Entertainment Movies Everything to You Need to Know About 'Nightmare Alley' Starring Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett Who's in the cast, when it premieres, and more details about the dark and twisted film adaptation of the 1946 noir novel of the same name By Skyler Caruso Skyler Caruso Instagram Skyler Caruso is the Editorial Assistant of PEOPLE Digital. People Editorial Guidelines Published on December 14, 2021 06:32 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos Photo: 20th Century Studios Bradley Cooper's got a few tricks up his sleeve. Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro's latest film Nightmare Alley stars Cooper and Cate Blanchett and is based on William Lindsay Gresham's 1946 novel of the same name. Set in the 1940s, the dark and twisted plot follows the wild ride of Stanton Carlisle (Cooper), an ambitious carny-turned mentalist who discovers a knack for sleight of hand and showmanship and begins a journey into a bigger city as a master manipulator. Benefiting from the exploitation of his conned clients, he finds himself desperate to escape his own dark fate as he plots to fool a dangerous tycoon with a mysterious psychiatrist (Blanchett) by his side – who might be his most threatening opponent yet. PEOPLE Picks the Top 10 Movies of 2021 Kerry Hayes/20th Century Studios Nightmare Alley marks del Toro's first feature film since his Academy Award-winning romantic thriller, The Shape of Water in 2017. Partnering with J. Miles Dale, who serves as a producer on the film, they were faced with a few challenges as they filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nightmare Alley initially began production in January 2020, but was shut down that March. The movie eventually resumed filming in Ontario, Canada in September 2020 and wrapped that December. Although not ideal, the hiatus allowed the minds behind the production to deepen their understanding of the characters and story being told. Bradley Cooper Reveals He Was Once 'Held Up at Knifepoint' in N.Y.C.: 'My Guard Was Down' Kerry Hayes/20th Century Studios "Restriction is a friend to creativity, and time is also your friend when you take a moment to look at and work on and continue to mold," Cooper told Deadline. "I think we were able to take a look at what we had done. It informed, as it always does, and the more you explore and learn about what the story is, it keeps telling you things." Keep scrolling for more details on Nightmare Alley, including when it premieres, who's in the cast, and everything in between. Who's in the Nightmare Alley cast? Kerry Hayes/20th Century Studios In addition to Cooper, who explores the character complexities of Stanton Carlisle, and Blanchett, who inhabits the mysterious Dr. Lilith Ritter, the supporting cast is filled with talented stars like Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, and Ron Perlman. In fact, it was Perlman who suggested the movie adaptation to del Toro 30 years ago on the set of the director's debut film Cronos in 1992 (and he wanted to play Stanton himself!). Lady Gaga Reveals She 'Confided' in Bradley Cooper Before Taking House of Gucci Role Kerry Hayes/20th Century Studios "Ron originally wanted to play Stanton Carlisle when he was 30-something, which is 30 years ago now," del Toro told Deadline. "And he was thinking about a real carnival-looking guy; he was thinking of Elmer Gantry, he was thinking of revival tents." At that time, Fox denied them the rights saying, "It's a library title, we're not giving it away. We won't give it away." 30 years later, Kim Morgan (Nightmare Alley co-writer) reintroduced the idea to del Toro with the suggestion of approaching the character differently by focusing on his revelation, versus his downfall. Cate Blanchett and Ben Stiller to Star in Movie Adaptation of '60s Spy Show The Champions What was the Nightmare Alley production process like? Kerry Hayes/20th Century Studios Aside from the pandemic that evidently caused production challenges, the order in which the film was shot was atypical. The second half of the movie was filmed before the first half to accommodate Cooper's travel schedule. "We didn't want to do it that way," Cooper said during a Tribeca Talks conversation. "Things happened to us, with sets and other actors' availability and water, the snow and all that. I was the cause. I had moved to New York and said, 'I can't do it right now. Let me get settled.'" How else did the pandemic affect Nightmare Alley production? 20th Century Studios While the pandemic ignited challenges throughout the movie-making industry, the Nightmare Alley cast and crew used the pause to their advantage (in addition to deepening their understanding of the storyline and its characters). For example, the carnival set was built before production halted, so "it sat there, aging in the rain and the wind all summer, and so by the time we got there in the fall, it had been authentically beaten up in a lovely way," Dale told Deadline. The break also allowed the cast and creators to come with new ideas for the movie. For instance, Cooper lost 15 pounds during the break so he could portray Stan as a bit more scraggly during the beginning of the film (since the second half of the film was shot first). Cooper told the outlet, "In that perspective, we were lucky because we were able to change the aesthetic of Stan in ways an audience might not even notice, but they will feel when they meet him again in the city." Is this the first film adaptation of Nightmare Alley? courtesy Everett Collection Del Toro's take on Nightmare Alley is the second major production to interpret the novel of the same name. The first onscreen adaptation of Nightmare Alley, directed by Edmund Goulding, premiered in 1947 and starred Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, and Helen Walker. The Hollywood Reporter describes del Toro's depiction as "a more expansive version than the first film iteration of the book." When does Nightmare Alley premiere? Kerry Hayes/20th Century Studios Nightmare Alley hits theaters on Friday, Dec. 17 with a duration of 2 hours and 30 minutes and an R rating. The Searchlight Pictures production had its world premiere on Dec. 1 in New York City, where the cast and crew joined in celebration.