d recommend checking out Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, they’re really solid movies — if fantasy/horror set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War sounds good to you, anyway.

      I like the Hellboys and Blade 2 as well, but they’re obviously a lot more on the popcorn side.

    • Lemming says:

      Yeah: Devil’s Backbone, Mimic: Directors cut, Chronos and (he produced) The Orphanage.

      Check ’em out.

      He’s also shooting a movie about Kajin monsters and giant mech fights called Pacific Rim and is trying to get At the Mountains of Madness (Lovecraft story) into a movie.

      The guy is great at horror and creature designs.

    • iucounu says:

      I’ve only seen Cronos, Mimic, Hellboy and Blade 2, but on that evidence Del Toro does brilliant openings to movies and then spins his wheels endlessly. I hear the Spanish movies are great, though.

  8. terry says:

    No staring ears tag??

  9. shoptroll says:

    Irrational Interviews is a great podcast.

    Also, worth noting that they are very frank and candid in their discussions so f-bombs do get dropped on occassion in most episodes I’ve heard.

  10. Lemming says:

    Can’t wait to see what they churn out. Love Del Toro.

    If only we’d get to see this collaboration go both ways and Del Toro was doing a Bioshock movie.

  11. manveruppd says:

    Not sure if I can be bothered to play Gadget, but I did like the Bauhaus, Fritz Lang-ish style of the trailer!

    • Josh W says:

      That trailer was the most ominous depiction of “travel, invention and adventure” I can remember seeing!

  12. wererogue says:

    Firstly, if you haven’t read At The Mountains of Madness, here be a few spoilers. Nothing that would ruin the story, though.

    ATMoM’s basic elements are suspense, archaeological intrigue and monsters. The Elder Things, the Shoggoth, and more from the “bas-relief carvings” that Howard is so fond of; all of these are quite rigorously described, Lovecraft relying instead on making the descriptions difficult to interpret. He uses shapes that don’t fit well together in nature, and terms that are somewhat ambiguous to make the horror seem unimaginable, but with a few assumptions you have something. Building the indescribable Shoggoth is something I definitely want to see!

    I had/have a lot of hope for the movie – Del Toro has a knack for preserving the story within the horror. Aronofsky is much more about the horrors of the human condition, and I’d be worried that he’d want to inject social issues into what is essential a fantastic tale. It’d be fascinating to see, but not necessarily a good adaptation.

    There are definitely Lovecraft stories I’d love to see Araonfsky handle, though. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, for one, or Herbert West: Reanimator. Maybe The Whisperer in Darkness? All three of those have had fairly decent films made out of them. Probably Reanimator is the best candidate – Stuart Gordon’s version is amazing on a lot of levels (several of which are wholly its own), but it plays itself a little too action-horror to really live up to the story.