How the ‘Nightmare Alley’ noir got the bad dream couture look

You have never seen a pub like “Nightmare Alley”.

Sure, Guillermo del Toro’s Latest movie – about a small-time festival worker (Bradley Cooper) who finds his way into high society by claiming to read minds and communicate with the dead – has all the pitfalls of the genre: getting drunk degenerate alcohol and fat women; dimly lit streets and lurking shadows; greed, lust, murder, arrogance and a terrifying existential fear. And it’s based on the scandalous 1946 noir novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham.

But stylistically, it’s more of a lush period drama than a gritty crime drama.

Production designer Tamara Deverell told The Post about creating the movie’s intoxicating atmosphere, “We decided that we didn’t want to make it a film noir, but really ground it. “We wanted to really give the feeling that you can smell dust and rain, dirt and everything.”

“Nightmare Alley” follows Stan Carlisle (Cooper), a taciturn colleague with a mysterious past who attends a carnival in the late 1930s. The tour program includes a colorful cast of supporting characters from a strong man in leotard coat and an acrobat who can transform himself into biscuits to – most horrifyingly – “eccentric”, an almost wild alcoholic who can watch eating one raw chicken for only one penny .

Actors Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara at a carousel in the movie Nightmare Alley.
Circus performer Molly (Rooney Mara) and psychiatrist Stan (Bradley Cooper) join the street performance.
© Searchlight Photo / Courtesy Everett Collection
Cooper in a spooky circular carnival attraction in the movie.
Cooper in a spooky circular carnival in the new movie.
© Searchlight Photo / Courtesy Everett Collection

Stan begins sleeping with Zeena, a seasoned clairvoyant (Toni Collette), and pursues Molly, a girl who can withstand electric shocks (Rooney Mara). He and Molly then make their “psychiatry” act to the big city, where Stan connects with a charming psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who has a host of extremely wealthy patients that he can exploit.

“It was almost like working on two movies,” Deverell said. “From the world of luxury, where everything has a faint rusty finish and the surroundings are a bit rough… to high society, where we want everything to be truly rich, lavish and attractive.”

For the carnival scenes, the crew built their own fair in an abandoned Ontario field, with an actual glow-in-the-dark ferris wheel from the 1920s and a carousel from the 1930s.

Mark Povinelli, left, plays Major Moquito with Ron Perlman as Bruno in Nightmare Alley.
The film crew built their own fair, including banners, for the film’s carnival scenes. Pictured above, Mark Povinelli (left) plays Major Mosquito with Ron Perlman as Bruno.
© Searchlight Photo / Courtesy Everett Collection

“We lovingly repainted each pony and repainted the murals because it was in use until the 70s and it has a terrible 70s paint job,” says Deverell.

But almost everything else was made from scratch, from Molly’s faux electric chair and the damn fun house based on Dante’s “Inferno” (a popular prank at the time that also served as a great foretaste of the future). Stan’s Fall) to striped tents and carnival banners, to the Spidora Attraction, which features a monster with the head of a girl and the body of a spider.

“It was directly from [del Toro’s] childhood memories,” says Deverell. “When he was 6 years old, he went to a carnival and he saw this spider woman, so we studied it, and we found out how they do it – she poke your head over a board with [spider legs attached to it] that you can mess with from behind. “

Actors Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara in Nightmare Alley.
Bradley Cooper’s Stan has a crush on Rooney Mara’s Molly.
© Searchlight Photo / Courtesy Everett Collection

Costume designer Luis Sequeira also built much of the film’s wardrobe from scratch, reviewing photographs of rural America in the 1930s and perusing vintage catalogs to create authenticity. real for carnival scenes.

“I wanted to create a more realistic collection of clothes that people would wear for years, so everything from that part of the movie was old and out of date,” he said, adding that he wanted the Collette’s 1920s The bohemian fortune-teller’s offers or Molly’s chubby cardigans and sweet floral dresses, to get the rumpled look of something hastily thrown in the trunk, again. pulled out and thrown in.

The Spidora attraction, above there is an image of a monster with the head of a girl and the body of a spider.
The Spidora attraction, above there is an image of a monster with the head of a girl and the body of a spider.
Spotlight Photo / Courtesy

To achieve such a look, the makeup department meticulously hand-crafted every new shirt, jacket, and outfit that was made for these scenes. “There is dyeing, gas mixing, sanding – highlighting the ripples along the edges of the seam – all aimed at giving the garment some history and making it feel believable not only to the wearer. actors but also to the audience.”

For the city scenes, Sequeira looked at couture publications from 1940 and 41 to dress her characters in the latest styles.

Cate Blanchett in "Nightmare Alley."
As for Blanchett’s outfit, costume designer Luis Sequeira told The Post: “I wanted her outfits to have that same reflective quality that would give us a noir mood.”
© Searchlight Photo / Courtesy

“We decided that Stan would burn all of his carnival clothes as part of his reinvention,” says Sequeira. So he ordered a series of elegant suits and suits for him, to wear with a colorfully patterned tie. Molly will pair some of her favorite sweaters and shirts with more glamorous new pants, including a sequin strapless dress and an elegant scarlet coat – and will stick to the color palette. her signature red.

But Blanchett’s psychiatrist, Lilith, would be the epitome of the urban high life Stan so desperately wanted, in her flimsy gowns and delicate black suit.

“Even though we don’t do film noir, I wanted her works to have that same reflective quality that would give us a noir mood,” says Sequeira. “So even her black suit has a textured weave so it reflects light in that low-light scenario. For the lines of her suit, I took some markers from her office with soft round walls and put in some round seams. Of course, [Blanchett] She is one of the most elegant women on the planet, so everything suits her beautifully.”

Blanchett and Bradley in her artistically elegant psychiatric office.
Kerry Hayes

As for her decorative lacquered wood-paneled office, Deverell says it was perhaps the most difficult setting for the film, taking three months to design and three months to build.

“It was complicated because it had a lot of sliding doors where she hid her recording equipment,” says Deverell, adding that she elegantly leaned on it. The 1930s Room at the Brooklyn Museum. But it’s worth it.

“I just wanted to make the most beautiful thing possible, especially for Guillermo [del Toro],” she said.

Toni Collette as Zeena in "Nightmare Alley."
Toni Collette plays Zeena Krumbein, who is said to have clairvoyance, in the new movie “Nightmare Alley”.
© Searchlight Photo / Courtesy How the ‘Nightmare Alley’ noir got the bad dream couture look

Russell Falcon

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