Nightmare Alley (2021)


Nightmare Alley (2021)

An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.
IMDb   N/A
Director Guillermo del Toro
Writer William Lindsay Gresham
Writer Kim Morgan
Writer Guillermo del Toro
Release Date2021-12-02
GenreDrama, Thriller
Content Rating
CompanyFox Searchlight Pictures
Lilith Ritteras Lilith Ritter
Brunoas Bruno
Stanton 'Stan' Carlisleas Stanton 'Stan' Carlisle
Zeena Krumbeinas Zeena Krumbein
Mollyas Molly
Andersonas Anderson
Clem Hoatelyas Clem Hoately
Miss Harringtonas Miss Harrington
Pete Krumbeinas Pete Krumbein
Ezra Grindleas Ezra Grindle
Carny Bossas Carny Boss
Sheriff Jedediah Juddas Sheriff Jedediah Judd
Dr. Elroodas Dr. Elrood
Fee Fee the Birdgirlas Fee Fee the Birdgirl
Humphriesas Humphries

Nightmare Alley (2021 film)

Nightmare Alley is an upcoming American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Guillermo del Toro with a screenplay by del Toro and Kim Morgan, based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham. The film features an ensemble cast including Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn. It is the second feature film adaptation of Gresham's novel, following the 1947 version.

Nightmare Alley will have its world premiere at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles in late 2021, and is scheduled to be released theatrically in the United States on December 17, 2021, by Searchlight Pictures.


Stan Carlisle, an ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words, hooks up with Dr. Lilith Ritter, a psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.— Searchlight Pictures


  • Bradley Cooper as Stanton "Stan" Carlisle
  • Cate Blanchett as Dr. Lilith Ritter
  • Toni Collette as Zeena Krumbein
  • Willem Dafoe as Clem Hoately
  • Richard Jenkins as Ezra Grindle
  • Rooney Mara as Molly Cahill
  • Ron Perlman as Bruno
  • Mary Steenburgen as Miss Harrington
  • David Strathairn as Pete Krumbein
  • Holt McCallany as Anderson
  • Clifton Collins Jr.
  • Tim Blake Nelson as Carny Boss
  • Jim Beaver as Sheriff Jedediah Judd
  • Mark Povinelli as The Major
  • Romina Power
  • Paul Anderson
  • David Hewlett as Dr. Elrood



The project was announced in December 2017, when Guillermo del Toro revealed that he would be attached to write and direct a film adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham's 1946 novel. The film marks a departure for del Toro, as it contains no "supernatural" elements, as opposed to his previous films, including The Shape of Water (2017) and Crimson Peak (2015). Del Toro considered this to be a stand-alone adaptation of Gresham's novel, as opposed to a remake of the 1947 film version starring Tyrone Power. Del Toro stated: "Well what it is is that book was given to me in 1992 by Ron Perlman before I saw the Tyrone Power movie, and I loved the book. My adaptation that I’ve done with Kim Morgan is not necessarily—the entire book is impossible, it's a saga. But there are elements that are darker in the book, and it's the first chance I have—in my short films I wanted to do noir. It was horror and noir. And now is the first chance I have to do a real underbelly of society type of movie. no supernatural elements. Just a straight, really dark story." Del Toro also revealed that the film would be given an R-rating: "big R. Double R!"

In April 2019, Leonardo DiCaprio entered negotiations to star in the film. Dan Laustsen and Alexandre Desplat were announced to serve as the film's cinematographer and composer, respectively, both having previously collaborated with del Toro in The Shape of Water.


In June 2019, Bradley Cooper entered early negotiations to replace DiCaprio. Del Toro stated that he and Cooper quickly connected with each other when del Toro met Cooper in Cooper's house to discuss the role: "We started talking script and then this started mirroring our thoughts about life and the way we viewed the world. We entered strange, darker times that led to 'Nightmare Alley' for me, and way I view the world." Del Toro also believed that Cooper's experience as a director helped strengthen their connection, stating, "A director is an actor and an actor is a director. There is no separation of the craft...that took awhile for me to get used to. I normally create and guide these little Fabergé eggs of movies, obsessively detailed. All of a sudden we were on an adventure. I will never shoot a movie the same way." Del Toro further discussed his collaborative relationship with Cooper while filming:

Curiosity and integrity are the two things, they are very bonded We're like truffle hunters, smelling for that, looking for certain truth, not verisimilitude or realism but truth which is a higher form of telling a story. How we get to it is only through curiosity. When we have collaborators, the main reward is a point of view that you can literally bounce off, or get bounced off, and seek for the truth…I found it a blessing at age 56 in this movie to find the marvel of complicity and curiosity. "Is this all we can do with that scene, with that shot?" You keep seeking.

