Guillermo del Toro was the beau of the ball at the 2018 Academy Awards, with his widely adored fantastical romance The Shape of Water winning four Oscars, including the night's top two prizes: Best Picture and Best Director.
For his next act, del Toro gets decidedly darker, adapting William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley, a noir thriller starring Bradley Cooper as a carny mentalist who scams his way into high-society 1940s Buffalo, N.Y. The star-studded ensemble also includes Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Richard Jenkins, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, David Strathairn and longtime del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment (watch above), the acclaimed Mexican says his Oscars triumph didn't any mean there would be any added pressure in trying to follow it up.
"Quite the opposite," he tells us. "I said, 'I'm gonna try something different, rather than trying to repeat things. When you do that, you lose expectation. You go, 'I'm gonna do this, let's see how it goes.' Noir is not a genre that is en vogue, but I felt it was gonna be cinematic and grand and a spectacle, which I welcome on the big screen… so hopefully we chose right for the audience and we chose right for the story. The rest is such a confluence of dominoes that you cannot anticipate."
del Toro is one of the few filmmakers in Hollywood that can probably lure nearly almost any actor into his fold. Case in point: When Leonardo DiCaprio dropped out of Nightmare Alley, he was quickly replaced by four-time acting Oscar nominee Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper, A Star Is Born), who also directed A Star Is Born.
"This guy is a tremendous actor, right up there with anyone you want to work with," del Toro says. "And at the same time this is an incredibly intelligent collaborator. A really great guy all around, a really good human being."
In crafting yet another film with visually stunning production design, del Toro returns to Buffalo for the second time after another period piece, 2015's Crimson Peak. Though unlike with Crimson Peak, del Toro was able to shoot on-location in New York's historic second largest city.
"First of all, the life in Buffalo is fantastic in terms of the cultural scene. The food scene is fantastic. Two things that are very important for me," del Toro says. "You cannot find a better film office in the world. And it's basically a sampler of every style of architecture in the 20th century. You want to set it in the 1900s, the 1800s even… You want [art] deco. You want classical architecture from 1940. You get everything. It's effortless to make a period picture there."
Nightmare Alley is currently playing.
Watch the trailer:
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Steve Michel