Director In Focus: Christopher Nolan

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With his space epic Interstellar – the only original film in the top ten highest grossing films of the year – being released at the end of last year, Christopher Nolan returned to the screen with aplomb. Its massive, blockbuster style and mind-boggling story, makes Interstellar very much a Nolan film, like Inception turned up to eleven.

Nolan’s career can be summarised as nothing short of a meteoric rise to success. His first feature-film, Following (1998), which tells the story of a man who follows strangers through London and is sucked into the criminal underworld, was made for just $6000. After this, he made Memento (2000), a psychological thriller that follows a man with short-term memory loss as he tries to find out who murdered his wife. The film, with its scenes all shown in reverse order, received almost universal acclaim from critics, and was nominated for two Academy Awards and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival. With just two independent films under his belt, Nolan moved on to working with studios. He made Insomnia in 2002, to strong commercial and critical success, before being handed the reigns to The Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012). Nolan’s dark take on Batman showed that comic-book films could be more than just light, goofy action films, while the enormous commercial success of the films – which grossed well over $2 billion collectively – showed studios just how lucrative well-made superhero films could be. In-between The Dark Knight films, Nolan made The Prestige (2006) and Inception (2010), arguably his two best achievements. The Prestige tells the story of two magicians competing in Victorian London, and the dangers of obsession, while Inception is an action-thriller that follows a group of dream-thieves, and is probably the most Nolan-esque film the director has made, combining high-concept cinema with the huge scope and set-pieces of popular blockbuster films.

By the time Interstellar was in production, Nolan had proved himself to be such a skilled and successful director that he had essentially become a franchise – Legendary Pictures sold their rights to the Batman vs Superman films just so that they could distribute Interstellar internationally. Though its plot may be a point of contention, there is no doubt that Interstellar is an extraordinary, ambitious film, and its success at the box-office will play an important role in convincing studios that original stories and films are still viable options in this era of franchise and sequel. There is no word of what Nolan will do next, but whatever it may be, it is sure to be huge – both in its scope and its success.

Did You Know?

  • Nolan had dual British/American citizenship as child, alternating between London and Chicago.
  • He uses his children’s names in the working titles of his films: The Dark Knight was Rory’s First Kiss, Inception was Oliver’s Arrow, and The Dark Knight Rises was Magnus Rex, after his sons, Rory, Oliver, and Magnus.
  • He has an older brother, Matthew, who is purportedly on the run for involvement in a hitman-style crime.
  • He is incredibly secretive about his films – to the point that he took the Batman Begins script to Michael Caine’s house, waited there until Caine had read it, and then took it away again.
  • Despite his films grossing several billion dollars, every film he has made was made under-budget.
  • He is a film purist, going so far as to tweak the projector in a cinema showing Interstellar so that it was optimised for every seat.

Nolan’s Favourites:

  • His wife, Emma Thomas, has produced all of Nolan’s films.
  • Nolan frequently collaborates with his younger brother, Jonathan Nolan, a screenwriter and producer.
  • Hans Zimmer has written the music for every Nolan film since Batman Begins, with the exception of The Prestige
  • Cinematographer Wally Pfister worked on all of Nolan’s films since Memento, apart from Interstellar, as he had moved on to directing by that point (Pfister directed the 2014 film Transcendence).
  • Michael Caine has acted in every Nolan film since Batman Begins, with Nolan referring to Caine as his “good luck charm”.

The Film You Should Watch: The Prestige (2006), a dark, twisted look at obsession and illusion.

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A 3rd year English student who likes staring at all the pretty moving pictures. Also books, I suppose. I do take English after all

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