Guillermo del Toro, the famous Mexican director of horror, science-fiction, and supernatural films, enters the Oscar race with his first thriller noir, The Alley of Horror (Nightmare Alley), nominated by the American Film Academy in 4 categories.
Charismatic unlucky Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) falls in love with clairvoyant Zeena (Toni Collette) and her husband Pete (David Strathairn) at a traveling carnival and takes full advantage of the newly acquired knowledge to swindle the wealthy New York elite ’40.
With the virtuoso Molly (Rooney Mara) by his side, Stanton plots to deceive a dangerous tycoon (Richard Jenkins) with the help of a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who could be his most formidable opponent to date.
Searchlight Pictures presents a production of Double Dare You, a film directed by Guillermo del Toro, based on a screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan, adapted from the novel by William Lindsay Gresham.
The cast includes Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn. Producers are Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale, and Bradley Cooper.
Darkness awaits those who seek it
“I was very interested in a story about destiny and humanity. Stanton Carlisle is a man who is offered everything to change his life. He has people who believe in him, who love him and trust him. However, his desire and pride are so strong that it takes him away from it, ”says Guillermo del Toro.
Through the film Nightmare Alley, the visionary storyteller Guillermo del Toro ventures into the dark, comprehensive and realistic world of noir. The film moves from the circle of a traveling carnival in the 1930s, a land of shocks and wonders, to the halls of wealth and power where seduction and betrayal live. And at the heart of the story is a man who sells his soul in the art of scams. This is Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a thug who turns into an amazing showman and manipulator so good that he comes to believe that he can overcome his fate. As Stanton enjoys his delirious ascent, del Toro follows the story of a derailed American reckless dream.
Del Toro’s film is based on William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel about a charismatic swindler consumed by his uncontrolled ambition. Naturally drawn to the macabre and deeply human world of carnival performances, del Toro saw Gresham’s novel as autobiographical and wanted to explore a fine-grained story bordering on illusion and reality, despair and control, success and tragedy. . And it sounded the alarm about the dark side of American capitalism.
In the new production, Del Toro teams up with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, production designer Tamara Deverell, costume designer Luis Sequeira and editor Cameron McLauchlin Nightmare Alley. With a character hovering on the edge, a sharper edge than in any movie he made, Del Toro, Nightmare Alley is a true hot story about murder, betrayal, and well-deserved punishment. Del Toro’s genius is seen in the fact that even in its darkest corners the story reveals deep humanity.
The director says that this is how he wanted to expand the film in new directions. “This is the first of my films that, although it has a magical atmosphere, is not mannered or stylized. It is placed in a reality that is identifiable and immediate “, he says.
Fate and karma
“Nightmare Alley is moving away from the fantastic elements that Guillermo is known for,” adds del Toro’s frequent collaborator, producer J. Miles Dale. “But he brings to this new territory all his skills as a storyteller and his cinematic skills. Finally, the film tells the story of a man raised on his own karma. One of the strongest themes of the film is that no man can surpass himself and advance his fate. ”
There are many layers of storytelling in the film, including corruption, vice, lust, betrayal, and cosmic absurdity that build as Stanton learns to cynically take advantage of the human need to believe in something outside of our world. However, del Toro does not rely on the visual aspects of the noir genre, maintaining the speed of the story, as Stanton’s life becomes a torturous circle. Del Toro says: “I wanted to tell a classic story in a very lively and contemporary way. I wanted people to feel like they were watching a story that was relevant to our world. ”
Indeed, in its visceral realism, the film captures the urgency of a moral fable – a due bill of fate, structured to end in an explosion. “When the audience is part of a person’s ascension story, their biggest fear is decay, and that fall can be very emotional,” says del Toro.
Cate Blanchett, who brings a mixture of strength and warmth as the film’s fatal woman – the brilliant and vengeful psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter – was drawn to these strong emotions. She sees the story as a warning, both classy and about psychological demons and how contempt and fear can destroy everything, even love.
“Nightmare Alley is about fear, greed, and manipulation. It has all the dark foundations of what appears to be a very polite society. The carnival world may have some tricks and deception, but it has the heart of a real community. The high society in this film is much more threatening and terrifying, ”adds Blanchett.
Filming for the ambitious project began in force in 2020. But the pandemic stopped production in March 2020. “I had no idea how long we would be gone days, weeks, or months, but for everyone’s safety we had to stop everything,” says Del Toro.
But the commitment to the film was very strong. “All the sets, props, and lights stayed in that dark studio for almost six months, until we resumed filming in mid-September,” said producer Dale. “The carnival, which had already been built, for the most part, was spent in the spring and summer, aging authentically in the sun and rain. And we resumed exactly where we left off. ”
And time away from the studio helped del Toro define even more clearly Stanton Carlisle’s journey into the abyss. “During the break, the project actually became much more deeply rooted in us and we were able to analyze the characters and start the editing process,” he says.
Adapting a nightmare
Stanton Carlisle begins as a nobody, a man who has given up his troubled past and is so desperate to break away from his origins that he decides to join a traveling carnival. No questions asked here, and no one cares who you were before. Stanton’s rise to the carnival troupe continues in the upper echelons of American society, all against the backdrop of the Great Depression in America.
Del Toro was captivated by this world of human contrasts and wanted to go deeper. “Carnival is an incredibly united, hermetic society. It is a place where people keep their secrets and many get rid of a criminal life or a past that they had to leave behind. And yet, they form a strong society. It’s almost like a microcosm of the world. Everyone is there to scam everyone. But at the same time, they know they need each other and they protect each other. ”