Guillermo del Toro doesn’t want you to put him in a box. That’s the first thing you should know about him and when it comes to his latest movie Nightmare Alley. It stands as a departure from his previous Oscar-winning movie The Shape of Water. And that’s exactly what he wanted us to know when Remezcla had a chance to interview the critically acclaimed director and creator.
That’s not to say that del Toro doesn’t love The Shape of Water. He does. But he knows that sometimes you’ve got to spread your wings and try new things. del Toro told Remezcla, “I think the thing that you decide after something like The Shape of Water, if you’re not careful it will define you. I think The Shape of Water is great because it defines my career until then, but I don’t want it to define everything to come.”
del Toro also wanted to shake things up when it comes to what everyone expected of him, especially with a genre that he feels very close to: film noir. As del Toro explained, “Visually, film noir is very close visually to horror because it’s based on the expressionism aesthetic. But at the same is a really interesting flip side to the American dream like horror is by showing you a darker side fueled by greed, by the have and have nots, by the tension in society, by crime.”
This gave birth to the main concept of Nightmare Alley. The humans are the monsters. That means nothing creepy, crawly, or scaly is going to pop up in this movie. And honestly, as long-time fans of del Toro, it makes for an interesting departure that intrigues and doesn’t disappoint. Because we all know a monster or two in our lives or that “are alive and giving us anxiety right now.”
Nightmare Alley also has…quite a twist. We’re not going to spoil it for you but we can tease and del Toro was absolutely up for doing so alongside with us. For him, if you watch closely, the final moments of Bradley Cooper’s character are hinted at from the very start of the movie.
According to del Toro, “The brutality of the final moment of Nightmare Alley is that it’s done so quietly. There is no explosion. There is no drama. There’s just the crumbling of a human being realizing the truth after a movie in which we had seen him do lie after lie after lie.”
That circles back to what we mentioned earlier about knowing those monsters that live in our world now or the anxieties we live with every day. As del Toro explained, “We live with lies and truths that are very difficult to discern and distinguish from each other. And reality seems to be fading away. And we live more and more in our heads. And we live more and more, like they say, “You don’t fool people. People fool themselves.”
So, at every level of Nightmare Alley, you’re not only experiencing the nightmare of Cooper’s character or those around him. You’re experiencing your horror and your life through the lenses of a talented director who has been at this thing longer than most have.
That brings us to the final question we asked del Toro. It’s a bit of a departure from Nightmare Alley but it’s something we found ourselves naturally slipping into because of the length of his career (he’s Guillermo del Toro, after all) and the changes that he has seen happen as he’s grown as a creator and director.
If there’s anything these past couple of years have made very clear, it’s that there’s a hunger for Latine projects. There’s a hunger from creators and from the people who want to see themselves represented on screen. And seeing projects like Coco and Encanto is the natural progression of a lot of the groundwork laid out by people like del Toro.
“I think to find equal footing eventually is the desire. The desire is to make those projects more and more of a reality that happens often,” del Toro explained before diving into the 2014 animated film he worked on that set the stage for what we have now. “I remember when we were producing Book of Life with Jorge R. Gutiérrez, which was a beautiful animated movie. Back then it seemed like an anomaly. Then Coco got announced, and you have Encanto, and then you have a whole explosion of animated projects that deal with our songs, characters, and culture. And that is beautiful progress.”
That’s not to say that del Toro thinks that things are easier for Latine creators and bringing the stories of our communities to life. “But there are more models of people that are trying different things that you can use as an example or as an example or as a possibility.” And it’s up to creators like del Toro and Gutiérrez, who went to work on Maya and the Three and that del Toro is especially proud of, to set the stage for the future of other creators.
“Each action has a consequence,” del Toro said as we wrapped up our interview. And he meant it for the projects, creations, and talent from our communities who need to help each other grow and achieve our dreams. But Guillermo del Toro also meant it for Nightmare Alley and those who understand what it means to live in our world and with the troubles and anxieties, especially in this day and age.
Nightmare Alley is available in theaters now.