Fangs A Lot

Fangs A Lot

Benicio Del Toro revisits the legend of the wolfman


Originally published on on April 2010


A female reporter posed an unusual question to Benicio Del Toro during his recent visit to Japan. She wanted to know if he was a “herbivore” man, in reference to Japanese guys who are not interested in sex, love or marriage, or whether he was a normal “carnivore.” After having the reference explained to him, the soft-spoken 43-year-old Puerto Rican actor simply said with a grin: “It depends on the woman.” Considering he is promoting his latest film, The Wolfman, carnivore is probably an apt answer.

Directed by Joe Johnston and produced by Del Toro, The Wolfman is a remake of the 1941 film starring Lon Chaney Jr—but with several changes, including a different ending.

“Since the classic story hasn’t been told for nearly 70 years, I thought it might be a good time to remake it, especially for audiences who might not be familiar with the original,” mumbled Del Toro, making his third visit to Japan. “Our version is more visceral and aggressive.”

Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, a Shakespearean actor in New York who returns to his family’s ancient home in England after the grisly death of his brother. There he meets his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins), unaware that he has a frightening family legacy. You can probably guess the rest: full moons, bloodthirsty deaths, silver bullets, a dogged Scotland Yard inspector (Hugo Weaving) and a babe in danger (Emily Blunt).

“Unlike movies such as An American Werewolf in London or The Howling, which had a contemporary setting, this one is a period piece set in the late 1800s,” Del Toro said. “If we’ve done our job right, fans of the original will enjoy the new version.”

One aspect of the film fright fans should relish is the makeup by the legendary Rick Baker.

“I had a love-hate relationship with Rick,” said Del Toro. “I loved him in the morning when he put it on, which took four hours, and then I hated him in the evening when he scraped it off. That would take two hours and everyone else had already gone home for the day. He did an outstanding job. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I looked like my St. Bernard.”

Del Toro also said he enjoyed working with Hopkins, whom he’s admired for decades. “When he arrived, it was like seeing Hannibal Lecter or Nixon or the butler from Remains of the Day walk into a room. It’s as if you are sitting in the front row of a basketball game watching the pros in action.”

Raised in Pennsylvania, Del Toro first came to movie audiences’ attention as a henchman in the 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill, but it was The Usual Suspects in 1995 that really ignited his career. He followed that up with movies such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), 21 Grams (2003) and the mammoth two-part biopic Che in 2008, while his performance in 2000’s Traffic earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Del Toro has slowly built up a following among Japanese women, who frequently ask him what he does to be so sexy.

“They make me nervous when they ask me that,” he said shyly. “I don’t work on being sexy. What is sexy, anyway? Interestingly enough, there are plenty of people who find beings like werewolves and vampires sexy. I guess there is a bit of attraction to the supernatural deep down in all of us. I think it goes back to the ancient Greeks, but in almost every culture, there are legends of men turning into beasts in one way or another. Do you have anything like that in Japan?”

Looking ahead, Del Toro said he has four films already lined up, including a huge gamble: the risky role of Moe Howard in the Farrelly brothers’ movie about The Three Stooges.

Chris Betros is the editor of Japan Today (