Guillermo del Toro is a master of horror, fantasy, and all things concerning monsters, which is why the first trailer for his latest directorial effort, “Nightmare Alley,” might come as a shock to his fans. Instead of going his traditional genre route, del Toro has instead crafted a full blown film noir for his follow-up to “The Shape of Water,” which grossed nearly $200 million worldwide and won the filmmaker his first Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. How do you follow an Oscars darling? If you’re del Toro, you take on one of Hollywood’s most iconic genres and put together the most star-studded ensemble cast of your career.
Here’s the “Nightmare Alley” cast del Toro has assembled: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, Holt McCallany, Clifton Collins Jr., Tim Blake Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn.
“Nightmare Alley” is based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham, which was previously adapted into Edmund Goulding’s 1947 noir of the same name starring Tyrone Power. In del Toro’s version, Bradley Cooper stars as a former carnival worker who becomes a popular nightclub performer. Using mind-reading tricks he learned from his carny life, Cooper’s Stanton Carlisle swindles millionaires out of money, but he meets his match in a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett’s Dr. Lilith Ritter) trying to expose him.
“Nightmare Alley” started shooting out of order, and from the start, rewriting was going on all the time. The production also got delayed by the pandemic and went on a six-month hiatus.
“We shot the second half before the first half,” Cooper revealed earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. “We didn’t want to do it that way. Things happened to us, with sets and other actors’ availability and water, the snow and all that. I was the cause. I had moved to New York and said, ‘I can’t do it right now. Let me get settled.’”
“It was a blessing,” added del Toro at the time. “I believe wholeheartedly life gives you what you need, not what you want. You have a window to look at everything. It was incredible. We got to see these characters, when [Cooper’s Stanton Carlisle] was full of himself and arrogant and certain and seeking. We were able to go back six months in between all this and were able to analyze and see not only that character but what we needed to rewrite to be able to go back to a set. If your pores are open, the movie finds you. Each movie tells you what it needs.”
Searchlight Pictures is set to release “Nightmare Alley” in theaters December 17. Watch the official trailer for del Toro’s latest in the video below.