Nightmare Alley Stars Talk Guillermo del Toro's Ambitious Neo-Noir

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has been impressing audiences for decades with his ambitious and imaginative stories, blending together the worlds of horror, fantasy, and drama into compelling and unique experiences. These efforts have resulted in countless talented performers wanting to collaborate with him on projects, which includes multiple actors returning for repeat collaborations. Del Toro's latest film, Nightmare Alley, sees a blend of fresh and familiar faces, as Richard Jenkins previously starred in The Shape of Water, though Rooney Mara is a new recruit into the filmmaker's world. Nightmare Alley will be unleashed in theaters on December 17th.

"He is who you think he is, if that makes sense. He's not hiding. There's not a different Guillermo," Jenkins shared with when talking about what might surprise fans to learn about the filmmaker. "The Guillermo you've talked to is Guillermo del Toro, which I love. I mean, it's like what you see is what you get ... He doesn't have an agenda. He's not somebody else sometimes ... It's for real, it really is. He's genuine, and he's absolutely brilliant."

Mara added, "We were talking about this earlier. That's why, on set, whenever he's happy or gets giddy over something, is excited about a take, you know it's for real."

In the film, "When charismatic but down-on-his-luck Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) endears himself to clairvoyant Zeena (Toni Collette) and her has-been mentalist husband Pete (David Strathairn) at a traveling carnival, he crafts a golden ticket to success, using this newly acquired knowledge to grift the wealthy elite of 1940s New York society. With the virtuous Molly (Mara) loyally by his side, Stanton plots to con a dangerous tycoon (Jenkins) with the aid of a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who might be his most formidable opponent yet."

Given that the production unfolded during the pandemic, there was a major break during filming, which resulted in Mara having unique opportunities when it came to bringing her character to life.

"Certainly, this movie, for me, was a growing experience," the actor detailed. "I was pregnant the first part of making it. When we came back for the second part of it, I had had a child. So I really actually feel like two different people. I truly was two different people in either half of the film, because, obviously, having a child, you're a completely different person afterwards. So it was a very unique experience in that way."

The film sees Stanton using his mentalist abilities with Jenkins' character, among other figures throughout the journey, which brings up the question of the morality of telling people what they want to hear to give them relief vs. lying to them for personal gain. 

"I think Guillermo and Bradley made it clear that this is a man who had a conscience, who, when they put the geek out in the rain and left him at the Catholic Charities, he didn't want to leave him there, the little things that he did," Jenkins detailed of the questionable character. "So you see him change, and you see him become less of a human being and more of an idea, of his idea, of what it means to be powerful."

He added, "Sometimes there's no reason to hurt someone's feelings, even though you think something. There's another way to do it. And then sometimes ... I keep thinking of the theater, when people come backstage at the theater and say, 'Oh, I didn't like that.' I say, 'Why do you have to come back and tell me that?' ... Just lie to me. Tell me it was really nice. 'I really enjoyed it.' Lie to me."

Nightmare Alley hits theaters on December 17th.

Are you looking forward to the new film? Let us know in the comments below or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things horror and Star Wars!