When you’re Guillermo del Toro and you’re making a new film that features a fish-like man (a merman, basically), there’s really only one guy for the job: Doug Jones. The famously prosthetic-friendly character actor has appeared in several del Toro projects, including Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Strain, and recently reunited with the filmmaker for his next film, The Shape of Water — in which he’ll play the merman, of course. Though the official synopsis is intentionally somewhat vague, Jones has revealed a few details to help fill in the blanks.

In a recent interview with Collider, Jones was quite chatty when it came to del Toro’s latest project, The Shape of Water, which co-stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer. The actor offered a fairly detailed description of the plot while confirming some old(er) rumors:

It’s a 1963 drama—it’s not a sci-fi [film], it’s not a genre film, but I am a creature in it. I’m a fish man that’s kind of a one-off. I’m an enigma, nobody knows where I came from; I’m the last of my species so I’m like a natural anomaly. And I’m being studied and tested in a U.S. government facility in 1963, so the Russian Cold War is on, the race for space is on, so there’s all that backdrop and that undercurrent. I’m being tested for how can they use me for advantages in military or space travel, or my technology—can we make this usable for humans? So they’re trying to keep me a secret from the Russians.


Meanwhile, there’s a love story that brews out of it, and that would be the cleaning lady played by Sally Hawkins. She comes and finds me, has sympathy on me, and then that’s the story that you’re really gonna follow with this whole backdrop.

That “genre” label might be up for debate. As for the rest, most of what Jones is describing here, including the bit with the cleaning lady, was originally rumored last May. (Not long after we ran a story about the plot, we received an email from a Fox Searchlight rep who insisted that those details were false.)

Del Toro recently finished filming The Shape of Water, and though it has yet to receive an official release date, Fox Searchlight is reportedly eyeing a late 2017 debut — just in time for awards season. The way Jones sees it, this one is a surefire Oscar contender:

It is artfully and beautifully [made]—if this doesn’t end up with Guillermo back at the Oscars, I will be surprised. I will be very surprised.

Don’t make Doug Jones surprised. You won’t like him when he’s surprised.

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