According to Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera, Guillermo del Toro would have returned to the Lido with new directorial effort “Nightmare Alley” had he been able to finish the movie in time. Barbera confirmed to Variety that del Toro was “racing against the clock” to finish the movie in time for a Venice Film Festival world premiere. Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” won the 2017 festival on its way to Oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Director, and more. Del Toro then presided over the 2018 jury, which gave the Golden Lion to Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma.”
“Guillermo wanted to return to Venice after ‘The Shape of Water’ [which won the 2017 Golden Lion] and having been president of the jury the following year,” Barbera said. “He was literally racing against the clock to finish the film in time. Up until a week ago, he hoped to still make it, though Searchlight had already realized it was impossible, because they still have to record some of the music and do other post production work.”
Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” is adapted by the filmmaker and Kim Morgan from the 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name. The ensemble cast includes Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, and David Strathairn. The film originally eyed a release in 2020, but pandemic-related production delays bumped it to 2021. Cooper stars as an ambitious carnival worker with a talent for manipulating people with his words. His character falls in love with a mysterious psychiatrist (Blanchett) who proves far more dangerous than he could ever imagine.
Had “Nightmare Alley” been finished in time, it would have followed the same exact trajectory as “The Shape of Water.” Both films are backed by Searchlight Pictures. The distributor debuted “The Shape of Water” at Venice and held the film for release until the first week of December. “Nightmare Alley” opens December 3. The Telluride Film Festival is starting just a day after Venice this year, which means “Nightmare Alley” won’t be ready for Telluride either. The New York Film Festival starts a few weeks later on September 24, but that might also be a tight turnaround for del Toro.
This year’s Venice Film Festival runs Wednesday, September 1 through Saturday, September 11. Films in competition include Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer,” Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” and Paul Schrader’s “The Card Counter.” See the full lineup for Venice 2021 here.