Watch: Why Zac Efron Would Have Been Better Choice For 'Nightmare Alley' Remake

Sunday December 19, 2021
Originally published on November 15, 2021

The upcoming Guillermo del Toro film "Nightmare Alley" stars Bradley Cooper as an ambitious carnival worker who becomes a show biz sensation thanks to a fraudulent mentalist routine. Del Toro adapted the film from the 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel and 1947 Edmund Goulding film, which starred Tyrone Power as the carnival worker whose greatest fear was becoming a geek.

While the trailer to the film makes it look like one of the most visually arresting of the year, it is also handicapped in some major Oscar categories by the awards handicapping site GoldDerby, including Best Picture, Best Director (Del Toro), Actor (Cooper), Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette), Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe), and Adapted Screenplay.

But watching the original 1945 film, available on The Criterion Collection, there seemed to be another actor who could have perfectly evoked Tyrone Power from the original film — Zac Efron. Power and Efron bear such a remarkable resemblance that it would have been quite an homage to the original if Del Toro had gone with Efron for the role.

Power was one of Hollywood's biggest leading men in the 1940s, largely in adventure and swashbuckling roles. "Nightmare Alley" offered him something of a challenge because of its dark nature, and 20th Century Fox was reluctant to greenlight the project because they feared it would damage his stardom. Power got some of the best reviews of his career and has called it one of his favorite roles, but the film didn't perform well and it was dumped almost immediately upon release.

Power's secret gay life came out years after his death in a number of biographies. In one, Scotty Bowers, whose "Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood And The Secret Sex Lives Of The Stars" inspired the Ryan Murphy series "Hollywood," said "Power had steamy star sex with the author and joined in on three-ways with Bowers, and another man, or sometimes a girl. According to Bowers, Power was a sex machine and a sweetheart, a very winning combo," writes World of Wonder.

"Power had liaisons with many men during his career, including famed lyricist Lorenz Hart and elegant actor Cesar Romero. Power was so handsome that he could choose any of the most attractive men on any studio lot," WOW continues. "Unlike other male stars of his era, Power was not afraid to be seen in the company of guys assumed to be queer: George Cukor, Clifton Webb, Reginald Gardner, Van Johnson, or Howard Hughes. In "'Errol Flynn: The Untold Story' (1980) writer Charles Higham claims that Power had an assignation with Flynn. Power was so loved by people in showbiz that they all gaily looked the other way when Power had a fling."