Working closely with Guillermo del Toro for a few years, the Toronto producer may well be on the stage of Dolby Theater on Sunday if  The Shape of Water, with 13 citations, wins the Academy Award for Best Feature Film. year.

Few people know it, but Guillermo del Toro has virtually settled in Toronto. The Shape of Water was shot entirely in the Queen City, as well as in Hamilton, another city much appreciated by the Mexican filmmaker. The Canadian accomplice of the director of Pan’s Labyrinth is J. Miles Dale, an experienced producer who clearly shares the same vision, the same community of mind.

“A few years ago, I worked on Scott Pilgrim, a film by Edgar Wright,” he explains in a recent interview with La Presse. Edgar is a mutual friend and that’s how we got to know Guillermo and me. We worked together as producers and even did the pilot program for The Strain, a series I produce. ”

“We immediately got along well. We like to work together. ”

A fertile imagination

The two men know each other well enough so that the ideas of the one never destabilize the plans of the other. J. Miles Dale immediately turned on when Guillermo del Toro told him about his film project,  The Shape of Water .

“He introduced me to it most simply, telling me that he was writing the story of a housekeeper falling in love with an amphibious creature. His imagination, which often comes from his childhood memories, is so fertile that you can not help but believe him and subscribe to what he tells you. And all that makes sense! “

The biggest challenge for the producer was to create a supportive environment for the filmmaker to live up to his vision, while working on a much smaller budget than usual.

“Guillermo’s two previous films were made with much larger budgets,” says the producer. There we had a budget of just under $ 20 million. We had to plan everything intelligently, because we are dealing here with a period film, whose plot takes place in 1962, which also mixes several film genres. The project was risky and a misfortune could occur every day. But we went through! ”

So it was decided quickly to shoot the film in Ontario, even though the film’s plot is set in Baltimore.

“We were able to use a studio in Hamilton where The Strain series was also shot . We were able to achieve economies of scale in this way. And there are places in Hamilton that are still very much reminiscent of the ’60s. ”

An unpredictable journey

At the time of manufacture, the craftsmen could never have guessed the route the film would take. You can never predict anything of that nature, anyway. The reception that The Shape of Water received at the Venice Film Festival, where he won the Golden Lion, was able to give a small clue.

“Before Venice, where the film was premiered around the world, no one had seen it before, except for people closely involved in the adventure. Then, the first screening took place and she was marked by a 10-minute ovation. The emotion in the room was tangible. For the first time in a long time, Guillermo was able to breathe. Even if you like what you offer, you can never know what kind of reception a film will have before presenting it to an audience. ”

Since this presentation, the reputation of the feature has only increased. To the point of winning no less than 13 Academy Awards, more than any other production.

“I’ve been in this business for 35 years,” says the producer. We never allow ourselves to imagine such things, because we risk being incredibly disappointed. This kind of recognition, which goes far beyond anything one would have expected, occurs once in a lifetime. ”

“The Producers Guild Award really pleased me because all the producers sitting in the room know how difficult this job is,” he says. We were delighted that Guillermo got the Directors Guild Award, because this peer recognition is very gratifying. ”

No plagiarism

J. Miles Dale also completely refutes the claim of plagiarism made by the son of Paul Zindel, author of the play Let Me Hear You Whisper , written in 1969, especially since the filmmaker never saw this piece and in even ignored the existence, it seems. Filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet also expressed his disappointment that the filmmaker “copied” a scene from Delicatessen .

“A creator is the sum of what he has seen and loved in his life, and Guillermo has never hidden his influences. I am sure that the words of Jean-Pierre Jeunet grieve him a lot. I can assure you that this film is the fruit of an entirely original artistic vision. “