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The Real Reason Guillermo Del Toro's Nightmare Alley Will Miss The Venice Film Festival

Guillermo del Toro is known for making fantastical films with unique characters and creatures that showcase deeply emotional, human stories, and his upcoming movie "Nightmare Alley" is highly anticipated. Based on the novel of the same name by author William Lindsay Gresham, "Nightmare Alley" is about a manipulative carny named Stan Carlisle, to be played by Bradley Cooper, who teams up with a psychiatrist named Dr. Lilith Ritter, played by Cate Blanchett, who is hiding a sinister nature worse than Stan's. The movie has an extremely talented ensemble cast, who will likely be playing various people ensnared by Stan and Lilith to be a part of their scheme-filled carnival. The list includes Richard Jenkins, who worked with del Toro on his last feature, "The Shape of Water," as well as Willem Dafoe, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Tim Blake Nelson, and more. 

The current release date for "Nightmare Alley" is December 3, 2021, but del Toro commonly premieres his films on the festival circuit before the traditional theatrical release. For "The Shape of Water," which came out in 2017, the movie premiered at the 74th Venice International Film Festival and received the prestigious Golden Lion award, the highest prize at the event. This ended up being a major indication of the film's success to come, with "The Shape of Water" going on to win Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards. The next year, del Toro was named Jury President for the Venice Film Festival, while he also served on the jury in 2006, making the well-known festival a very significant event for the director. 

Knowing this, it was assumed that del Toro would premiere his newest film, "Nightmare Alley" at the 2021 Venice Film Festival. So why are del Toro and his movie missing this year's festival?

Del Toro simply couldn't finish Nightmare Alley in time

It turns out that del Toro really wanted "Nightmare Alley" to make it to the Venice Film Festival, but the film just wasn't ready in time. It's as simple as that. Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera spoke with Variety about the festival and he was asked specifically about the absence of "Nightmare Alley" from this year's program. Barbera explained that del Toro "was literally racing against the clock to finish the film in time," but in the end, it didn't make the deadline. This interview occurred at the end of July, and Barbera stated that "up until a week ago, [del Toro] hoped to still make it, though Searchlight had already realized it was impossible, because they still have to record some of the music and do other post production work."

Considering the amount of detail and effort that goes into all of del Toro's films, especially when there are otherworldly characters involved in the story, it makes sense that "Nightmare Alley" would take a long time to finish. In an interview with The National News for "The Shape of Water," del Toro admitted that "it took three years to make the creature" for the film, and he continued to edit the design until the last minute. The new movie also faced a delay — like many other productions — due to the pandemic, suspending production in March 2020 and not resuming until September 2020 (via IndieWire). Del Toro was also working on his upcoming Netflix adaptation of "Pinocchio" at the same time, so seeing how busy he was, no one can really fault del Toro for being unable to make the 2021 Venice Film Festival.