‘Nightmare Alley’ director Guillermo del Toro reveals what Bradley Cooper taught him – Daily News

Nearly 30 years ago, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and actor Ron Perlman were discussing films to make or remake, and that conversation eventually led to William Lindsay Gresham’s 1947 novel “Nightmare Alley.” And though it took a few decades, del Toro and co-writer Kim Morgan finally brought the movie to life.

The film tells the story of Stanton Carlisle, a man who buries dark family secrets and creates a new life as a carny. Amidst this rough and unforgiving world, he finds friends, and even love, but he’s mostly interested in finding shortcuts to success. Once he does make it, he ditches the carnival for life as a big city showman who can accumulate wealth and power by hustling rich people desperate to believe in what he’s selling. Of course, complications ensue and there’s a steep price to be paid for the wreckage he leaves in his wake. 

“Everything is constructed as prologue for the end of the movie when he is given a mirror and shown, ‘This is who you are,” del Toro says of the noir-ish tragedy he has created.

Bradley Cooper brings his charisma to Carlisle, but del Toro has also assembled an impressive cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, and David Strathairn as well as Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, Tim Blake Nelson and Holt McCallany in smaller roles. 

The director spoke by phone recently about creating a tragedy with an unlikeable protagonist and how this film taught him new lessons. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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