When you win Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, you’re afforded a certain degree of freedom in choosing your next film. That’s certainly been the case with Guillermo del Toro, whose tremendously crafted fantasy love story The Shape of Water won four Oscars in total in 2018. The filmmaker didn’t exactly rush into a project right after his awards run, and indeed even put aside a film he was working on before Shape of Water was released (a big-budget redo of Fantastic Voyage). It’s only been the last few months that we’ve learned what del Toro’s next project would be, and in some key ways the filmmaker reveals it’ll be a bit of a departure from his previous movies.
Del Toro is next set to direct a new adaptation of the 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel Nightmare Alley, and he’s currently hard at work assembling a cast anchored by Bradley Cooper. The story is full-on noir, chronicling the goings-on at a seedy second-rate carnival. Given the title, some may expect del Toro to be going back to his horror roots, but when Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke to the filmmaker at the press day for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (which he co-wrote and produced), del Toro revealed that it was actually the noir aspect of the story that drew him to it.
In discussing why he chose Nightmare Alley as his next project—at a time when he could probably choose just about anything (within reason) and get it made—del Toro revealed that his adaptation of Nightmare Alley doesn’t attempt to tackle the entire book, but instead zeroes in on its darker elements:
“Well what it is is that book was given to me in 1992 by Ron Perlman before I saw the Tyrone Power movie, and I loved the book. My adaptation that I’ve done with [co-writer] Kim Morgan is not necessarily—the entire book is impossible, it’s a saga. But there are elements that are darker in the book, and it’s the first chance I have—in my short films I wanted to do noir. It was horror and noir. And now is the first chance I have to do a real underbelly of society type of movie. [There are] no supernatural elements. Just a straight, really dark story.”
Asked if Nightmare Alley will be rated R, del Toro scoffed at the notion that the film would be PG-13, confirming it’ll be very R-rated:
“[Nightmare Alley will be a] big R. Double R!”
As for the notion that the film won’t include any supernatural elements, that’s a first for del Toro as a director. Every single one of his previous feature films contains some sort of supernatural element, be it ghosts, monsters, or vampires. With Nightmare Alley—as del Toro says here—the filmmaker is digging into a genre he’s been itching to tackle his entire career, and I personally cannot wait to see his version of a full-on noir.
Nightmare Alley is gearing up to start shooting in January with Fox Searchlight distributing, but no release date has been announced yet. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark opens in theaters on Friday, August 9th. Look for our full interview with del Toro and director Andre Øvredal on Collider tomorrow.