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Barry Levinson grateful for Baltimore shout-out with 'Shape of Water'

Director Barry Levinson, whose movies so impressed a young Guillermo del Toro that he paid homage to them by setting his Oscar-winning “The Shape of Water” in Baltimore, says that proves the universal appeal of movies and movie-making.

"Besides the entertainment value, what makes films such a fascinating form is how it connects us as a people throughout the world,” the Baltimore-born Levinson wrote in an email. “For a young boy from Mexico to be affected by stories about people in Baltimore, a city thousands of miles away, living a different life, speaking a different language, and yet to find a connection is gratifying or maybe a better word might be wonderful.”

Following Sunday night’s Oscars ceremony, del Toro said he set “The Shape of Water” in Baltimore as a nod to Levinson’s movies. “They’re all landmarks of American cinema,” he said, specifically citing “Diner,” “Tin Men” and “Avalon," all of which Levinson set and made in his hometown.

“When I was a kid I fell in love with one of the primal trilogies in cinema for me, Barry Levinson's Baltimore trilogy, you know, and I loved the setting,” del Toro explained. “And I know we screwed up with the accent, I'm very, very, very aware with that. But what I wanted was to capture that flavor. You know, it's such an interesting mixture, the Catholic, the industrial, how near it is to the ocean, all those things, and for me it was mythical.”

Levinson said the gesture caught him off guard.

"Obviously I am pleased that Del Toro mentioned the Baltimore films and certainly surprised," Levinson said.

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