10 Fast Facts About The Shape of Water

Kerry Hayes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Kerry Hayes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Over the past seven years, Guillermo del Toro has worked to bring the love story between a mute janitor and a fishman from the Amazon to life, and now that he’s finally succeeded, The Shape of Water is a contender both for Best Picture and for Strangest Best Picture Nominee of All Time.

It’s also a delight, drawing on Capra-esque elements of the Golden Age of Hollywood to create a magical haze of optimism and innocence and pure love. Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, the mute janitor who lives above a movie theater and who works at a secret facility where the Cold War-era government stashes Amphibian Man (Doug Jones, with three hours of make-up). It’s Amélie meets The Creature From the Black Lagoon with just a hint of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Here are 10 fast facts about The Shape of Water.

1. IT PREMIERED IN THE THEATER IN WHICH IT WAS SHOT.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

The stunning, turn-of-the-century movie theater that Elisa lives above (and drips water into) is the historic Elgin Theatre in Toronto, Canada. As a nice note of serendipity, it’s also where the film played at its Toronto Film Festival premiere. The Elgin (and its sister theater, the Winter Garden) were built in 1913 and originally designed to host vaudeville acts.

2. ELISA’S LAST NAME HINTS AT HER ORPHAN STATUS.

The main character doesn’t appear to have any family connections throughout the film, relying solely on the friendship of her closeted gay neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and her last name suggests that she was abandoned as a child. “Esposito” means “exposed” in Italian and was used as a last name for babies left on the stoops of orphanages or otherwise given up for adoption.

3. HER NAME ALSO OFFERS A CONNECTION TO MY FAIR LADY.

Both Elisa from The Shape of Water and Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) from My Fair Lady are working-class characters who undergo a transformation that allows them to find their own voice. Elisa does that literally in the dreamy musical act where she professes her love, but discovering her voice is largely metaphorical, an act of refusing to remain silent in the face of oppression. The connection is purposeful, too. Hawkins studied Hepburn, among other classic actors, for the role, and Giles has a drawing of Hepburn in his apartment studio.

4. GUILLERMO DEL TORO WAS DRUNK WHEN HE PITCHED THE MOVIE TO HAWKINS.

Christopher Polk, Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards

As the story goes, del Toro was watching Antiques Roadshow when he got a call from Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, asking him to go to a 2014 Golden Globes party with them, promising they would all get drunk and sing together. Del Toro doesn’t drink often, but he needs a lot of booze to get him buzzed, and after downing a bunch of shots, Cuarón and Iñárritu confessed they weren’t going to drink. On his way to the exit, he ran into Hawkins (who wasn’t supposed to be there). He embraced her, lifted her up, and said, “I’m writing a movie for you! You fall in love with a fish man!”

5. DEL TORO GAVE HIMSELF A BIRTHDAY PRESENT IN THE MOVIE.

October 10th is the fated day that the rains will come to Baltimore and allow Elisa to release Amphibian Man at the docks, so there’s a lingering shot on the rip-off daily calendar page for October 9th, which is del Toro’s birthday.

6. THERE ARE SUBTLE NODS TO OTHER OCTAVIA SPENCER ROLES.

Kerry Hayes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Spencer plays Elisa’s smart yet weary friend/co-worker Zelda, a role del Toro wrote for her. The Oscar-winning actress noted that the role was a blend of her roles in The Help and Hidden Figures, adding that she “would have played the desk had Guillermo asked” her to. In one scene, Strickland (Michael Shannon) jokes, “What am I doing? Interviewing the help?” while interrogating Zelda and Elisa—a reference to Spencer’s Oscar-earning performance. Later, he claims that God would look like him, or maybe her, but definitely not Amphibian Man; Spencer actually played God in The Shack.

7. DOUG JONES GOT INSPIRATION FROM DOGS AND MATADORS.

It took three hours for Jones to get into the suit and special make-up to become Amphibian Man, which was actually less than normal for the actor who appeared as the Pale Man in del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies. Jones told NPR that, in playing a character that cannot speak, he studied the way dogs respond with their heads and bodies to our vocal tones. He also utilized the pelvis-first movements of matadors to create Amphibian Man’s alluring, fluid body language.

8. A CAR ALMOST CRASHED INTO DEL TORO DURING A SHOT (THAT THEY KEPT IN THE MOVIE).

There’s a scene late in the film when Strickland furiously drives to confront Elisa about harboring Amphibian Man. Michael Shannon was supposed to park outside the movie theater, but he rushed from the car without shifting it out of gear, so the car kept going, crashing through a decorative post. “Shower of sparks,” del Toro told The Hollywood Reporter’s directors’ roundtable. “Goes for the second post, and it’s coming straight for the video system. Everybody says, ‘Run!’ Now, I never run for anything in my life! And I go, ‘I am going to die.’ And the car stops at the second and final post, which is anchored to the ground. Everybody was horrified. And I say, ‘Now I can make my shot.’”

9. THE ONLY CHARACTERS WHO DON’T HAVE TROUBLE COMMUNICATING ARE THE MUTE ONES.

One sly touch that reinforces the film’s subtext of connecting with someone different from you is the ease of communication between Elisa and Amphibian Man, despite not speaking a common language. Their relationship comes effortlessly while, as del Toro explained, “every single character that has the power of speech has problems communicating.”

Strickland sees anything beyond giving or obeying orders as weakness; Giles has to muster the courage to convey his feelings for another man (and when he does, it’s disastrous); Zelda talks near-constantly but can’t find common ground with her husband; and Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) speaks multiple languages, but struggles to find the words to simultaneously placate the KGB and his American colleagues.

10. JONES AND HAWKINS SAID “I LOVE YOU” BEFORE TAKES.

The combination of their innocence and effortless, fiery sensuality was a product of the actors trusting one another, which takes a lot of work. That included taking dance lessons together to get a sense of their mutual physicality, as well as sharing personal insecurities with each other so they could be completely vulnerable. “I was scared,” Jones told the Los Angeles Times. “I think we were both scared. Before almost every take, we’d hold each other, caress each other’s faces, say, ‘I love you. I’m so glad you’re here.’”

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

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Amazon

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Beats/Amazon

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Sony

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Samsung/Amazon

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Ninja/Amazon

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.