Happy birthday to Christopher Nolan, who turns 46 today, July 30. It didn’t take him long to establish himself as one of the greatest directors of the century – he achieved this feat in just about a decade. What is very commendable is that every thing he has put out so far has been a success. After a couple of short films in the 90s, he made his first feature in 1998, titled ‘Following’, which won several awards at film festivals. Then came his breakthrough hit Memento in 2000, followed by another thriller Insomnia (2002). Then came the massive task of directing the Dark Knight trilogy, which ended up the being the perfect reboot of Batman films. Each of the three films (Batman Begins – 2005, The Dark Knight – 2008, The Dark Knight Rises – 2012) were successful, making the trilogy everyone’s favorite portrayal of the superhero. Between these films came two absolutely mind-boggling thrillers – The Prestige in 2006 and Inception in 2010.
Once he wrapped up the Batman series in 2012 he didn’t waste any time and made another masterpiece – coming up with a truly out-of-this-world film titled Interstellar in 2014. Currently, he is working on a World War 2-based film titled Dunkirk and we absolutely cannot wait for it to release next year.
Nolan seems to have only gotten better with each film, exploring all sorts of phenomena like memory, reality, sanity, fear, despair, dreams, time, gravity and even romance. There are so many factors that make him the distinguished film-maker that he is. Read on to know a few things you may not have known about the genius.
It was at the age of seven that he began making ‘films’ with his father’s borrowed camera. Shooting short films with his action figures, he aspired to be a professional filmmaker when he was just 11. He also made a stop-motion animation titled ‘Space Wars’ when he was only eight since he was a big fan of ‘Star Wars’.
NO SCHOOL LIKE THE OLD SCHOOL
He is very old-school, as you will learn over the next few paragraphs. He does not use a cell phone or e-mail address, and even prohibits the use of mobiles on set. He said that it’s not like he doesn’t like technology, but he’s just never been interested. He said: “When I moved to Los Angeles in 1997, nobody really had cell phones, and I just never went down that path”. Often a trait of highly creative people (Steve Jobs, etc.), he prefers wearing the same outfit every day.
He doesn’t make movies in 3D since he feels it takes away the ‘storytelling experience’ of his films. We agree with him, considering how visually enticing his films are. It’s not like they even ‘need’ 3D. CGI is such an important part of film-making today, especially for the kind of movies he makes. But guess what? He avoids the use of CGI and tries to do as little post-production work as possible, filming whatever special effects he can on camera. He believes that audiences can sense when things are actually there rather than just being computer-generated. He prefers shooting on 35mm film instead of digital and also doesn’t use temporary score while editing his films. It is such qualities that make him a true pioneer of his style.
He is a perfectionist. It took him close to 10 years for him to complete the script of Inception. He explains: “I certainly have other ideas I’ve not been able to crack that I see great potential in, sitting in the back of a drawer. You never quite know what you’re going to come back to and figure out how to make it work. You never quite know where that desire to finish something, or return to something in a fresh way, is going to come from. Every time I finished a film and went back and looked at it, I had changed as a person. The script was different to me. And, eventually, who I was as a writer, as a filmmaker, and what the script needed to be, all these things coincided”.
And coincide they did, with every detail in place. Take a small example of Inception (based on lucid dreaming) – the first letter of each of the main characters’ names – Dom, Robert, Eames, Arthur and Ariadne, Mal, Saito – spells out D.R.E.A.M.S. Due to the mystifying nature of most of his films, he almost always uses non-linear storytelling.
EVERY SHOT A BULLSEYE
He sees every film he does as his last, leaving no room for compromises. This explains a lot, considering every film he makes is grand in so many ways. While he is constantly generating new ideas and coming up with new angles on certain subjects, Nolan said that when he actually settles on a feature in his mind, it will be the last one he ever does. One shot and boy does he make it count, every single time.
METHOD TO THE MADNESS
He doesn’t ever like to be too far away from his scripts, so when the actors are reading them he waits in a nearby room. Maybe he doesn’t need to be so paranoid, but those scripts surely must be worth a lot. Before he begins filming a movie, he spends around two weeks typing out the original idea on his father’s old typewriter. Strange habit, but it seems to have worked so far!