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Nightmare Alley

Release date: December 17, 2021
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan
Produced by: Searchlight Pictures
Running time: 150 minutes

When charismatic but down-on-his-luck Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) endears himself to clairvoyant Zeena (Toni Collette) and her has-been mentalist husband Pete (David Strathairn) at a traveling carnival, he crafts a golden ticket to success, using this newly acquired knowledge to grift the wealthy elite of 1940s New York society. With the virtuous Molly (Rooney Mara) loyally by his side, Stanton plots to con a dangerous tycoon (Richard Jenkins) with the aid of a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who might be his most formidable opponent yet.

Cast & Characters

Bradley Cooper (Stanton ‘Stan’ Carlisle), Cate Blanchett (Lilith Ritter), Toni Collette (Zeena Krumbein), Rooney Mara (Molly), Willem Dafoe (Clem Hoately), Mary Steenburgen (Miss Harrington), Ron Perlman (Bruno), Tim Blake Nelson (Carny Boss), Richard Jenkins (Ezra Grindle), David Strathairn (Pete Krumbein), Holt McCallany (Anderson), Jim Beaver (Sheriff Jedediah Judd), David Hewlett (Dr. Elrood), Lara Jean Chorostecki (Louise)

Production Notes

The book had previously been adapted in 1947, shortly after its publication, as a passion project for 20th Century Fox star Tyrone Power. It was Ron Perlman, Guillermo del Toro’s long-time collaborator, who first mooted the notion of remaking the movie when they met on the set of del Toro’s debut, “Cronos”, in 1992. But with the rights tied up at Fox, the young del Toro’s desire to return to the source novel for a new adaptation faltered before it ever took flight. Nearly 30 years later, it was Kim Morgan who brought the project back up, suggesting now might be the time to take another stab, particularly in the aftermath of del Toro’s success with former Fox division Searchlight Pictures on “The Shape of Water”.

It took nearly two full years since del Toro started shooting “Nightmare Alley”. That disruption, of course, was a global pandemic that shut down production in March 2020. While “Nightmare Alley” became the first major Canadian production to return, it would take six months to do so. It was a disruption, del Toro, producer J. Miles Dale, and star and producer Bradley Cooper tell Deadline, that ultimately allowed them to deepen their understanding of the picture they were making and return with fresh ideas. Cooper lost weight to play a scrawnier version of his character in the first half of the movie (they’d started by filming the second half) and del Toro refined the edit to clarify exactly what he would need when production resumed.

Awards & Nominations

☆   AARP Movies for Grownups Award – Best Ensemble
☆   Houston Film Critics Society Award – Best Ensemble Cast