Stanton Carlisle can read minds “under the right circumstances.” At least, that’s what Bradley Cooper’s character wants people to believe in the first trailer for Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley.
The first trailer for del Toro’s thriller features Carlisle under the scrutiny of a lie detector test, choosing the right words that will allow him to bend the truth without admitting that he’s a fraud.
Del Toro’s adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel is a departure from many of his previous films. Despite its evocative title, Nightmare Alley seemingly dispenses with del Toro’s usual supernatural or fantasy elements. Being a noir story, however, it wouldn’t be complete without a femme fatale. In this case, that role is filled by Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), a talented psychiatrist who proposes a dangerous con to Carlisle. She’s pulling his strings, and Carlisle’s life is quickly becoming unraveled.
The trailer also offers a glimpse at Carlisle’s rise as a grifter thanks to a natural talent for cold readings and techniques that carnies used to convince their audience that psychic abilities are on display. He comes into contact with a married couple, Zeena (Toni Collette) and Pete (David Strathairn), who have their own relationship with swindling the public, and Carlisle is soon chasing a once-in-a-lifetime grift. And as the trailer seems to suggest, that final job could be a life-or-death affair for him.
Joining Cooper, Blanchett, Collette, and Strathairn in the cast are quite a few familiar faces. Among them, Willem Dafoe plays the role of Clem Hoately, along with Rooney Mara as Molly Cahill, Ron Perlman as Bruno, Mary Steenburgen as Miss Harrington, Holt McCallany as Anderson, Jim Beaver as Sheriff Jedediah Judd, Mark Povinelli as The Major, and Tim Blake Nelson as a Carny Boss.
Del Toro directed and co-wrote the film with Kim Morgan, and the project will be the second adaptation of Gresham’s novel, following the 1947 film of the same name starring Tyrone Power and directed by Edmund Goulding. Nightmare Alley is scheduled to premiere in theaters December 17.