Director’s Spotlight: Christopher Nolan
I almost started this thing by saying: there are few directors I adore more than Christopher Nolan. And then I realized there are no directors I adore more than him. There are some Nolan trollers out there but that tends to happen with every hot commodity.
And boy is Nolan a commodity.
Here is everything you need to know about the esteemed director:
Christopher Jonathan James Nolan was born in London, England on July 30, 1970. Like many directors, he started making movies at a very young age. He used a Super 8 camera to make movies before aspiring to become a filmmaker before he was even a teenager. Eventually, he enrolled and completed his education at University College London.
It was there where he met Emma Thompson. They later married and she produces a lot of the films alongside Nolan today.
Nolan shot three short films titled Tarantella (in 1989), Larceny (in 1995), and Doodlebug (in 1997) before he made his directorial debut in 1998.
Titled Following, Nolan’s feature film filmography started with what is now considered one of the smallest budgeted films of all time. The production took over a year because they only shot on weekends since the entire production had full-time jobs during the week. With a meager budget of $6,000, the film grossed $240,000. While screening the film at a film festival, Nolan practically begged for money to fund future projects.
Eventually, Nolan was able to garner enough support to make what is widely considered his biggest breakthrough – Memento. Touting a truly unique premise and shot essentially in reverse, the film follows a man with short term memory loss as he struggles to find his wife’s rapist and murderer. To date, this is the very reason I became interested in Nolan.
With two successful films under his belt, Nolan was able to secure much bigger movies starting with Insomnia (starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams). To most, though, he’s known for his work as director of the acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy.
2008’s The Dark Knight is perhaps the most influential superhero movie in the history of the genre. It can be definitely credited as the catalyst to the superhero boom. Not only does it star a truly remarkable performance by Heath Ledger but it also shows the vulnerability that so little films (superhero genre or not) explore.
Between his Batman films, Nolan also directed acclaimed films like The Prestige and Inception which have merits of their own.
Through his endeavors, he’s created quite the list of frequent collaborators including actors Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, writers Jonathan Nolan (his brother) and David Goyer, cinematographer Wally Pfister, and musician Hans Zimmer.
His ninth film, Interstellar, is due out this weekend.
0: Academy Award wins (with 3 total nominations for Memento and Inception)
2: Films Nolan has produced but not directed (Man of Steel and Transcendence)
2: “Original” (i.e. not based on any other story) Nolan films before Interstellar (Following and Inception)
8: Films Nolan is credited as writer of including Interstellar (with Insomnia being the lone one he hasn’t written and directed)
78%: Lowest (yes lowest) Rotten Tomatoes score (for Following)
86%: Average Rotten Tomatoes score for his eight released films
$6,000: Reported budget for Nolan’s first film, Following
$165 million: Budget for Interstellar (lower than both the Dark Knight films and Inception)
$1.084 million: Highest domestic gross (for The Dark Knight Rises)
2012: Year Nolan’s hand- and footprints were immortalized at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Although Nolan’s filmography may be enough to carry his name, he’s created quite the legacy outside of that (especially given how young he still is).
For one, Nolan is one of the last firm believers in real film over digital film. He’s fought practically tooth and nail to keep the dying medium alive. He even screened part of The Dark Knight Rises early in an attempt to promote “real IMAX.”
Speaking of IMAX, you probably won’t see a Nolan movie in 3D anytime soon. Nolan believes the best format for projection is IMAX over 3D (which decreases quality and color). Instead, I’d strongly suggest you see Nolan’s film in IMAX theaters to get the full effect. The Dark Knight, for those that don’t know, was the first feature film to use scenes specifically shot in IMAX. He followed that up by using IMAX cameras in The Dark Knight Rises and now in Interstellar.
Besides his contribution to the format, Nolan should also be recognized for his style. Similar to how he treats film, Nolan believes everything should look as real as possible. Even in his blockbusters, Nolan uses as little CGI as possible.
Perhaps the best example of this includes the set of Inception where he helped create a rotating hallway to shoot the iconic zero gravity fight scenes. To me, this is one of the biggest technical marvels to date.
Lastly, Nolan is also known for his influence in the neo-noir genre. This is shown more in his earlier filmography (Following and Memento) but it’s still worth mentioning.
However, even given his fantastic filmography and contribution to Hollywood, Nolan has still yet to make an impact on the awards circuit. Personally, I’m hoping this comes to an end this year as Nolan finally has a movie set smack-dab in the middle of awards season. Either way, Nolan deserves at least some recognition – whether that be a Best Picture or a Best Screenplay win (the latter being something I’d guess he’d want more).
Perhaps Interstellar is the movie we deserve right now.
What are your thoughts on Christopher Nolan? Sound off below.
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