As you might imagine, Guillermo del Toro‘s new adaptation of Nightmare Alley, which is set to star Bradley Cooper, is one of the hottest projects in Hollywood right now. The film will be del Toro’s follow-up to The Shape of Water, which won Best Picture, and it will be Cooper’s first starring role since his Oscar-nominated turn in A Star is Born. So it should come as no surprise that del Toro is lining up a top-notch cast for his next feature. Here are the names we are currently hearing from sources, and do keep in mind that none of these deals are closed as of now, so it’s entirely possible that one or two of these names could change in the future.
Sources tell Collider that Toni Collette, hot off Hereditary, is poised to play the female lead opposite Cooper, and that she’ll likely be joined by del Toro’s Shape of Water star Richard Jenkins, as well as his very own Hellboy hero, Ron Perlman. Meanwhile, Willem Dafoe is also in line to co-star, as is Mark Povinelli from Water for Elephants.
Elsewhere, two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are also being eyed for key supporting roles, though as you might imagine, their deals may be a little harder to make than those listed above. And finally, Michael Shannon, who co-starred in The Shape of Water, is also being eyed for a small role, though scheduling may pose a problem in his case.
Nightmare Alley is based on the William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name that follows roustabout Stanton ‘Stan’ Carlisle, who joins a traveling carnival and unsuccessfully schemes to figure out the mind-reading act of Mademoiselle Zeena and her alcoholic husband, Pete. But when Pete dies, Zeena is forced to take on Stan as a partner, and he quickly proves more gifted than his predecessor. Ambitious to a fault, it’s not long before Stan goes out on his own — to mixed results.
Now, Jenkins, Shannon and Mara all have two Oscar nominations apiece, while Dafoe has four nominations of his own, and Collette earned a nod for The Sixth Sense. Not to be outdone, Perlman is a two-time Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner. That’s a lot of actors surrounding Cooper, so let’s discuss who they might be playing.
Collette would play Zeena Krumbein, who works in a traveling carnival where she bills herself as a psychic known as Mademoiselle Zeena. Dafoe is likely playing the role of Pete, though it’s unclear whether that character will be changed from Zeena’s husband to her father in this new film, or whether del Toro will keep their relationship as is.
Perlman is poised to play Bruno, the carnival’s strongman, which certainly makes sense given his physicality as an actor. Jenkins is expected to play one of Stan’s marks, while Shannon and Povinelli’s intended roles are being kept under wraps.
Mara is being eyed to play Molly, the younger woman who catches Stan’s eye, while Blanchett is being sought to play Stan’s psychologist, who may or may not be trustworthy despite her oath of confidentiality.
Del Toro co-wrote the script with Kim Morgan, and he’s also producing the Fox Searchlight film along with J. Miles Dale. Production is expected to start this fall. A representative for the studio could not be reached for comment. Stay tuned to Collider for more news on Nightmare Alley as the casting process plays itself out.