Read the screenplay for Guillermo Del Toro’s Noir Tale – Deadline

Editor’s Note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series makes its debut and celebrates the film scripts that will be factors in this year’s movie prize race.

“I wanted to make a classic story in a very lively and contemporary way – I wanted people to feel like they were watching a story relevant to our world,” explains Alley of nightmares Director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro, whose penchant for elegantly crafted horror stories took a decidedly dark turn with his latest film.

Del Toro and his writing partner Kim Morgan, an accomplished film journalist and essayist, turned to author William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 fatalistic novel – now widely regarded as a classic of the hard and dark noir genre and the base at all as admired. 1947 film starring Tyrone Power. Gresham’s story follows the crass carnival rise of Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) into a successful, polite cafe society mentalist, and his downward spiral when he can’t resist transforming the his audience’s belief in his non-existent spiritual abilities in a high-stakes trust game.

The opening backdrop of the post-war carnival and the infamous geek shows that served as the most illicit attraction of the time – and which Gresham had diligently studied since childhood – provided a a natural transition from del Toro’s horror roots to a story about all too human weaknesses. , a warning fable with an inevitable conclusion.

“Carnival is an incredibly tight-knit and tight-knit society,” he says. “It’s a place where people keep their secrets, and many escape a life of crime or a past they must have left behind. And yet, they form a strong society. It’s almost like a microcosm of the world. Everyone is there to defraud everyone. But at the same time, they know they need each other and they are protecting each other.

Expanding the story and characters, del Toro was intrigued by the twist of the traditional femme fatale black trope and instead focused on a man who threatens to bring all the women around him for dark ends. “Thematically, I’m very interested in exploring the genre from a different perspective,” he says. “Instead of a femme fatale, I have three very strong female figures and a femme fatale.”

“Stanton is a broken man who has learned to lie to get the reactions he wants from people,” says Del Toro. “He always tries not to show himself. He is a mercurial character, who changes according to circumstances. As he changes his face to serve his increasingly outsized ambitions, Stanton poses various destructive challenges to Zeena (Toni Collette), the adulterous carnival fortune teller whose borrowed tricks fuel her rise; Lilith (Cate Blanchett), the high society psychoanalyst he fights with – and ends up getting along with – while fooling wealthy brands; and Molly (Rooney Mara), his carnal girlfriend and assistant who feels the sense of impending doom that surrounds them both.

“We researched every detail – I wanted Molly to be symbolized by a deer, so she wears a little deer pendant everywhere,” says del Toro. “We then have a deer in the hotel room, on the headboard. We sent everything back to him.

“We wanted to highlight this idea that people – past and present – have used spirituality to prey on the innocent,” says del Toro. “When an audience is invested in the story of a person’s rise, their greatest fear is the fall and that fall can be very strong emotionally.”

Click below to read the script for the film from Searchlight Pictures, which hit theaters on December 17th.

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