In August 2019, Cate Blanchett was in negotiations to join the film. Both Cooper and Blanchett were confirmed to star the next month, along with the addition of Rooney Mara. Toni Collette and David Strathairn were added in September, with Strathairn replacing Michael Shannon who dropped out due to "scheduling conflicts." Collette praised del Toro's capabilities as a director, and described the film as a "period drama" and "unlike some of his other work." Willem Dafoe was cast in October and Holt McCallany would join the next month. Ron Perlman and Richard Jenkins were both confirmed in January 2020. In February 2020, Mary Steenburgen and Romina Power joined the cast of the film. In March 2020, Paul Anderson joined the cast of the film.


Principal photography began in January 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Production temporarily moved to Buffalo, New York in February 2020, in order for del Toro to take advantage of the city's architecture and unfamiliar setting: "I wanted to find a city that was really interesting to visit for an audience, that was not a city they were overtly familiar with." Scenes were filmed in and outside of Buffalo's Niagara Square and City Hall, and required the use of fake snow, much to the surprise of the crew, as Buffalo was widely known for its heavy snowfall during the winter season.

Principal photography was initially set to begin in September 2019, but was delayed to accommodate Cooper's schedule. "We shot the second half before the first half," Cooper revealed. "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.'" In March 2020, Del Toro himself shut down production on the film after rising concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic: "We stopped the shoot a week before That saved us. Nobody to my knowledge in the cast or the crew got coronavirus." Del Toro later reflected that "Stopping was not mandatory back then, but we both felt if we don't stop now and someone gets sick — we said, 'we gotta stop.' Nobody was expecting it. Everybody went to lunch and came back six months later." Disney officially halted production on the film soon after.

Del Toro revealed that when production was shut down, approximately 45% of the film was shot, and spent his time editing available footage during the hiatus. Del Toro also composed an 80-page safety precaution guideline to be used when production was to resume, which he was hoping to do in late 2020. Variety reported that Blanchett had completed her scenes prior to the shutdown.

Production resumed in September 2020 in Toronto. In an interview, Collette discussed some of the film's safety protocols: " I’ve got to say, I think, you couldn't get any safer than a film set. They're so regimented and disciplined and demanding in terms of having to toe the line and everyone does their best to not get it. You really are in a bubble and the whole of Toronto is in masks and you're just sanitizing your hands a million times a day and trying not to be in big crowds and you just have to be mindful of that. Especially when you're working, because there's a bigger risk there. It's not just you, it's everyone else, you know?" Collette also revealed that del Toro had shot almost four hours of footage. By November 2020, principal photography was completed and re-shoots had commenced. Production officially wrapped in December 2020.

Del Toro and Cooper reflected that the unexpected shooting schedule benefited the film's structure. Del Toro remarked that “It was a blessing 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 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.” Cooper further stated that “This movie needed that rigor. Thank god we had that time. As simple a story is, it demanded all our concentration and focus, all that time. I don't think we realized how much it demanded of us at the beginning. That was the discovery. There is arrogance. You think you can do it, then, ‘how is this possible?'”

Cooper further reflected on his relationship with del Toro over the course of filming:

We Nightmare Alley for the last two and a half years It was a unique experience, going through the pandemic, taking six months off and revisiting it. We not only become lifelong friends, but it was an artistic experience.


Nathan Johnson will compose the score for the film, after Alexandre Desplat exited due to scheduling conflicts.


It will hold its world premiere at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles in late 2021, followed by a theatrical release on December 17, 2021. It was originally scheduled for December 3, but was pushed back two weeks later to its current date.