Richard Jenkins Interview: Nightmare Alley | Screen Rant

Nightmare Alley is the latest project from director Guillermo del Toro. Based on the novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham, the film stars Bradley Cooper as Stanton Carlisle, a carny with a gift for manipulating people. The film reunites del Toro with Richard Jenkins who starred in the director's 2017 The Shape of Water and Ron Perman who starred in the Hellboy moviesPacific RimCronos, and Blade II.

Related: Nightmare Alley Cast & Character Guide

Screen Rant spoke to Jenkins about his most challenging roles, working with Bradley Cooper, and filming the dinosaur monologue from Step Brothers.

Screen Rant: What would you say are the biggest differences from working on The Shape of Water to working on Nightmare Alley?

Richard Jenkins: It was colder. Maybe that was it?

No, he's still Guillermo. Yeah, he's Guillermo. It was the same kind of beautiful time.

What's your favorite thing about working with him?

Richard Jenkins: It's how open he is, how generous he is. How smart he is. You know, he's just a really interesting guy to be around. Just to hang out with him.

Mike Nichols was like that. I didn't really know him, but I did two movies with him and you love being around him. You loved hearing him talk and talking with him. And Guillermo is like that. He can talk about a lot of things. He's interesting. He knows a lot about a lot of things; he knows a lot about art, knows a lot about music. He knows a lot about theater and film. So it's really just a treat to be in his presence.

As a Step Brothers fan, I was very pleased to see you and Mary Steenburgen in the same film. Did you have a Step Brothers reunion moment?

Richard Jenkins: We went out to dinner. She came in to shoot her scenes, and she was just here one day, and she's wonderful in the movie. Oh my gosh, she's terrific. But we went out to eat the night before with Guillermo and we had a nice dinner. Mary is the best. And Ted [Danson] was with her and he's a terrific guy. But I mean, she's just she's a fantastic actress. She's made for the movies. Mary Steenburgen.

 I was watching your dinosaur monologue last night just for fun. It's so good.

 Richard Jenkins: You know we made that up on the day.

 I was reading that you had improvised that.

Richard Jenkins: Well, I mean, Adam said, "Go tell Will and John that you when you were growing up you wanted to be a dinosaur." And I said, "What are you talking about?" He said, "Just go tell them that you wanted to be a dinosaur." I said, "Adam, I don't even understand what you’re talking about." So he said, "Well, just do it." 

And so I said, "Okay." So I went and I did it and we did a couple of times. He said, "Well, tell them this time..." So we did the thing. And I said, "Well, that's not going to be in the movie." And he said, "Oh, yes, it is."

And so their reactions when they're just like, “Dad, what are you talking about?”

 Richard Jenkins: That's it. They were like, "Dad, that's the stupidest thing."

Anyway, Bradley Cooper said that this role in Nightmare Alley terrified him the most out of any role has ever taken to date. What was your most terrifying role? The one you were like, "I'm so scared to do this."

Richard Jenkins: The last one I did. It's usually the last role I did; I'm terrified every time I do it.

I think, oh, gosh, The Visitor was the most terrifying for me because [it was] the first time I ever had a lead in a movie. And you wonder, you know, can you do this? You can do it, but will anybody watch it because you're doing it? I mean, that's the key. 

You know, Bradley puts this movie on his back. He basically takes the movie and he puts it on his back and carries the movie. It's his movie. He's in every frame of every page. Just about. I don't think there are 10 shots he's not in. Maybe there are, but it doesn't seem like it.

And that's a burden. That's a scary burden, you know, and you have to be a certain kind of an actor to do that. And he is. He's a movie star. And it's not a pejorative term. It's a compliment. And he's a brilliant actor. And he's interested in acting; that's what he's only interested in, in the scene feeling right. And he goes to great lengths.

He's just so much fun to work with. We laughed a lot. But you know, it's a daunting task to play this character and this arc that he goes through is huge.

Next: Is Nightmare Alley A Horror Movie?

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