Nightmare Alley: 6 Quick Things We Know About The Bradley Cooper Movie

Bradley Cooper in The Midnight Meat Train

Having conquered the world of big screen comedy, biographical dramas, comic book movies, and even starred in a few horror flicks, the next venture for Bradley Cooper is film noir, with none other than Guillermo del Toro as his guide. The celebrated visionary filmmaker cast the Academy Award-nominated A Star is Born actor as the lead of his next big project, Nightmare Alley, in 2019.

The mystery thriller, set in the 1940s, tells the story of a man named Stanton "Stan" Carlisle - Bradley Cooper’s character - who makes a living at a traveling carnival with his manipulative skills in mentalism. His ambition for greater glory eventually leads him to cross paths with Lilith Ritter (Oscar winner Cate Blanchett), a psychiatrist for the upper class with her own penchant for deceit.

The upcoming film will be many audiences’ introduction to this classic story of suspense, but it will not be the first time it has been told on the big screen. That being said, what is the legacy of Nightmare Alley and what else is there to know about it before it finally hits theaters? The answers will be revealed in the following collection of confirmed facts surrounding this anticipated production, starting with when we can expect to see it.

Scene of a dark alley from The Third Man

Nightmare Alley Is Set For A December 3, 2021, Release

Principal photography on Nightmare Alley first began in January 2020, but just two months later, it would join the club of countless Hollywood projects put on pause in the wake of Covid-19’s global outbreak. Disney, which owns the film’s distribution company Searchlight Pictures, would continue to keep the production on hold until the following September.

After it had initially finishing shooting in November 2020, followed by reshoots, Nightmare Alley officially wrapped on production on December 12, 2020. By then, it was scheduled to hit theaters nearly a year later - specifically on Friday, December 3, 2021.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol

Bradley Cooper Is Joined By A Star-Studded Cast For Nightmare Alley

Before Bradley Cooper got the part of deceptive carny Stan Carlisle, Leonardo DiCaprio was in talks to lead the cast of Nightmare Alley in early 2019 before scheduling conflicts forced him to abandon the project. Cooper’s stepping in was confirmed the following September, along with Cate Blanchett as Lilith Ritter, and her Carol co-star Rooney Mara as Molly Cahill.

That same month, in another instance of casting replacements for the project, David Strathairn took over Michael Shannon’s original role of Pete Krumbein, while Toni Collette was announced as his carnival performer wife, Zeena, followed by Willem Dafoe’s inclusion that October and Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany the next month. Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson, veteran Italian actress and singer Romina Power, and Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen all joined the cast of Nightmare Alley during the first few months of shooting, following the January 2020 additions of The Shape of Water’s Richard Jenkins and Ron Perlman, who has an extensive history with the director.

Doug Jones in The Shape of Water

Guillermo Del Toro Makes A Long Awaited Directorial Return With Nightmare Alley

It was announced that Guillermo del Toro would be directing Nightmare Alley while he was still riding high on the widespread acclaim for The Shape of Water in December 2017. The romantic fantasy, which earned the 56-year-old, Mexican-born filmmaker Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, was actually the last movie for which he was at the helm.

Of course, the man has still been keeping busy since, directing episodes of his trilogy of animated Tales of Arcadia series on Netflix or producing films like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the 2018 sequel to Pacific Rim, or the completed but not-yet released horror film Antlers, for instance. He will follow-up Nightmare Alley as co-director of a dark, stop-motion take on Pinocchio (which has been in and out of development hell since 2008) and a documentary profiling the career of Michael Mann that is currently untitled.

Kim Morgan on Media Mayhem

Guillermo Del Toro Co-Wrote The Screenplay With Movie Critic Kim Morgan

While he is not sharing the director’s chair this time, for Guillermo del Toro, penning the script for Nightmare Alley was not a solo effort. The famously collaborative talent had a co-screenwriter in the form of Kim Morgan, who is better known for her journalism background.

The film aficionado and critic has written for many notable entertainment-based publications, such as Sight & Sound and Playboy, and has also contributed to The Criterion Collection, presented films airing on Turner Classic Movies, and sat in for Roger Ebert as a guest on Ebert & Roeper in 2007. Nightmare Alley is Kim Morgan’s third screenwriting effort, but neither she nor Guillermo del Toro are the first to tell the story.

Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley Is The Second Film Adaptation Of A Novel

The inspiration for Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley is a book of the same, published in 1946. The bleak commentary on the seedy inhabitants of show business - complete with slimy schemers, femme fatales, and all the classic elements of noir - is the debut novel and best known work of American writer William Lindsay Gresham.

Just a year after its release, Nightmare Alley was adapted into a film by Twentieth Century Fox starring Tyrone Power (whose daughter, Romina, appears in the upcoming reinterpretation) in the role now held by Bradley Cooper. Guillermo del Toro has described his new version as not a remake of the 1947 picture, but a “re-adaptation,” which may likely be from his reputation for darkness.

Guillermo del Toro on Collider

Nightmare Alley Will Be Rated R, According to Guillermo Del Toro

If there was any question of just how dark Nightmare Alley could be, Guillermo del Toro has already made sure to set that record straight. While speaking to Collider in promotion of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, he mentioned how he had been a fan of the William Lindsay Gresham’s novel since the early ’90s. When asked if the film would be rated R, he assured that “double-R” would be a more fitting rating for the noir when he was a done.

While there likely should not have been any question of an R-rating for a traditional film noir from Guillermo del Toro, his promise does come with much reassurance, nonetheless. With the exception of Hellboy, I have always preferred his darker, more adult stories, such as Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone, believing them to match up with his vision more smoothly than his lighter efforts. That being said, with its mega-talented cast and heavy source material, it appears that we may be in for yet another Del Toro masterpiece with Nightmare Alley.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.