Guillermo del Toro on Nightmare Alley and his stop-motion Pinocchio film

Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley, Pinocchio

Guillermo del Toro is somewhat notorious for talking about movies which never see the light of day, but his passion for these projects is truly infectious and keeps us coming back for more. The director has several projects in the works which will follow-up his Oscar-winning THE SHAPE OF WATER, and he dropped a few tidbits recently while speaking with Variety.

First up is NIGHTMARE ALLEY, a dark psychological film based upon the William Lindsey Gresham novel of the same name. The story has been adapted once before in 1947, with Tyrone Power starring as “an ambitious young con-man who hooks 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 table on him, out-manipulating the manipulator.” The new NIGHTMARE ALLEY will be a closer adaptation of the original novel than that film was, but del Toro believes it’s still quite relevant in today’s world.

Like most noir literature [of its era], in the book there was sort of a disillusionment with capitalism, and a disillusionment with quote-unquote civilization of the urban environment. I thought it was very sexually charged, and really poignant about America, with a brilliant intuitive connection between carnival mentalism and the birth of psychology in America.

At the moment, NIGHTMARE ALLEY is slated to star Bradley Cooper (A STAR IS BORN) and Cate Blanchett (THOR: RAGNAROK). The director’s other big project will be something which he’s been talking about for a number of years: a stop-motion animated PINOCCHIO film. Developed for Netflix, PINOCCHIO will be set in Italy during the 1930s, a period of time in which fascism was on the rise and Benito Mussolini was tightening his grip on the country. Given del Toro’s history, it’s not surprising that he compares the title character to Frankenstein’s monster. “To me, ‘Pinocchio,’ very much like ‘Frankenstein,’ is a blank canvas in which learning the curve of what the world is and what being human is are very attractive to do as a story. I’m very attracted to it because, thematically — and I don’t want to spoil what the movie’s about — it’s about something that is in all of my movies, which is choice,” del Toro explained. “That’s a theme that is very dear to my heart. I think [earlier versions of] the story, and Collodi’s in particular, are very repressive. It’s essentially a very brutalist fable about what a sin disobedience is. And I think disobedience is the beginning of the will, and the beginning of choice. … I think there’s something that’s very attractive about seeing disobedience as a virtue, or as the beginning of a virtue.” It’s also surprising, given the number of animated projects which he’s produced, that this will mark Guillermo del Toro’s first time directing an animated film, however, this is a medium he’s dabbled in since he was just a kid. “I believe stop-motion is one of the few types of film where a person with two or three friends can actually make a feature with very little resources. There’s a freedom that comes with that,” said del Toro.

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