'The Shape of Water': Guillermo Del Toro defends the full-frontal nudity in his Oscar-nominated film (exclusive)

This week sees the long-awaited UK release of Guillermo Del Toro’s multi Oscar-nominated The Shape of Water.

The Mexican director’s Cold War-set fantasy stars Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito, a mute office cleaner who falls in love with a mysterious sea creature (Doug Jones). The blue-skinned amphibian arrives at the underground research bunker where Elisa works under heavy guard, and the two non-talkers find themselves irresistibly drawn together.

It’s the Pan’s Labyrinth director’s most sensual movie to date, with the lead couple enjoying a number of intimate, unfiltered sexual scenes. There’s even some full frontal nudity and female masturbation within the first few minutes of the film, something that Del Toro felt was very important to include right up front in this twisted take on the classic Beauty and the Beast fable.

“It was important for me to say that in this ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Beauty’ was not a Disney princess,” explains the 53-year-old filmmaker to Yahoo Movies UK.

Elisa and the creature embrace in this stunning poster for <i>The Shape of Water</i> (Fox Searchlight)
Elisa and the creature embrace in this stunning poster for The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)

“‘Beauty’ made breakfast, polished her shoes, and masturbated, then went to work. The ‘Beast’ was not going to turn into a prince, the ‘Beast’ was going to eat cats, and be feral, and ultimately just be there for Sally’s character to recognise her own nature in him. But I didn’t want to do the tendentious thing where the ‘Beast’ becomes the prince for them to be together.”

The genesis of the idea began, as Del Toro explains, with reruns of the classic 1954 monster movie The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Sally Hawkins cosies up the the creature in <i>The Shape of Water</i> (Fox)
Sally Hawkins cosies up the the creature in The Shape of Water (Fox)

“I thought it would be great if the creature and Julie Adams [who plays Kay Adams in the film] would end up living together. I was 6, I didn’t know better. But I’m 53 and I still don’t know better, because I made this movie!”

“Love, like water, has no shape,” adds Del Toro.

“Love, like water, can break through every barrier. The idea is to present heterosexual, homosexual love as things that are part of a physical and spiritual experience without any titillation or perversity. The only perverse act in the movie comes from the heterosexual main antagonist who is really perverse, the rest of the characters – masturbation, making love – is all treated really matter of fact, really naturalistic and beautiful.”

The Mexican director’s romantic fantasy debuted at Venice Film Festival in August last year where it scooped the Golden Lion, the prestigious festival’s top prize.

It received its US release in December last year earning rave reviews, and it arrives here in the UK as a big Oscar favourite having earned 13 Academy Awards nominations including ones for Best Picture and Best Director, which the film remains the hot favourite to win on 4 March.

The Shape of Water is in cinemas now. Watch a trailer below.

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