Will Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) finally join his filmmaking friends Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in the pantheon of Oscar winners this year? If our odds are to be believed, he’s a strong front-runner to snag Best Picture, Best Director, and maybe even Best Original Screenplay for his romantic fantasy about a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) in love with a fish man. And just think, it was a little more than a decade ago, in 2007, that the Three Amigos of Cinema, as they like to be known, were competing alongside each other for their 2006 films “Babel” (Inarritu), “Children of Men” (Cuaron) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” (del Toro). Two of them were first-time Oscar nominees that year. Now, by March 4, they could all be Oscar winners.
“There was a moment [in 2006] where we all felt like a historical weight,” del Toro recalled in our recent video interview when asked about that year’s Oscars. Indeed, it was a watershed year for Mexican cinema, with three of the nation’s homegrown directors amassing a combined 16 nominations for their films: 7 for “Babel,” 6 for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and 3 for “Children of Men.” And it wasn’t just Cuaron, del Toro, and Inarritu who were in contention. They were among 10 Mexican-born artists competing in various categories, also including supporting actress Adriana Barraza and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga for “Babel”; cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, production designer Eugenio Caballero and set decorator Pilar Revuelta for “Pan’s Labyrinth”; cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for “Children of Men”; and sound mixer Fernando Camara for “Apocalypto.”
“Pan’s Labyrinth” was the first trip to the Oscars for del Toro, whose previous films including “Cronos” (1993), “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) and “Hellboy” (2004) had been completely ignored by the academy. But the director’s Spanish-language fable about a bookish girl (Ivana Baquero) in 1940s Spain who escapes into a terrifying fantasy world to avoid her domineering stepfather (Serqi Lopez) hit the sweet spot with the perfect mixture of wonder and gore. The film won for its cinematography, production design, and makeup. Del Toro, however, lost Best Original Screenplay to Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”), and Best Foreign Language Film went to “The Lives of Others.”
Prior to 2006 Inarritu had helmed the Best Foreign Language Film nominee “Amores Perros” (2000), and then he directed Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro to acting bids in “21 Grams” (2003), but he didn’t break through himself until “Babel.” Set in four different countries, “Babel” examines the devastating effects one bullet has on a multicultural cast of characters. Inarritu reaped nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, and the film competed for Best Supporting Actress (Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Score. It lost all but Score: Picture, Director, and Film Editing went to “The Departed” with its director Martin Scorsese finally getting his due after seven previous Oscar losses.
“Children of Men” was Cuaron’s second go-round with the academy following an Original Screenplay bid for “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2002). For the dystopian science-fiction tale about a future where women are infertile, the filmmaker found himself competing in Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing, both of which he lost to “The Departed.” So by the end of the night, all three of the amigos were left holding Oscar IOUs.
Cuaron was the first to cash his in — for “Gravity” (2013), an ambitious adventure set in Earth’s orbit. The film snagged 7 trophies out of 10 bids: Best Director and Best Film Editing for Cuaron (shared with Mark Sanger). That made Cuaron not only the first of the Three Amigos to strike gold but the first Mexican ever to win for directing.
After directing “Biutiful” (2010) to two Oscar nominations — Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor (Javier Bardem) — Inarritu hit the jackpot four years later for something distinctly different from the rest of his filmography: “Birdman” (2014), a raucous comedy about a washed-up actor (Michael Keaton) hoping to revive his career by directing himself on Broadway. Inarritu became just the seventh person to win Oscars for producing, writing and directing the same film.
But Inarritu wasn’t done yet. The very next year he won Best Director again for “The Revenant” (2015), becoming only the third filmmaker in history (following John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz) to win back-to-back directing Oscars, though Best Picture ended up going to “Spotlight” in an upset. A return to the filmmaker’s more dramatic roots, the film centers on a frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) fighting for survival after a bear makes him its personal chew toy.
It took longer — 11 years to be exact — for del Toro to finally make his Oscar return after “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008) picked up a lone Best Makeup bid, while “Pacific Rim” (2013) and “Crimson Peak” (2015) were completely shut out. But he came back with a vengeance with “The Shape of Water,” which became the 10th film ever to snag 13 nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (shared with Vanessa Taylor) for del Toro.
After victories at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards del Toro is in the lead for Best Director according to our predictions with 3/2 odds. Should he lose that category, he also has a shot at Best Picture, where he’s also the front-runner with odds of 9/2. A writing win might be a little tougher: he’s currently in fourth place with 7/1 odds behind “Lady Bird,” Golden Globe winner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and Critics’ Choice champ “Get Out.”
Maybe we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, but I hope Cuaron and Inarritu are tapped as presenters for the telecast so they can bestow del Toro that long-awaited Best Director prize the way Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg presented to their old pal Scorsese 11 years ago when the Three Amigos were at the Oscars together for the first time.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our movie forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.