Coming off Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director with The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro probably could have made anything. What he chose was Nightmare Alley, a noir thriller set at a carnival with the director’s most star-studded cast yet.
There’s Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, David Strathairn, and others in what del Toro assures audiences is not a supernatural film, despite the trailer and title strongly suggesting otherwise. “This has no supernatural element,” del Toro recently told Vanity Fair. “It’s based completely in a reality world. There is nothing fantastic. It’s a very different movie from my usual, but yes, the title and my name would create that [impression].”
Um, do you think? We do. Check out the trailer for Nightmare Alley.
The “man or beast” at the centre of Nightmare Alley is Cooper’s character, Stanton Carlisle. He’s a former carnival worker who uses the tricks he learned there to con millionaires out of their money by pretending he’s a mind reader. This, of course, does not go over well and gets the shady character into lots of trouble.
The movie is based on a 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham, which was famously made into another film soon after, in 1947. Del Toro (along with co-writer Kim Morgan) drew from the novel, not the movie, for this adaptation and was less enamoured with the full, complex story than the unique noir world it’s set in. “I wanted to do the universe of the novel, which is a little gritty, but also strangely magical. It has a very strange, mystical allure — and mythical. I was very attracted to that possibility,” he said.
Fox is opening Nightmare Alley in theatres only on December 17, clearly setting it up for another Guillermo del Toro awards run. Will this film noir with a very supernatural feel, even if it’s not actually supernatural, do the trick? We’d never bet against the man behind Pacific Rim, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone.