Guillermo del Toro’s Behavior in his Father’s Kidnapping Makes Sam Nunberg Look Like a Wimp

Yesterday as Sam Nunberg made the talk-show rounds with his refusal to obey Robert Mueller’s subpoena to hand over his emails with Trump and various campaign aides, one excuse for his behavior rang out as the lamest of all. Towards the end of his appearance on The Beat with Ari Melber, he mentioned that he didn’t have “80 hours” to spend going over emails to give them. “You’d rather spent a year in jail than 80 hours going over emails?” lawyer Maya Wiley asked. “I’m not going to jail!” he defiantly retorted, sounding like an actor who bombs an audition and ends by going, “Nailed it!”

Guillermo del Toro, who won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for The Shape of Water this weekend, has an illuminating story that illustrates just how lazy and idiotic this is. 

In 1997, his del Toro’s father, Federico, was kidnapped and held for ransom for 72 days. The Mexican director told film critic Matt Zoller Seitz about it in Seitz’s book, Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone, where he recalled how he and his brother had to make copies of every dollar bill in the ransom:

Guillermo: My brother and I, for example, were told: “You need to photocopy every single bill of the ransom, to have the serial numbers, because the IRS will tax you for that money if you don’t prove that it was delivered as ransom.” So my brother and I go to pick up the…payment, which is another half a million, and we go to the bank, and the guy goes, “I’m going to give it to you in all in fives and ones!” 

M: Why? Was he just being a jerk?

G: No, he said, “That’s what we have.” And we go, “OK.” So my brother and I come out of a subterranean vault in Guadalajara with a suitcase full of money,, and I said, “Where are we going to photocopy this?”

M: You walk into Kinko’s with crates full of cash?

G: No, we went to Home Depot and bought a photocopier and took it home with us. We went home and we took turns photocopying the money. Both of us had a 9mm gun. One of us would be be by the door with a 9mm, and the other would be in a room with the other 9mm photocopying the money. We took turns photocopying ten thousand dollars each while the other guy stood at the door. I tell you, it took two days, nonstop, to photocopy half a million in one and five dollar bills. Seventy-two days this went on.

If del Toro can spend two days photocopying dollar bills to save his father’s life in the midst of 72 days of hell, then surely Sam Nunberg can spend 80 hours going through emails to avoid several years in a federal prison. He’s already losing precious time making a spectacle of himself on national television, so he had better get some perspective — and quickly. 

Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.