What was Guillermo del Toro’s experience working with William Friedkin on his last film?

Working with legendary director William Friedkin was a dream come true for Guillermo del Toro. In a recent interview with IndieWire, del Toro couldn’t help but gush about his experience serving as the backup director on Friedkin’s final film, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.

“He is an original,” del Toro said of Friedkin. “He blends the lessons of documentary with complex and precise technology and narrative prowess. Every decision he makes is infused with his idiosyncrasies, his personality. Look at the ending of ‘The French Connection’ or the final minutes of ‘The Exorcist.’ Then try and figure out the mastery in ‘Sorcerer’ or ‘To Live and Die in L.A.'”

Before The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Friedkin had not directed a film in over a decade. Del Toro expressed his desire to see Friedkin back in the director’s chair, offering to serve as an “insurance director” in case of any emergencies that might arise on set. Del Toro’s wish came true, and he found himself on set each day, learning from the master.

“He said to me, ‘This [is] about the actors and the words – and I have to service that. This is a work by a Pulitzer Prize-winner, and I am not gonna get in the way.’ He knew he had a very limited budget and time and within that he demanded 100 percent, and he did so 100 percent of the time. He changed the sets down to the last possible minute and pushed his crew but always for a good reason: He would find a painting or a prop distracting and he wanted it out or changed.”

Watching Friedkin at work was a truly rewarding experience for del Toro. “I went to set every day with a zest and a joy I had not felt since my youth,” del Toro explained. “Like all great spiritual rewards, this happens only when you surrender to something greater than yourself. That was Billy.”

About The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial centers around Barney Greenwald, a skeptical lawyer who reluctantly defends an officer of the navy who took control of the Caine from its captain, Lt. Philip Francis Queeg, during a violent sea storm. As the court-martial proceeds, Greenwald begins to question whether it was truly a mutiny or the courageous acts of sailors who could not trust their unstable leader.


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