Guillermo del Toro discusses Nightmare Alley

Director Guillermo del Toro discusses Nightmare Alley

December 11, 2021 DGA Membership Screening Q&As

A charismatic con man goes after a dangerous mark in Director Guillermo del Toro’s neo-noir psychological thriller, Nightmare Alley.

Set in 1940s New York, del Toro weaves the tale of a down-on-his-luck hustler who befriends a carnival clairvoyant and her mentalist husband and uses their talents to scam the elite and wealthy. With the aid of a mysterious psychiatrist, he sets his eyes on a bigger target, dangerous tycoon who might be his most formidable opponent yet.

On December 4, after the DGA membership screening in New York, Del Toro discussed the making of Nightmare Alley during a Q&A moderated by Director Tim Blake Nelson (Anesthesia). He also spoke about the film in a conversation moderated by Director Nicole Holofcener (The Land of Steady Habits) following the Los Angeles screening on December 11.

During the New York conversation, del Toro spoke about his usage of detailed design on his features. “There’s a difference between eye protein and eye candy. Eye protein is nutritious. Eye candy is not. If you create a crappy set, even if you light it prodigiously it’s a crappy set lit beautifully. If the wardrobe color palette and the language of the textures is in opposition to the production design, it will not tell the story. I’ll give you an example, Lilith’s office is not only an alley, but all the woodwork is designed as a Rorschach test. Everything is hidden, everything is behind secret doors. This is a beautiful office full of secret compartments and there is an arrogance that is also present in the way she moves. When Cate [Blanchett] and I started talking, I instructed her to move like a big cat, like a lion that is in its domain. Move with feline precision and then we crack it now and then. So those sets are beautiful but there are two stories every time.”

In addition to Nightmare Alley, del Toro’s directorial credits include the features Cronos, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak; the pilot for the series The Strain; and episodes of the series Hora Marcada, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia and Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia. His 2017 feature, The Shape of Water, earned del Toro the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film and went on to garner four Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Motion Picture of the Year.

Del Toro has been a member of the DGA since 1996.

You can listen to del Toro's Q&A by clicking the podcast episode embedded below. You can find more DGA podcast episodes here.


Q&A photos by Marcie Revens (New York) and Elisa Haber (Los Angeles) – Print courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

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