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Bradley Cooper In Talks For Guillermo Del Toro's Nightmare Alley

For his next project, Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro is looking to land one of the hottest stars around.

Bradley Cooper is in talks to lead Nightmare Alley, Del Toro's adaptation of the 1946 William Lindsey Gresham novel that focuses on a couple of shady characters navigating the dark underbelly of a cut-rate carnival. Variety was first with the news.

Del Toro set his sights on Cooper after Leonardo DiCaprio, who had entered into negotiations to star in the film, reportedly ended up demanding too large a payday and ultimately passed. While the material seems like a good fit for DiCaprio, Cooper is certainly no slouch — and as of late, everything he touches has been turning to gold. 

Cooper is a seven-time Academy Award nominee,  with three of those noms coming just last year for A Star is Born. The latest iteration of the classic, tragic Hollywood tale of a pop star and her troubled mentor had Cooper's fingerprints all over it; the flick was his directorial debut, he co-wrote the screenplay, and he also starred opposite Lady Gaga, turning in a performance that many critics felt should have won the Best Actor statue in a walk. 

The modestly-budgeted picture grossed north of $434 million dollars worldwide, practically giving Cooper carte blanche to take on any project his heart might desire — a situation he quickly capitalized on. For his second effort as a director, he'll be taking on Bernstein, a biopic chronicling the life and times of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. Cooper will also star in the film opposite Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby).

It's also worth mentioning that back in 2014, Cooper made the decision to voice a gun-toting, smack-talking raccoon in a wild gamble of a Marvel movie called Guardians of the Galaxy. That turned out to be a pretty wise choice, as he not only went on to reprise the role of Rocket in Guardians' 2017 sequel, but also in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and this year's Avengers: Endgame, two of the biggest blockbusters of all time. 2018 also saw him holding down the lead in The Mule, an idiosyncratic and well-received drama from director Clint Eastwood, which did respectable box office and further cemented his reputation as a skilled dramatic actor.

As for Del Toro, he's a filmmaker for whom the descriptor "legendary" is swiftly becoming appropriate. He made a name for himself with genre fare such as 1997's Mimic and 2004's Dark Horse comics adaptation Hellboy before scoring his first Oscar nomination for his screenplay for 2006's Pan's Labyrinth, which he also directed. He then did a fair amount of time working on the Hobbit trilogy (after the exit of original filmmaker Peter Jackson) before finally picking up his two well-deserved statues for 2017's The Shape of Water, which netted him a directing statue and won Best Picture, for good measure.

Nightmare Alley is an interesting choice to follow up that achievement. Gresham's novel was first adapted as a vehicle for Tyrone Power in 1947, and while its shady carnival setting was certainly a departure for that swashbuckling star, it didn't exactly leave a huge impression on filmdom. It was not a financial success, although some modern reappraisals have pegged it as a classic of the film noir genre. The story involves a low-life conman who partners up with a carnival psychic to run a mentalist scam on unsuspecting dupes, only to find that his partner has even fewer scruples than he does.

It's safe to say that Del Toro, for his part, has been high on the idea of a remake for some time. Way back in 2013, in a conversation with Jason Gorber of Screen Anarchy, the director professed his ambition to work in the noir genre before praising the original Nightmare Alley in gleefully profane fashion. "One day I would love to do a noir," he said. "One of my favorite movies [is] Nightmare Alley. [The film] is a f****** masterpiece. Crazy, and the f****** ending is like, 'What? No f******* way!'"

Well, that's enough to get us excited. Del Toro will round out his cast before shooting the picture this fall. No time frame for release has been announced, but we'll keep our ears to the ground for a date and casting news, and fill you in as more details become available.