Oh no. After receiving 13 Oscar nominations, Guillermo del Toro’s latest work might be in trouble. The estate of Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel has accused the film of using the late writer’s work without proper credit.
“We are shocked that a major studio could make a film so obviously derived from my late father’s work without anyone recognizing it and coming to us for the rights,” David Zindel, the writer’s son, told The Guardian.
Zindel is referring to his father’s 1969 short play, “Let Me Hear You Whisper”. It tells the story of a female janitor in a research laboratory who bonds with a captive aquatic creature and helps it escape. It does sound very similar to “The Shape of Water”. But according to several interviews, the film was based on an original idea between author Daniel Kraus and Del Toro, who developed the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor.
How do both works compare? Observations all over the internet found a lot in common between both stories, but there are also some essential differences.
- Both stories feature a female cleaner working the night shift at a military lab who falls for an aquatic creature.
- Both women gain the creature’s trust by bringing food to it.
- Dancing to love songs while cleaning with a mop.
- They both sneak the creature out in a laundry cart with the help of a fellow janitor friend.
- Elisa, Del Toro’s protagonist, is mute.
- “The Shape of Water” features another prominent character, Giles, who also serves as narrator.
- In “The Shape of Water” the creature is an amphibian-like man, while Zindel’s is a dolphin.
- Del Toro’s story has a fantasy-toned ending.
The Mexican director has been open about his creative process and inspiration from other works, such as “Creature From the Black Lagoon”. As for the studio, Fox Searchlight has stated that Del Toro has never seen Mr. Zindel’s play, and that during his 25-year career he has “always been very open about acknowledging his influences.” While both works share a broad concept and specific plot points, we’re hoping the similarities are nothing but coincidence.