There are plenty of filmmakers who find a way to include themselves in their projects (though few have had the gall to cast themselves as the savior of the world). Guillermo Del Toro’s self-directed cameos have all been as delightfully strange as he is, whether he’s playing a guy dressed as a dragon in Hellboy, or voicing Señor Muelas (“Mr. Teeth”) on his Netflix series, Trollhunters. His appearance in the Oscar-nominated The Shape Of Water is a bit harder to pick out, though—it requires you to listen closely during a bathroom scene (no, not that one).
The Shape Of Water sound editor Nathan Robitaille tells Vanity Fair that, while he provided the “guttural sounds” of the godlike amphibian character (played by Doug Jones), that’s Del Toro’s raspy breathing we hear when the creature is put into a bathtub, barely clinging to life. At first, Robitaille says, “a lot of the sounds that we started layering in were the sounds of his drying-out gills, the liquid gurgling, and the wheezing elements.” But the next time he heard Del Toro giving direction on set, he was inspired to include the filmmaker’s sounds. “Once we got [del Toro] into the studio, it was obvious pretty fast that the most beautiful texture was coming from his breathing,” Robitaille tells VF. “So I started harvesting his breaths that I got between takes and glued everything together.” The sound editor notes that “[it’s] not a new idea to get the director into a movie as an Easter egg, but it’s really fun to learn that part of a character comes from the director himself.”
As for the sounds made by the enamored creature, Robitaille apparently “layered high-resolution recordings of pigeons cooing to score the creature’s more tender moments—like the romantic scene in which Elisa fills up her bathroom with water.” Depending on how you feel about pigeons (and/or interspecies sex), they potentially just got a little grosser.