Back in April, we reported that Leonardo DiCaprio was in talks to lead Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of Nightmare Alley. Previously adapted in 1947, the William Lindsay Gresham novel revolves around “an ambitious young con-man who teams up with a female psychiatrist who is even more corrupt than he is. At first, they enjoy success fleecing people with their mentalist act, but then she turns the tables on him, out-manipulating the manipulator.” Del Toro wrote the script with Kim Morgan.
Now it looks like DiCaprio is out after failing to reach a deal on the project, and now Bradley Cooper is in early talks to star. Per Variety, “Sources say Cooper recently received an offer and while it’s currently unclear if a deal will close, sources indicate both sides have engaged in talks.” No matter how it turns out, it’s clear that Del Toro is looking to land an A-lister for the project, and given his clout coming off The Shape of Water, he shouldn’t have any problem landing one. If Cooper does sign on, it should be an exciting pairing. Cooper is no stranger to thrillers or horror, but del Toro is on a unique wavelength, and it’s interesting that he decided to make Nightmare Alley his follow-up to The Shape of Water (I was hoping he would take one more stab at At the Mountains of Madness, but alas).
As for Cooper, he should be an Oscar-winner in his own right if Warner Bros. hadn’t massively botched the campaign for A Star Is Born. However, that film did gross more than $400 million worldwide, so it’s not like Cooper is going to be prevented from directing more movies. He’s currently developing Bernstein, a Leonard Bernstein biopic that he plans to star in and direct. But while development on that project continues, Nightmare Alley aims to start shooting this fall.