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Carnival chic: How ‘Nightmare Alley’ got its look




Carnival chic: How 'Nightmare Alley' got its look

You’ve never seen a noir like “Nightmare Alley.” 

Sure, Guillermo del Toro’s latest film — about a small-time carnival worker (Bradley Cooper) who grifts his way into high society by claiming to read minds and commune with the dead — has all the trappings of the genre: drunk degenerates and femme fatales; dimly lit streets and stalking shadows; greed, lust, murder, hubris and a creeping existential dread. And it’s based on William Lindsay Gresham’s scandalous 1946 noir novel of the same name.

But stylistically, it looks more like a lush costume drama than a hard-boiled crime flick.

“We decided that we didn’t want to make it a film noir, but really base it in reality,” production designer Tamara Deverell told The Post about creating the movie’s intoxicating atmosphere. “We wanted to really give that feeling that you can smell the dust and rain and dirt and everything.”

“Nightmare Alley” follows Stan Carlisle (Cooper), a taciturn fellow with a mysterious past who joins a carnival in the late 1930s. The traveling show includes a cast of colorful sideshow characters from a leotard-clad strongman and an acrobat who can twist himself into pretzels to — most horrifyingly — the “geek,” an almost feral alcoholic who crowds can watch eat a live chicken for a dime.

Circus performer Molly (Rooney Mara) and mentalist Stan (Bradley Cooper) take their show on the road.
©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
Cooper in a spooky circular carnival attraction in the film.
Cooper in a spooky circular carnival attraction in the new movie.
©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Stan begins sleeping with Zeena, a seasoned clairvoyant (Toni Collette), and pursuing Molly, the girl who can withstand electrical shocks (Rooney Mara). He and Molly later take their “mentalist” act to the big city, where Stan hooks up with a glamorous psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett), who has a host of ultra-wealthy patients he can exploit.

“It was almost like working on two films,” Deverell said. “From the carny world where everything had a faded patina and was a little rough around the edges … to high society, where we wanted everything to be really rich and sumptuous and enticing.”

For the carnival scenes, the film crew built their own fair in an abandoned field in Ontario, with a real light-up ferris wheel from the 1920s and a carousel from the 1930s.

Mark Povinelli, left,  plays Major Moquito with Ron Perlman as Bruno in Nightmare Alley.
The film crew built their own fair, which included banners, for the movie’s carnival scenes. Above, Mark Povinelli (left) plays Major Mosquito with Ron Perlman as Bruno.
©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

“We lovingly repainted every horse and redid the murals because it had been used up until the ‘70s and it had an awful ‘70s paint job,” Deverell said. 

But most everything else was made from scratch, from Molly’s faux electric chair and the hellish funhouse based on Dante’s “Inferno” (a popular trope at the time which also nicely foreshadowed Stan’s descent into depravity) to the striped tents and carnival banners, to the Spidora attraction, featuring a freak with the head of a girl and the body of an arachnid.

“That was straight from [del Toro’s] childhood memories,” Deverell said. “When he was 6 he went to a carnival and he saw this spider woman, and so we researched it, and we found out how they did it — she pokes her head through a board with [spider legs attached to it] that you can puppet from behind.”

Actors Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara in Nightmare Alley.
Bradley Cooper’s Stan falls for Rooney Mara’s Molly.
©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Costume designer Luis Sequeira also built much of the film’s wardrobe from scratch, looking at photos of rural America in the 1930s and studying vintage catalogs to give the carnival scenes authenticity. 

“I wanted to create a more realistic collection of clothing that people would wear for years and years, so everything from that part of the movie was well-worn and out of date,” he said, adding that he wanted, say, Collette’s 1920s bohemian fortune-teller get-ups or Molly’s nubby sweaters and sweet calico dresses, to have the rumpled look of something hastily thrown into a trunk, pulled out again and thrown on.

The Spidora attraction, above featuring a freak with the head of a girl and the body of an arachnid.
The Spidora attraction, above featuring a freak with the head of a girl and the body of an arachnid.
Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

To get that look, the costume department would hand-distress each new shirt, jacket and dress made for these scenes. “There’s staining, airbrushing, sanding — highlighting ripples along the edges of the seams — it was all about giving the garment some history and making it feel believable not only to the actor but to the viewer, too.”

For the city scenes, Sequeira looked at high fashion publications from 1940 and ‘41 to outfit his characters in the most up-to-the-minute styles. 

For Blanchett’s outfits, costume designer Luis Sequeira told The Post: “I wanted her pieces to have that same sort of reflective quality that would give us a noir mood.”
©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

“We decided that Stan would have burned all his carnival clothes as part of his reinvention” into a debonair mentalist at classy nightclubs, said Sequeira. So he commissioned a raft of luxurious tuxes and suits for him, worn with showy deco-patterned ties. Molly would mix some of her favorite sweaters and shirts with her more glamorous new duds, including a strapless sequined dress and an elegant scarlet coat — and would cling to her signature red color palette.

But Blanchett’s psychiatrist, Lilith, would epitomize that seductive glamour of metropolitan high life that Stan so badly wants, with her slinky gowns and exquisite black suits.

“Even though we weren’t doing a film noir, per se, I wanted her pieces to have that same sort of reflective quality that would give us a noir mood,” Sequeira said. “So even her black suit had a textured weave to it that reflected light in that low-light scenario. As for the lines of her suit, I took some cues from her office with soft round walls and put in some round seams. Of course, [Blanchett] is one of the most elegant women on the planet, so everything fit her beautifully.”

Blanchett and Bradley in her art elegant psychiatry office.
Kerry Hayes

As for her deco lacquered-wood-paneled office, Deverell said that was probably the film’s trickiest set, taking three months to design and three months to build. 

“It was so complicated because it had so many sliding doors where she hides her recording device,” Deverell said, adding that she based it off an elegant 1930s room at the Brooklyn Museum. But it was worth it.

“I just want to make the best looking thing I possibly can, especially for Guillermo [del Toro],” she said. “He really is an artist and pushes all of us to another level. With him every little detail matters as much as the big picture.”

Toni Collette plays Zeena Krumbein, who supposedly has clairvoyant powers, in the new film “Nightmare Alley.”
©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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