If you’ve watched a Guillermo del Toro movie made in the last 30 years, then there’s a distinctly high probability that either Ron Perlman or Doug Jones will be involved in some capacity, quite often both.
Perlman appeared in the filmmaker’s first feature Cronos, and has since gone on to show up in Blade II, The Book of Life, Pacific Rim, Netflix’s stop-motion Pinocchio, the Trollhunters franchise, and Nightmare Alley. Jones, meanwhile, lent his talents to Mimic, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, The Shape of Water, and The Strain, while the pair teamed up as Hellboy and Abe Sapien in del Toro’s two comic book adaptations.
In an interview with The Playlist, del Toro reveals it was Perlman who first introduced him to the Nightmare Alley novel written by William Lindsay Gresham, but it would be another three decades before they partnered up for the lavish psychological thriller that landed in theaters today.
“Well, Ron talked to me after Cronos about maybe adapting the book and him playing Stanton Carlisle. And he actually talked to me about the movie. And I found out that it was based on a book and I got the book because back then the movie was very hard to get. It was sort of out of print and in a legal battle. It was more legendary than available. So, I read the book and I loved the book. And when eventually I saw the movie, I had the complete certainty that the movie had left enough room to do a completely different version.
Except for the basic plot beats. And we went to Fox and Fox denied us access to the material because it was a library title. So, that lay dormant, I didn’t approach it again for many, many, many years. And then Kim Morgan and I decided to write something together, and Kim suggested that we tackle Nightmare Alley. And we went at it knowing that it would be a hard sell both to the cast and the studio because we had an understanding of the integrity of the ending. And how the movie could only exist with the ending that you see on the screen without altering it, without adding to it. That was the only way to go. And it was a tough sell.
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The Devil’s Backbone remains the only credit of del Toro’s directorial career that neither Perlman nor Jones have been part of, and it’s all worked out pretty well for the trio in the long run, with Nightmare Alley currently gathering some decent awards season buzz, which we can thank the filmmaker’s Hellboy for after he turned him onto the source material.