10 Facts about Christopher Nolan Movies

As much has been written about the Oppenheimer director's quirks as his movies
10 Facts about Christopher Nolan Movies

Eleven films into his career, Christopher Nolan’s thematic preoccupations are obvious – time, memory, identity. Even more written about is his way of working. The filmmaker prefers shooting on film and using practical effects over CGI whenever possible, planting 500 acres of corn for his 2014 sci-fi film Interstellar for a more “immersive experience” and actually crashing a plane into an airport wall for Tenet (2020) because it was cheaper than creating it with VFX. Ahead of his new film Oppenheimer, about the creator of the atomic bomb, we look back at some fascinating facts about his movies:

Inception featured a real rotating hallway

For his 2010 heist film that features a zero-gravity setpiece, 500 members of Nolan’s crew built a rotating hallway for the stunt sequence. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt underwent combat practice for two weeks before shooting the scene. "It was just about the most fun I've ever had on a movie set,” he said, during a press conference. “It was also, probably, the most pain I've ever been in on a movie set, physically, but you know, pain in a good way, like in the way I guess athletes must get when they have to put on their pads and they tape up their ankles and they get a little beat up throughout the day, but that's just part of slamming yourself into walls and jumping around all day.”

Heath Ledger did his own Joker makeup for The Dark Knight

The actor declined the assistance of the hair and makeup team in designing his look as the villain Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). “One thing Heath wanted to do was to apply makeup himself,” said Nolan in an interview posted on the Warner Bros’ YouTube account. “As an actor he said, ‘Ok, this character would put his own makeup on in real-life, so what would that look like if I just got the makeup?”

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Christian Bale’s wife thought he messed up his Batman audition

In an interview with MTV, the actor revealed that he auditioned for the role of Batman while wearing Val Kilmer’s old, ill-fitting suit. “I stood in it and I went 'I feel like an idiot.' What kind of guy walks around, dressed like a bat?” he said. It was then that he realized his usual speaking voice wouldn’t suit the role and he had to “become a beast” in order to really sell his performance. When he got home, however, his wife wasn’t impressed with his audition. “I showed her, and she went, 'Well, you f---ed that one up, didn't you?' Thank God they went for it,” he added.

Dunkirk features a part of real history

Twelve of the boats that feature in Nolan’s war epic depicting the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II had actually sailed from England to France to rescue stranded soldiers in 1940. These boats are known as Little Ships.

All of Nolan’s movies’ codenames are tributes to his children

The director’s fake titles for his recent films always include the names of his children. The Dark Knight was codenamed Rory's First KissInception was Oliver's Arrow and The Dark Knight Rises was Magnus RexInterstellar was codenamed Flora's Letter. Nolan’s son Magnus appears in Inception and his daughter, Flora, has a cameo in Interstellar. She even informed the final shape the movie took. “In the original draft of the script, (the protagonist’s child) Murph was originally a boy,” the director told Dazed & Confused. “Maybe because my eldest child is a girl, I decided to change Murph into a girl.”

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Brad Pitt almost starred in Memento

Nolan’s 2000 crime thriller following a man suffering from anterograde amnesia almost featured Brad Pitt in the lead role. “[Pitt] did read the script and he met with me about it when he didn’t have any reason to know who I was or anything about it,” Nolan told Yahoo movies. The actor’s interest in the script is said to have helped it gain traction with studios. When he dropped out owing to scheduling conflicts, however, the director offered the role to Guy Pearce.

The Tenet cast learnt their dialogue backwards

For Nolan’s 2020 film, in which objects capable of reversing the flow of time enable sequences to play out forwards, backwards and often both simultaneously, the cast not only had to learn how to perform fight choreography backwards but to also speak that way. “I had an app that helped, where you speak a line, or really a word, into the app, and it says it backwards to you. Then you learn how to say that and then speak it into the app and then make sure you’re checking it. So, it was very difficult,” actor John David Washington told Good Morning America.

A burglary inspired Nolan to make his first film

“Somebody broke into my flat,” Nolan said, during a screening of his first film, Following, at the IFC Centre. “I realized that my door was just plywood, and that was never keeping anybody out. What was keeping people out was the social protocols that we have that allow us to live together. I was interested in the certain types of people who would stop observing those protocols, and why that would be.” This prompted him to write and direct the film about a man (Jeremy Theobald) who decides to shadow people around London and observe their lives, only to end up entangled in a web of crime.

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Steven Spielberg was originally meant to direct Interstellar

Spielberg was attached to the film in 2006, at which point only an eight-page treatment written by producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne existed. Over the next few years, Nolan’s brother Jonathan was hired to write the script and Spielberg moved his production house from Paramount to Walt Disney Studios. Jonathan then recommended Nolan for the project.

Oppenheimer features the first-ever black and white Imax film stock

In Nolan’s newest film, the portions shot in colour are from the perspective of scientist J Robert Oppenheimer, while the black-and-white sequences are meant to reflect what really happened. Nolan’s vision led to the creation of the first-ever black and white IMAX film stock made by Kodak.

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