One of the most challenging aspects of bringing the creature in The Shape of Water to life was coming up with the sounds it made. Guillermo del Toro’s sound supervisors layered in effects like swan vocalizations and water gurgling to get the desired texture of the creature’s “voice,” but one of the most important contributions came from the director himself.

When Nathan Robitaille, the film's supervising sound editor, spoke to Vanity Fair recently, he revealed that when he heard del Toro’s signature raspy delivery while giving directions on set, he knew the director’s breaths were the missing piece of the puzzle.

Once we got [del Toro] into the studio, it was obvious pretty fast that the most beautiful texture was coming from his breathing. So I started harvesting his breaths that I got between takes and glued everything together.

You can hear those breaths most clearly when Eliza (Sally Hawkins) is rushing the gasping creature into her apartment and into her bathtub filled with water.

Robitaille also provided some of the sounds himself, once he felt he’d gotten the tone of the character right. Other sounds used were “animal sweeteners” like a swan hissing during Eliza and the creature’s first meeting, water gurgles for the sound of his gills, and pigeons cooing during more tender, romantic moments.

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