Talk about a match made in heaven: Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio is in line to lead the next film from Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro. The Shape of Water filmmaker took 2018 off after scoring Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture with his fantastical love story, and it appears he’s now settled on Nightmare Alley as his next project. Variety reports that DiCaprio, fresh off his starring role in Quentin Tarantino’s Hollywood-centric Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, is in talks to star in the film.
Nightmare Alley is a new adaptation of the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham. The book was first adapted as a film in 1947 as a straight noir chronicling the rise and fall of a con man, set against the backdrop of a second rate carnival, but sources tell us del Toro’s film is not a remake of that movie but instead a new adaptation of Gresham’s book. Del Toro co-wrote the script with Kim Morgan and will produce and finance the film alongside his Shape of Water producer J. Miles Dale with TSG Entertainment. Fox Searchlight will distribute.
The plan is to start shooting Nightmare Alley this fall while del Toro works to fill out the rest of the ensemble. During his self-imposed hiatus, del Toro has been busy producing this year’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adaptation (which he co-wrote) and Hostiles filmmaker Scott Cooper’s upcoming horror film Antlers.
DiCaprio, meanwhile, is a famously choosy actor. He was last seen onscreen in 2015’s The Revenant, for which he finally won the Best Actor Oscar (though he should’ve won for Wolf of Wall Street), and his follow-up effort is this year’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, in which he plays a Western TV show star struggling to find relevance in 1969 Hollywood. THR says he was mulling over several scripts for his next project, including new films from Paul Thomas Anderson and Alejandro Gonzalez Ińárritu, but it appears he chose del Toro. Though here’s hoping that PTA project comes back around…
Del Toro originally planned to follow The Shape of Water up with the big-budget, James Cameron-produced Fantastic Voyage and had even begun prep work before asking 20th Century Fox (which was financing the film) if he could hit pause to devote his attention to the release and awards campaign of Fox Searchlight’s The Shape of Water. The gamble paid off, but Fantastic Voyage remained on the backburner and that project’s fate remains unclear in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of Fox. Indeed, when Disney halted production on Fox’s Mouse Guard last week, reports swirled that the Mouse House doesn’t want Fox making big budget films of that ilk anymore.
Regardless, as much as I’d like to see del Toro’s Fantastic Voyage, I’m positively thrilled at the prospect of him making a full-on noir with Leonardo DiCaprio. Bring on Nightmare Alley.