On Thursday, December 8, the director Guillermo Del Toro’s closest friends, family, and creative collaborators gathered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for the institution’s annual Modern Art Film Benefit, sponsored by Chanel. Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, Chloë Sevigny, Finn Wolfhard and many others attended the splashy event, thrown, in part, to celebrate Del Toro’s new film Pinocchio, which is the subject of an exhibition currently on view at MoMA.
On the carpet, where Del Toro snapped photos with his wife Kim Morgan, The Shape of Water creator was lavishing praise upon a somewhat unlikely contemporary—Taylor Swift. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Swift revealed that she would enjoy trading places with Del Toro for a day, noting that she was floored by his “imagination, visual vocabulary and that astonishing body of work.” Had he heard about her kind words, and did the director consider himself a Swiftie?
“Yes, yes,” Del Toro told W effusively. “She’s a very accomplished director, she’s incredibly articulate and deep about what she’s trying to do—and what she will do.”
In fact, he revealed that the two recently met up to talk visual arts and trade a few key texts.
“I have the greatest admiration for her; we had one of the most stimulating and gratifying conversations,” he added. “We have many, many common interests. And her interest in fable and myth and the origins of fairy tale is quite deep. I gave her a few books that I thought would be interesting for her—among them, very importantly, a book that was useful for me in creating Pan’s Labyrinth called The Science of Fairy Tales, which codifies and talks about fairy tale lore.”
Further down the carpet, Sevigny—wearing head-to-toe Chanel with a leather skirt and sparkling blue dickey-style top with a white Mandarin collar—noted that Pan’s Labyrinth is, in fact, the first Del Toro film she’d ever seen and remains her favorite to this day. The Bones and All actress said she’s a fan of the fantastical, magical-realism aspects of the director’s movies, which end up revealing more about the human condition than a real-life documentary ever could. Del Toro’s latest, Pinocchio, is being hailed as doing just that; the stop-motion animated movie is being praised for its subtle commentary on fascism and authoritarian rule. One of its stars, Wolfhard, said he was “really honored to be asked” by Del Toro to play Candlewick in the film. The Stranger Things star is also making his arthouse debut in A24’s upcoming When You Finish Saving the World alongside Julianne Moore.
“She’s so easy to work with,” Wolfhard said of Moore’s acting process, “and was incredibly generous in letting me do what I wanted. She was the least controlling actor I’ve ever worked with.”
The stars—Ariana DeBose, in a Chanel printed halter dress; Jeremy O. Harris, whose Chanel earrings sparkled under the flashbulbs of the cameras; and Jemima Kirke among them—made their way into the dining room for dinner, where even more celebrities who couldn’t make it in person delivered video messages of support for Del Toro. Blanchett, who appeared on-screen from “rural Australia” where she’s currently filming her next project, blew kisses; as did Tilda Swinton and Alejandro González Iñárritu, who urged Del Toro to “get drunk!” Chastain, who swept her way up to the podium on stage in a sleeveless, blue-gray, embroidered and beaded gown, showed her love for the director by telling a particularly humorous story from the set of Crimson Peak, the 2015 horror-romance in which the actress stars.
“My favorite, most unique note-slash-compliment came from Guillermo,” she said. While filming a scene that required Chastain to “grab a cast iron skillet and slam it on the table, all while screaming into Mia Wasikowska’s face,” wasn’t hitting. “Guillermo kept saying he wasn’t really ‘feeling it.’ So, okay, it’s my close-up—I wanted him to feel it. He told me to fill myself up with as much loathing and hatred as possible and just see what happens. He calls action—bam, I slam the skillet on the table. I get up in Mia’s face and I scream the line like I’m Tom Hanks in Castaway, screaming for Wilson. He calls cut, and runs over to me. And he, in the sweetest voice and the happiest smile yells, with a childlike glee: ‘You made my balls crawl up into my body!’ I knew if I could scare him so much that his testicles grew tiny arms and legs and were like, ‘I’m outta here,’ and then crawled inside his body, I must have gotten the Guillermo Del Toro seal of approval.”