Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López
Plot: In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she's a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.
Guillermo del Toro repeatedly said "no" to Hollywood producers, in spite of being offered double the budget provided the film was made in English. He didn't want any compromise in the storyline to suit the "market needs".
Guillermo del Toro is famous for compiling books full of notes and drawings about his ideas before turning them into films, something he regards as essential to the process. He left years worth of notes for this film in the back of a cab, and when he discovered them missing, he thought it was the end of the project. However, the cab driver found them and, realizing their importance, tracked him down and returned them at great personal difficulty and expense. Del Toro was convinced that this was a blessing and it made him ever more determined to complete the film.
The English subtitles were translated and written by Guillermo del Toro himself. He no longer trusts translators after having encountered problems with his previous subtitled movies.
Stephen King attended a screening of the film and sat next to Guillermo del Toro. According to Del Toro, King squirmed when the Pale Man chased Ofelia. Del Toro compared the experience of seeing King's reaction to winning an Oscar.
It has been said that, for the fairy eating scene, Doug Jones had to bite condoms filled with fake blood.
The faun's legs were not computer-generated. Guillermo del Toro created a special system in which the actor's legs puppeteer the faun's fake ones. The actor's legs were later digitally removed.
It took five hours for Doug Jones to get into The Pale Man costume. Once he was in it, he had to look out the nose holes to see where he was going.
Ivana Baquero was too old to play the lead part originally written for an eight- or nine-year-old, but Guillermo del Toro was so impressed that he revised it to accommodate the then 11-year-old actress.
While some viewers believe Ofelia's eating the grapes in the Pale Man's den to be something of a "too dumb to live" moment for the young heroine, it would actually seem to be a reference to what turns out to be her ultimate virtue: Courageous disobedience. According to Guillermo del Toro this theme is why the movie is set against the backdrop of falangist Spain (where disobeying the fascist regime was dangerous), and the final test of character for the princess confirms the importance of disobedience as well. It may also be a reference to the Narnia story "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in which the protagonists encounter en enchanted feast which remains fresh, delicious and tempting forever, but from which one should not eat. Finally, of course, Ofelia hadn't eaten for a day, and was likely very hungry, which probably didn't help.
On disc 2 of the Platinum Series DVD, Guillermo del Toro points out that he intentionally placed "Faun" references throughout the movie, the most obvious examples being seen at the entrance to the labyrinth and in the shape of the tree of the Giant Toad.
Also on the supplementary disc of the Platinum Series DVD, Guillermo del Toro indicates that the film is quilted with a pattern of three's. He mentions that this was intentionally done so as to evoke a greater sense of fairy tales and mythological traditions, both of which typically feature a hero or heroine existing amongst three's; for instance, "the three tasks".
Proposed as the middle film in a trilogy about the Spanish Civil War. This would make The Devil's Backbone (2001) the first film in the series. As of 2016, Guillermo del Toro has no immediate plans (or indeed time in his schedule) to start work on the third film.
The fauna in the movie was inspired by a lucid dream Guillermo del Toro repeatedly had when he was a child.
Doug Jones' faun horns weighed 10 pounds and had to be applied last as they were so heavy.
Guillermo del Toro has compared the rebels in the forest to the woodsman in Red Riding Hood.
The pale man character was heavily influenced by Goya's painting 'Saturn Devouring his Son'.