Guillermo Del Toro’s next film, Nightmare Alley, has earned an R-rating from the MPAA for “strong/bloody violence, some sexual content, nudity and language.” Nightmare Alley will be his first film since The Shape of Water, which won Best Picture and Best Director at the 2018 Academy Awards. Production on the film wrapped in December 2020 after it was shut down for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We got to see these characters, when [Cooper’s Stanton Carlisle] was full of himself and arrogant and certain and seeking,” Guillermo del Toro told Indiewire. “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.”
Nightmare Alley is an adaptation of a novel by William Lindsay Gresham published in 1946. The story centers around the world of showbiz and its sleazy inhabitants. The novel has been adapted before, with a film in 1947 starring Tyrone Power and directed by Edmund Goulding.
The synopsis for Nightmare Alley reads as: “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.”
Del Toro has recruited an all-star cast for the film. Nightmare Alley stars Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mare, Ron Perlman, and Toni Collette. Michael Shannon was set to appear in this film as well, but had to drop out due to “scheduling conflicts” and has been replaced by David Strathaim. Shannon’s leave is not the only setback the film has encountered as a stall in filming also had stunted the project.
In addition to directing, Del Toro also co-wrote the script with Kim Morgan. He’s also co-producing the film alongside frequent collaborator J. Miles Dale.
Fans of Del Toro should find this R-rating to not be much of a surprise. Many of his films have been rated R before including The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Crimson Peak. These films featured plenty of violence, sex, and disturbing imagery. Even his PG-13 films like Pacific Rim, Blade II, and Hellboy featured plenty of violence and imagery that may have been a few curse words away from garnering an R-rating.
According to Collider, Del Toro has made it clear that this adaptation of Nightmare Alley will be “unique adaptation of Gresham’s novel rather than a remake of Goulding’s film.” Knowing how Del Toro usually tends to go darker, yet more creative, we can expect Nightmare Alley to be a shocking thriller filled with violence and beautifully disturbing imagery. The film in total took two and a half years to complete so Del Toro has had plenty of time to think things through and perfect his craft.
Audiences can enjoy whatever craziness Del Toro is delivering to us when Nightmare Alley is released in theaters by Searchlight Pictures in December 2021. A perfect film for the holidays, but maybe not for the whole family.