Guillermo del Toro made The Shape of Water without proper salary

The director initially wanted to shoot the film in black and white.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro sacrificed a proper wage for his critically-acclaimed fantasy The Shape of Water in order to complete the movie for under $20 million (£14.8 million).

The Pacific Rim writer and director even covered the costs of the initial design work himself as he came up with ideas for the project's Amphibian Man, portrayed on the big screen by Doug Jones.

"I wanted the freedom to go anywhere," del Toro tells TheWrap.com of his creative strategy. "I wanted to go to a studio with the design and the idea for the movie (complete), and basically say, 'You guys tell me how much you want me to do it for, and I'll do it for that number. There will be no negotiation.'"

He got exactly what he wished for when he met with studio officials at Fox Searchlight, who even surprised del Toro by allowing him to seriously consider making the film, about a mute woman who falls for a fish-like man, in black and white - albeit for the slightly lower budget of $17 million (£12.6 million).

"That (the option of filming in black and white) was honestly a battle I was expecting to lose," he confesses. "I was of two minds..."

Del Toro chose to make use of the additional funds by shooting in colour, and although he barely got paid for all of his work, he insists it was worth it to make his vision a reality.

He adds, "I didn't get my salary as producer or co-writer or director, except for guild minimum (the lowest fee allowed by Directors Guild of America rules). That bought me a couple of days extra, a couple of cranes (for aerial shots), it bought me a couple of costumes."

The risky move is paying off for del Toro as The Shape of Water, co-starring Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon, has garnered a string of critical accolades, including seven top nominations for Sunday's (07Jan18) Golden Globe Awards.

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