In ‘Nightmare Alley’ Art Deco furniture is alongside Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper
Alley of nightmares is a classic film noir with a modern twist. It was essential for film director Guillermo del Toro to create a spicy adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel that reveals the corrupted undersides of showbiz and the American dream.
With nods to Old Hollywood, the film follows Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a clueless carnival mogul who assaults the wealthy with his cunning ways. He meets Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), a psychologist, who helps him, but inevitably traps him. The film, which hits theaters on December 17, looks like a 20th-century Edward Hopper painting draped in gloomy darkness. There’s Art Deco furniture, a 1920s carnival, and vintage accents that feel fresh. In other words, it doesn’t look like a dusty antique store.
Tamara Deverell, the film’s production designer, says Del Toro didn’t use CGIs (except for snowfall and flying balls) because he wanted all the sets to have real architecture and props. “We created a contemporary version of a film noir, a version of Guillermo del Toro, which has its own visual range and its own settings,” says Deverell, who previously worked on Star Trek: Discovery.
The first part was shot in a carnival setting, where the story begins. “We did a tremendous amount of research for carnival, much of which has influence from the 1920s and 1930s,” says Deverell. The goal was for it to be dark. “It was Guillermo’s vision of the funhouse,” she says. One of the key pieces was a merry-go-round bought from a northern California family who had kept it in a barn for 10 years. “We created a new top of the merry-go-round and embellished the lighting,” explains decorator Shane Vieau. “We refreshed the horses, but all the original mechanics were still there. “
The second part of the film takes place in the brilliant, corporate offices of the 1930s in Buffalo, New York. The crew shot these scenes in a Buffalo studio and on-site in Toronto at the Carlu, a sleek, modern restaurant, and the RC Harris Processing Plant, which served as the office of Ezra Grindle (played by Richard Jenkins), a factory setting with a dark past. “Every line and every curve, every piece of furniture resonates with that 1930s Art Deco era,” says Deverell. “We have drawn from [things like] the emblems around Rockefeller Center.