A film prodigy dedicated to Latin American cinema even as his success gave him a ticket to Hollywood, Guillermo del Toro earned a place as one of Time magazine's 50 Young Leaders for the New Millennium before he made his third film.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised by his staunchly Catholic grandmother, del Toro was already involved in filmmaking by his teens. A fan of such horror masters as James Whale, Mario Bava, George A. Romero, Alfred Hitchcock, and the work of Britain's Hammer Films, del Toro learned about makeup and effects from The Exorcist's Dick Smith as well as studying screenwriting and making Super-8, 16 mm, and 35 mm short films. Though he executive-produced his first feature, Doña Herlinda and Her Son (1986), at age 21, del Toro initially spent almost a decade as a makeup supervisor, forming his own company, Necropia, in the early '80s. He still found time to produce and direct numerous programs for Mexican television, as well as teach film workshops. Doing his part to turn his hometown into Mexican cinema central, del Toro also co-founded the city's Film Studies Center and the Guadalajara-based Mexican Film Festival.