TORONTO – As Guillermo del Toro’s merman romance “The Shape of Water” swims with the frontrunners this awards season, a Toronto producer who worked on the film is getting a big moment in the spotlight.
J. Miles Dale has been working the red carpet for the Cold War-era fantastical film, which was shot in Hamilton and Toronto and stars Sally Hawkins as a mute janitor who bonds with an amphibian creature (played by Doug Jones) in a secret government facility.
At Saturday’s Producers Guild Awards, Dale stepped onstage with star Richard Jenkins to accept the top trophy — the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures (Del Toro was with his ailing father in Mexico and couldn’t be at the gala).
Here’s a look at Dale, whose other credits include the films “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” and TV’s “The Strain” and “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments”:
Dale, 57, was born in Toronto and grew up largely in the city, where he attended Bayview Glen School. His British-born father, celebrated jazz musician Jimmy Dale, was a musical director for CBC-TV.
Dale’s father relocated the family to Los Angeles for a period of time in the late ’60s, to work on shows including “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The Andy Williams Show” and “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.” The family then returned to Toronto in the 1970s, where Dale attended Jarvis Collegiate followed by the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia.
With his long and diverse list of credits, it’s easy to see why Dale was the right fit to work on “The Shape of Water, which spans many genres.
“Guillermo, I think people think he’s more genre than he really is,” Dale said in an interview Monday.
“It’s the same thing with me. I don’t like to put anything in a box.”
Dale got his start as a producer largely in the TV world, with credits including “RoboCop” and “F/X: The Series.” Dale then focused largely on films, with other titles including “Pontypool,” “Love Happens,” “The Vow” and 2013’s “Carrie.”
Dale and del Toro first worked together on the 2013 film “Mama.” A year later they launched “The Strain,” a horror drama series that was shot in Toronto. They ended up borrowing some of the sets and other elements from the series to use on “The Shape of Water.”
CREATING “THE SHAPE OF WATER”
Dale said one of the big reasons they wanted to shoot “The Shape of Water” in Toronto and Hamilton was because of the ability to use stages and the crew from “The Strain.”
He and del Toro, who divides his time between Toronto and Los Angeles, also enjoyed being able to go home at the end of the work day.
The sensual film — which also stars Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon — got its awe-inspiring visual effects from Toronto digital studio Mr. X.
In a press conference at September’s Toronto International Film Festival, del Toro called Dale “one of the greatest partners I’ve ever had.”
Dale admitted it was a challenging shoot, noting they had to reach beyond their means.
“I think that very often producers will have their own agenda, and my agenda is really the movie,” Dale told The Canadian Press.
“I think you have to support the vision and you have to be a good second opinion, and when you think there’s something crazy that’s happening, you’ve got to be there with a sober voice.
“But as long as it’s all through the filter of what’s best for the movie and supporting the director’s vision, that’s the important thing, and I just think (del Toro) feels that with me — that I do my best to protect the movie in any decision that I make.”