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Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón Discuss Career Highs and Lows, Friendships and Death in Three Amigos Conversation

Mexican filmmakers Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón — collectively nicknamed the Three Amigos — sat down for a 90-minute conversation at the Academy Museum on Jan. 6, where they discussed their friendships, career highlights and creative challenges, as well as recurring themes in their individual filmographies.

“For the three of us, one thing we have in common is that we don’t have a difference between filmography and biography,” del Toro noted at the beginning of the panel. “We make movies that reflect our lives — where we were in the beginning — and I think it will be really beautiful to talk about where we were back 16 years ago. It was a really interesting time. We were breaking some ground in some way.”

In 2007, the filmmakers each scored an Oscar nomination: del Toro for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Iñárritu for “Babel” and Cuarón for “Children of Men.”

Cuarón served as moderator for the Netflix-hosted panel, which spotlighted del Toro and Inárritu’s current Oscar contenders, “Pinocchio” and “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths.”

Following a clip showing the opening scene from “Bardo,” Iñarritu explained, “This film, for me, is an allegory of my own life, which is not real, it’s not factual. But it’s a fictionalized way for me to liberate a lot of things: shame, pain, doubt.”

Cuarón commented on how figurative or literal death is a concept that Iñárritu often explores in his films, to which Iñárritu replied that it “comes from a very, very primal fear and consciousness that we all share — no matter which race, nationality or whatever political belief, we all will die.”

“I think no matter what, whatever you put out there is going to be an X-ray of your emotional state,” Iñárritu said, later admitting that he finds it difficult to watch scenes from his past films because “they have some intensity that I don’t recognize.”

After watching his career highlight reel, del Toro pointed out two themes in his craft: “One of them is the virtue of disobedience, which I think is vital. To be disobedient is to be a thinking person. The other one is the absolute inalienable right to be fucked up, to be imperfect, which I defend,” he explained. “I think those themes are very well-represented in the monster.”

Del Toro also reflected on his own fascination with death at an early age, describing himself as a “death groupie.” “It’s like everybody waits for David Bowie to come to town, and I’m waiting for death,” he said with a laugh.

On “Pinocchio,” which studios rejected for nearly 10 years, del Toro explained the significance behind “imperfect fathers and imperfect sons” in his interpretation of the classic tale.

“This is the only ‘Pinocchio’ movie I know that the one learning is Geppetto,” he said. “It’s not Pinocchio learning to be a real boy, but Geppetto learning to be a real father. That was very important for me.”

After del Toro’s repeated efforts to redirect the conversation and focus on Cuarón’s films (later renaming the event the “Two Amigos”), he ended the night by expressing his gratitude to his fellow filmmakers.

“I admire the fuck out of you, both of you,” del Toro said. “When they say, ‘Well, what is this about?’ I think it’s about love, because I love you, and it’s about admiration, because I admire you. You inspire me every year of my life. We’ve been together professionally since the beginning of our careers and you have always inspired me, and you’ve always been a companion, a teacher and a brother.”

Iñárritu added, “The blessing in my life as a filmmaker is such a privileged job that we have, but it’s so tough and so lonely to walk this path. Never lonely in your life, always with two friends that can hold you in failure and can celebrate with you in success. These two guys — without them, I would not exist.”

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