The most serious website in the world, Deadline recently caught up with the Brit Christopher Nolan and asked him what the hell he is doing shooting Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in 2D, possible Inception Sequels and whats he doing taking American's jobs. Well the first two at least.
“In the case of Batman, I view those as iconic, operatic movies, dealing with larger-than-life characters. The intimacy that the 3D parallax illusion imposes isn’t really compatible with that. We are finishing our story on the next Batman, and we want to be consistent to the look of the previous films.”
Deadline, obviously got a little more serious and then asked the director about Heath Ledger's Oscar nomination.
"I was extremely gratified to see people responding to work that I knew was great. And I was very proud to have been a part in its creation, or at least in creating a world where a great artist could really show what he could do. It was a great honor to be in any way involved in that."
How was writing Inception different for you?
"What I try to do is write from the inside out. I really try to jump into the world of the film and the characters, try to imagine myself in that world rather than imagining it as a film I’m watching onscreen. Sometimes, that means I’m discovering things the way the audience will, with character and story. Other times, you’re plotting it out with diagrams and taking a very objective view. Writing, for me, is a combination of both. You take an objective approach at times to get you through things, and you take a subjective approach at other times, and that allows you to find an emotional experience for the audience. This was one of those projects that burned inside me for a long time, but I wouldn’t say in a completely unique way. I made a film earlier called The Prestige. For four or five years, that burned inside me. It was something I really wanted to crack with my brother Jonah, and eventually we did it. 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."
What breakthrough ended Inception’s 10-year script gestation period?
"The final piece of the puzzle for me with the script I’d been trying to finish for about 10 years was figuring out how to connect emotionally with the central character in a way that would make it a more emotional story. The reason I got hung up on this is that I had first devised the rules of the world, using the heist genre as a way in. That genre embraces exposition and so it’s good for teaching a new set of rules to an audience. The problem is, heist movies tend to be a bit superficial, glamorous, and fun. They don’t tend to be emotionally engaging. What I realized after banging my head into a wall for 10 years trying to finish it is that when you’re dealing with the world of dreams, the psyche, and potential of a human mind, there has to be emotional stakes. You have to deal with issues of memory and desire. I figured out the emotional connection of the central character to the audience and made this about following his journey home to his children and his love for his wife. Those really were the final pieces of the puzzle that let me finish the script."
Did Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures say yes when they read the script [Inception] or did you have to show them visuals?
"I try and get everybody on board with a project simply through the words on the page and my explanation of what I see, how I’m going to put these things onscreen and what they’re going to feel like. And so, the process of getting Inception greenlit was involving a wide group of people at Warner Bros, from creative and production, distribution and marketing. Everybody read the script. Then I came in and fielded a lot of their questions about how particular visuals were going to be done, and what the feel of the film would be, and very much about how the audience would be able to orient themselves to the film. That was always a concern by everybody who read the script. I was happy to talk about that, how we would use the design of the different dream levels to help orient the audience as the film rolls into more furious cross-cutting in the last third."
How did you explain to them the three levels of dreams?
"I told them one of the dream levels is in the rain, one of them is a night interior, one is outdoors in the snow. That meant that even in a close-up, you would be able to tell which level you were in as you cross-cut. They were very aware of the risky nature of the project, but they just got very excited about seeing the film."
What checks and balances do you use to ensure that creatively you are not repeating yourself?
"With The Dark Knight you had to strike a balance of familiarity with the audience. It is a sequel, and they want familiar elements, things they liked from the first film. But you always have to be very aware that the audience is extremely ruthless in its demand for newness, novelty and freshness. At script stage, we really tried to thrash that out—are we striking that right balance? Inception was very similar. We were trying to strike a balance between a certain familiarity and comfort zone in terms of genre and how they watched a film. That was mostly attended to by leaning on the formal elements of the heist movie structure. We were trying to strike a balance between giving the audience familiar elements to hang onto, and trying to re-contextualize those elements into something hopefully the audience hadn’t seen before. We dealt with this somewhat even on Memento — that was a very unusually structured film with its reverse chronology. I wrote the script to have a very familiar underlying rhythm to it, a conventional three-act structure in terms of the way the audience gets information from the beginning to the end. So there’s this substructure of familiarity with the film-noir genre and the three-act structure underneath this more complicated reverse-chronology super-structure. It is something I’ve always really tried to pay attention to. If you’re trying to challenge an audience and make them look at elements in a different way, you’ve got to give them a familiar context to hang onto."
Did you let actors read a full script of Inception before they committed?
"The challenge is striking a balance between allowing the actor going to work on the project to feel in collusion, and like they’ll be genuine creative collaborators. When you go to an actor like Leonardo DiCaprio you have to be extremely respectful of his creative role in things. You have to embrace him as a fully-authorized collaborator. It was very important to show him a complete script and talk to him over a number of days and fill him in on every aspect of what I was going to do with it. But a guy like Leo is happy to do that within the context of privacy, and he was very gracious about understanding that if he didn’t want to do the movie, he wasn’t going to go around town telling everybody about it. You have to trust that in people. For me, getting into a collaboration with an actor is about trust, both ways. It was a great pleasure working with new people like Leo on this film. We had a lot of creative collaboration on the script once he came onboard; it became a hugely valuable part of the process. I don’t ever like to feel myself in the position to demand of an actor that they trust I’m going to do something worthwhile. I feel a responsibility to articulate what it is I’m going to do. Whether that’s showing them a full script or sitting down with them and describing my ideas in detail. It’s a very healthy burden on me as a film director to be able to articulate what I want to do, to inspire actors, rather than just saying, take it on trust I’ll be able to do something worthwhile."
Do you see an opportunity to revisit the world of Inception with a sequel?
"I’ve always liked the potential of the world. It’s an infinite, or perhaps I should say an infinitesimal world that fascinates me. At the moment, we’re exploring a video game, which is something I’ve been very interested in doing for a number of years. This lends itself nicely to that. As far as sequels go, I think of Inception as one film, but that’s how I approach all my films. When I was making Batman Begins, I certainly didn’t have any thoughts of doing a second Batman film, let alone a third. You never quite know where your creative interests are going to take you, but when I was making Inception, I viewed it as a stand-alone movie."