How James Cameron Saved Guillermo Del Toro's Father From Kidnappers

Director Guillermo del Toro is praised for being a master of modern horror cinema. The Mexican-born auteur began his career as a special effects artist before diving into filmmaking (via Britannica). Now known for his celebrated films like "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Shape of Water," Biography reports that del Toro made his feature film debut with "Cronos" in 1993. During the film's pre-production, UPROXX writes that del Toro met and befriended fellow director James Cameron at a Fourth of July party.

Cameron later allowed del Toro to stay at his guest house and suggested several narrative elements for "Cronos." Needless to say, the film was a hit. "Cronos" won several awards and ultimately led to his second film, "Mimic." According to IndieWire, production of the sci-fi thriller was anything but ideal. Del Toro clashed with the film's producers, the Weinstein Brothers, and Miramax films.

Things, however, were about to get worse. In the midst of production, del Toro's father, Federico del Toro, was kidnapped off the streets in his hometown of Guadalajara (via Cinema Blend). The kidnappers wanted $1 million in ransom money. There was only one issue; Del Toro did not have funds.

James Cameron provided Guillermo Del Toro with ransom money

According to Cinema Blend, del Toro had put all of his money into "Mimic" and was unsure of how he was going to bring his father Federico home. UPROXX reports that the family even hired three hostage negotiators to no avail. After learning that del Toro's father had been kidnapped, his old friend James Cameron stepped in. He took del Toro to a bank and gave him the $1 million he needed. In addition, he recommended a negotiator that could help the process. Federico was eventually safely returned after a harrowing 72 days, all thanks to Cameron.

No one was ever arrested for the kidnapping and the del Toro family left Mexico permanently shortly after. Del Toro has gone on to say that he wishes he could live and work in his home country but that the deep trauma from the ordeal has prevented him from doing so (per Hollywood). He later said that the two worst things that happened to him in the late '90s were the kidnapping — and working on "Mimic" with the Weinsteins (via IndieWire).

James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro's friendship endures

Variety writes that the kidnapping later influenced del Toro to produce the 2019 film "Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark." He explained that he became enamored by the books as a teen and encountered original prints shortly after his father's release. Despite being on the verge of financial ruin, del Toro purchased the art and later began working on the film in 2018. 

In recent years, he's been reluctant in discussing the kidnapping due to stress and safety concerns (via the Hollywood Reporter). However, del Toro has said that, "My relationship with my dad is much more human now. What changes is you go from being a son to being a man saving a man" (per The Sun).

As for his friendship with Cameron, he told the Daily Beast in 2017 that it was still going strong. Del Toro stated that "he's a great friend and an even more extraordinary filmmaker." That same year, Cameron revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair that he almost got into a fight with Harvey Weinstein at the 1997 Academy Awards. Although he did not divulge too many details, he did disclose that it had to do with how Miramax treated del Toro during the filming of "Mimic." Per the Daily Beast, Cameron has helped del Toro with every film in his career except "Mimic."