Together they share 12 Oscars, dozens of hit films, and are heralded as two of the greatest directors in recent history – but there is another strange connection between James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro that has helped their friendship to stand the test of time.
Cameron paid Del Toro’s father’s $1 million ransom
While del Toro is the king of horror movies, directing classics like Pan’s Labyrinth and newer successes like Shape of Water, one day his life became a real-life horror movie. Known for his visceral special FX designs and love of the creature feature, del Toro grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, making his own Super 8 films at a young age.
Del Toro’s first major directorial debut, Cronos (1993), put him on Hollywood’s radar, but even with its success, he was still $1 million in debt. The promising talent was offered the opportunity to direct a new sci-fi horror flick called Mimic with the now infamous Weinstein brothers’ production company Miramax Pictures. Despite continued clashes with the producers, del Toro agreed to direct in order to get himself out of debt.
Halfway through filming Mimic, del Toro’s father Federico Del Toro was kidnapped in his hometown of Guadalajara. In return for his freedom, the kidnappers wanted $1 million in ransom money. Del Toro didn’t have the funds to pay the ransom, and after attempts to work it out with hostage negotiators failed, his friend James Cameron stepped in to help.
What friends are for
Cameron and del Toro first met in the early 1990s at a Fourth of July party and became fast friends. Cameron let del Toro stay in his guest house and even offered the up-and-coming director some helpful suggestions while he was making Cronos. So when his friend needed help, Cameron took del Toro to the bank to get the $1 million to save his father. He even recommended a negotiator to help ease the process. In 1998, Federico del Toro was released by his kidnappers after 72 days as a hostage.
The traumatic situation prompted Guillermo del Toro and his family to leave their homes in Mexico and become American residents. “Every day, every week, something happens that reminds me that I am in involuntary exile [from my country]” del Toro told TIMEin 2011. “But to talk about life in a direct way is the work of other types of storytellers. As a man, the kidnapping defined my life. As a storyteller, I try to define myself.”
Del Toro ultimately finished Mimic but spoke out about the horrible treatment he endured by Miramax and the Weinstein brothers which led his friend James Cameron to confront Harvey Weinstein during the 70th Academy Awards. “He’s a great friend and an even more extraordinary filmmaker,” del Toro said about the Titanic director.
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Del Toro also recently congratulated Cameron on his new film Avatar: The Way of Water. He called the film “a staggering achievement” and referred to his friend as “a master at the peak of his powers.” We think it’s safe to say their friendship is stronger than ever!