Alfonso Cuarón is a celebrated filmmaker at this point, largely thanks to his work on Gravity, which makes the fact that he made a Harry Potter movie—2004's Prisoner Of Azkaban—somewhat surprising. As it turns out, even Cuarón thought he was a weird choice to direct the film, since he had no familiarity with the series when the studio approached him for the job, but a heated conversation with his old buddy Guillermo del Toro straightened him out.
Cuarón told the story in a recent Vanity Fair profile, saying that he was initially dismissive when he told del Toro that he had been offered a chance to make the third Harry Potter movie. He says del Toro then got upset and called him a “fuckin’ flaco” (skinny in English), asking Cuarón if he had even read the books. Cuarón said that he had not, prompting del Toro to respond: “Fuckin’ skinny, you’re such a fuckin’ arrogant bastard. You are going right now to the fuckin’ bookshop and get the books and you’re going to read them and you call me right away.”
Evidently, Guillermo del Toro was a huge Harry Potter fan back in the day, and Cuarón says that he called del Toro once he got halfway through the third book and admitted that “the material’s really great.” Del Toro’s response was “untranslatable from Spanish,” and Cuarón says he learned an important lesson about humility from the experience—specifically that you have to be able to respect what people love about other movies rather than just blindly doing whatever you want.
The idea of humility also seems like it will come through in Cuarón’s next feature, the Netflix project Roma, which he tells Vanity Fair is a 90 percent autobiographical story. It’s based on the life of Cleo, a nanny who worked for his family, and how the “perverse relationship between class and race” impacted her life. His mom is also a character in the film, so telling the story required him to think of people like Cleo and his mom as real individuals instead of just his mom and his nanny.
Roma will be on Netflix later this year.