They Look Like Bugs
If there’s one thing you expect from a movie about genetically altered insects growing into human-sized insects, it’s to see genetically altered insects growing into human-sized insects. The studio, however, expected a little something else:
Tests! The mimics used to have antennas, but the feedback we got from the studio was a raging phone call where they said, “They look like bugs. The mimics look like bugs.”
I said, “But of course, we’ve been developing the creatures for a year-and-a-half, you’ve seen the designs, you’ve seen the maquettes, you’ve seen the clay molds, you’ve seen everything and they are bugs.”
“Well can you make them more like aliens?”
I said, “I don’t want to make them more like aliens. At this stage we already have functioning puppets with radio-controlled servos, animatronics. What do you mean redesign them?”
And somebody said a really great line, they said, “Can you make their teeth bigger?”
I said, “They don’t have teeth.”
“Well show more of their gums.”
I said, “They don’t have gums! They have a multi-part, mouth system!”
“Well can you give them crazy hair?”
“They don’t have hair, they are insects.”
Oh God, just reading that again makes me laugh. So funny.
At the same time as telling this story he adds, “I jokingly used to say, “When I was a kid I used to think, Why do Hollywood movies suck? and I jokingly said too, ‘After Mimic I learned why.'”
Don’t Shoot the Submarine!
The funny stories don’t end there and this next one is just mind-boggling as he mentions what happened one day when one of the producers came to the set.
If you’ve never seen a movie set, it’s a complex, wooden structure from the outside and inside it is the set. So, there are two domes and a tube connecting them in the sewer set — the dome where Mira [Sorvino] is and then the dome where she kills the insect — which was essentially our only sewer set. [It] looked, from the outside, like a wooden dumbell.
You had half a sphere on the one side, a tube and another half a sphere on the other side. And this particular producer came and he looked at that and said, “Oh dear God! That looks –”
I said, “Let me show you the sewer sets.”
And he looked at them and said, “Oh my God that looks like a submarine.”
I said, “No, no, no, the set is inside.”
“That’s horrible! You have to change this! You have to redesign it because it looks like a submarine!”
I said, “No, no, no, that is the outside of the set. You should see the inside of the set.”
“Oh my God, we’re in deep trouble! This looks like a Jules Verne submarine or something.”
And then finally we get inside and the sets looked like they needed to be. They looked like a sewer with a tunnel and a sewer on the other side. And this producer sighed and said, “Wow, that’s much, much better.”
I said, “Well, thank you. I’m glad you like it.”
And he said, before leaving, “Now you’ve got to promise me you will not ever shoot this from the outside.”
That was my every day essentially right there.
One thing you definitely sense from Mimic is del Toro’s influence on the film, specifically in the look, but even that was a challenge as he described what he was going for saying, “[I wanted to design the movie using] amber circles and amber arches to suggest that humans were insects trapped in amber (note the screen capture above)… but this got me no friends or allies in the process. They thought I was going for too slow a rhythm, or too fancy-shmancy look for the film.” Those directors and their fancy-shmancy metaphors.
A cluster fuck of insects
Before the way the film ends now, with giant explosions and bullets blowing gooey holes into the creatures, del Toro and the film’s co-writer Matthew Robbins had other ideas for the ending and it would’ve been a doozy.
Originally Matthew Robbins and I came up with the idea of having a huge nest, since the single male is the one that impregnates all of the females in the nest, like the termite colony where there is only one king. In order to show that Matthew came up with a disgusting image, which was to have the final chase happen after we see a cluster fuck, literally, cluster fuck of insects in the wall, and you see the male coming after them with the female still attached to its penis.
These twin bodies, in perfect coordination, running after them in the tunnels of the subway and I thought that was a brilliant image, but the studio thought it was repulsive, repugnant and the way they can control you very easily is budget. It was also, sadly, very expensive and so it was cut from the film.
Del Toro describes how he felt after the film continued to change and become more and more like an Alien rip-off with Mira Sorvino’s “don’t you touch her” moment and what essentially was the egg chamber for the mimics saying, “I was cattle-prodded, anally, into learning how to shoot action. After all the cattle-prodding I was like a frog moving his legs because he is being electrocuted. I can say it was painful, but I thank everyone for the flexibility I acquired.”