Rollin’ with Nolan: An Interstellar Interview

InterstellarChristopher Nolan is 44 years old. He was born in London to an advertising copywriter and a flight attendant/English teacher. He started making films when he was seven and decided to make a career out of it when he was eleven. He’s written and/or directed the critically acclaimed and commercially successful films Memento, the Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar. His films have grossed over 4 billion dollars and have received 21 Academy Award nominations and 6 wins. He has four children.

Just like his films, Christopher Nolan’s interview with Rian Johnson at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica left me with more questions by the end of the discussion than I originally began with. Regardless, I am so incredibly grateful to have been just a few yards away from Nolan, listening to him talk about the creative process behind Interstellar, and about his views on life and film in general.

Nolan On Set

Nolan is known for the sociological and philosophical themes wound throughout his action and science fiction films. From his interview on Saturday I learned that the foundations of Interstellar lay in the idea of the relationship between father and child. Nolan admitted that while his previous films have left more up in the air, Interstellar is him laying the cards down and saying what he thinks a bit more–about love and the father-child relationship–the responsibility of a parent to his kids. As well as lots of thematic and technical talk, Saturday’s interview was full of fun facts about the creation of Interstellar:

  • Nolan planted 800 acres of corn specifically for the film. “We actually made money on the corn,” Nolan laughed.
  • Nolan didn’t tell Hans Zimmer what Interstellar was about when asking him to compose the music. He doesn’t use temp music so he told Zimmer to take a day and compose around the idea of the father child relationship. The music from the film is what Zimmer composed on that one day.
  • So much detail went into the spacecrafts in an attempt to make them tactile, to make them feel not so foreign and like humans would inhabit that space. Many of them were built full sized and enclosed.
  • Nolan researched the Dust Bowl and agricultural calamities because he felt that Interstellar‘s story was “something people might try and dismiss as improbable” but something he wanted to give a feeling of reality.
  • Matt Damon was cast very specifically as Dr. Mann and not put on any of the posters so that when he popped up in the film, audiences would feel that perhaps everything would be alright from that point forward–it’s Matt Damon after all!

Aero Theater

Christopher Nolan is a big proponent of filming on and projecting with real film stock. On Saturday I got to see Interstellar in 70 mm which was really interesting. Nolan said that when film is projected this way it’s part of the magic of movies and makes them more like a live performance. It’s scientific fact that film gets better resolution than digital and that film movies lack quality only when projected with poor prints and on poor projectors. But the possibility of sub-par distribution of films doesn’t sway Nolan. “I don’t think you should ever make a film for the bad theater.”

Two questions he answered:

What informs his views on metaphysics?

“Fiction. People who explain these things not as straight philosophy.” And also the process of making each film.

What’s the industry like for aspiring filmmakers? Welcoming? Cold?

“It’s a mixture of both.” But it comes down to this: “It’s not the camera, not the film format, it’s the distribution and the advertising. You need tenacity, luck, and a break. “Have a script and be ready to go if you can get that chance.”

Perhaps Nolan isn’t the most optimistic or encouraging person I’ve heard speak on filmmaking, but I appreciate his honesty. Nothing of importance ever comes easy and he sure told it to us straight: Be persistent, be lucky, and be ready when the luck comes.

You have to wonder, are you ready?


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