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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

July 17, 2012 at 9:08 AM

An interview with Christopher Nolan

If you missed this interview that Christopher Nolan (whose “The Dark Knight Rises” opens this week) did with the Directors Guild of America earlier this spring, it’s well worth a look in its entirety. But here are some tantalizing excerpts:
— He was an English literature major in college and never formally studied filmmaking, though he’s been making films since childhood (“little stop-motion experiments using my dad’s Super 8 camera”).
— He loves detective novels and film noir, but his favorite movie is “Blade Runner” :

The atmosphere of Blade Runner was also important, that feeling that there was this whole world outside the frame of the scene. You really felt there were things going on outside of those rooms where you’ve seen the film take place. That’s something I’ve always tried to carry with me. Every film should have its own world, a logic and feel to it that expands beyond the exact image that the audience is seeing.

— On the transition from independent filmmaking (“Following”) to small-budget (“Memento”) to medium-budget (“Insomnia”) to blockbusters (“Batman Begins”):

I don’t know if other people’s experiences mirror my own, but for me, the difference between shooting Following with a group of friends wearing our own clothes and my mum making sandwiches to spending $4 million of somebody else’s money on Memento and having a crew of a hundred people is, to this day, by far the biggest leap I’ve ever made. It was a bit like learning to swim once you’re out of your depth: It doesn’t make any difference if it’s 2 feet or 100 feet down to the bottom–you’re either going to drown, or not.

— Why he’s one of the few Hollywood holdouts to still shoot on film:

For the last 10 years, I’ve felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I’ve never understood why. It’s cheaper to work on film, it’s far better looking, it’s the technology that’s been known and understood for a hundred years, and it’s extremely reliable. I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo. We save a lot of money shooting on film and projecting film and not doing digital intermediates. In fact, I’ve never done a digital intermediate. Photochemically, you can time film with a good timer in three or four passes, which takes about 12 to 14 hours as opposed to seven or eight weeks in a DI suite. That’s the way everyone was doing it 10 years ago, and I’ve just carried on making films in the way that works best and waiting until there’s a good reason to change. But I haven’t seen that reason yet.

— On why he dresses formally (a suit, often a tie) while on the set:

[laughs] I went to a boarding school where we had to wear a uniform, and I got used to using all the pockets in my jacket. It’s just what I’m comfortable in. I don’t like to think about what to wear, so I just wear the same thing every day. When I first started shooting with a crew on Memento I remember trying to pick up a sandbag and everyone was shouting at me that I wasn’t allowed to do that because there were specific people for that job. As much as I’d like to be able to get my hands dirty, I don’t usually get to do so. So I dress the way I would for a day at the office. It’s just easier that way.

TZR_Film_Dark_Knight_Rises.JPG.jpg
The stylish Nolan, on the set of “The Dark Knight Rises.” (Photo by Darla Khazei/AP)

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