Guillermo del Toro Writes For Empire: ‘Nightmare Alley Is The Most Difficult Movie I Ever Made’ – Exclusive

Nightmare Alley

by Guillermo del Toro |
Updated on

A new film by Guillermo del Toro is always something to savour – a filmmaker who straddles the line between arthouse fare and blockbuster thrills with ease, and whose bold, beautiful work swirls in genre traditions, gorgeous filmmaking, and an affinity for all things monstrous. His latest, Nightmare Alley, is no less special, but marks new territory for the director – a deep, dark noir thriller with no ghosts, ghouls, or supernatural elements, but all the rich atmosphere and captivating character-work you’d expect from the man who made it. At the centre of it is Bradley Cooper as Stanton ‘Stan’ Carlisle – a charismatic con-artist drifter who joins a carnival, reinvents himself as a clairvoyant, and bites off more than he can chew.

Coming off the back of the multiple-Oscar-winning The Shape Of Water, del Toro wasn’t going to take the easy route. As he writes exclusively in the latest issue ofEmpire, the making of Nightmare Alley proved to be his biggest challenge yet – not just because of the delays brought on during the Coronavirus pandemic, but because he had to teach himself to be a new kind of filmmaker. Read an exclusive extract from del Toro’s piece here, and find the full feature in the new issue – on sale Thursday 23 December.


Nightmare Alley – Behind the scenes exclusive

This is, bar none, the most difficult movie I ever made. Pan’s Labyrinth was similar, in that you don’t know if you’re going to be able to complete – or even survive – it because so much is against it. But then – that’s when you grow…

When I went from The Devil’s Backbone to Blade II, I called my agent and said, “Please get me out of here. They’re gonna fire me in the first week. I am not an action director.” And my agent said, “Well, become one.” And I thought, “Yeah, why not?” Coming into Nightmare Alley, I had to use tools and instincts that were new – I had to be a noir, drama director – but in a career that can encompass Pacific Rim or Pan’s Labyrinth, well, I just decided: “I’ll become one.”

I think the idea of destiny being in your hands is the same story as Hellboy. I think that the idea of unborn things being symbolic of who we are is in The Devil’s Backbone. The idea of obeying or disobeying oneself, and going with what’s easy, is in Pan’s Labyrinth. Jacinto in The Devil’s Backbone is another Stan-like character… But what’s beautiful for me with this movie is the evolution of characters that can, at the same time, be good and bad. I feel this is the time to talk about the monstrous in us… I am almost 60 and, as my father would say, well, it’s about time.


Empire – February 2022 – The Batman covers

Nightmare Alley comes to UK cinemas from 21 January. Read Guillermo del Toro’s full feature – writing about the making of the film, the casting of Bradley Cooper, the Jungian themes at its heart, the impact of Covid on its making, and much more – in The Batman issue of Empire, on sale Thursday 23 December and [available to pre-order now here](http://Both:

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