Curiosity is the best teacher, after all.
Answer by Amrit Dash:
1. He Changed The Academy Awards Forever
The achievements of The Dark Knight are well-known and thoroughly deserved: often referred to as The Godfather of superhero movies, Nolan’s Batman Begins follow-up became both the first comic book movie to break the billion-dollar barrier and the first – and still only – movie of its kind to earn one of the more prestigious Academy Awards when Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded the Best Supporting Actor gong for his iconic performance as The Joker. The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony saw The Dark Knight nominated for a clutch of technical awards and take home two Oscars, but there was a pervading sense of injustice that Nolan’s efforts were not better rewarded. The uproar over The Dark Knight failing to receive a nomination in that category was perceived by many as a sign that Oscar voters had lost touch with the appetites and opinions of the movie-going public, and the Academy responded accordingly.
2. Martin Scorsese Killed His Pet Project
A little over ten years ago, Martin Scorsese teamed up with Leonardo DiCaprio for the second time to bring the extraordinary life of Howard Hughes to the big screen. A billionaire, tycoon, inventor, filmmaker and undeniable genius, Hughes suffered from crippling OCD and spent many years as a recluse before his death in 1976. Several filmmakers – including Warren Beatty – put considerable effort into trying to produce a Howard Hughes biopic, and one of them was Christopher Nolan; he has been quoted as describing his Mr Hughes screenplay as “one of the best things I’ve ever written” and wanted Jim Carrey for the lead, but the project was shelved when Scorsese’s film moved into production and ended up cornering the market.
3. He Pre-empted The McConaissance
Not so long ago, Matthew McConaughey was an undeniably handsome, charismatic actor who undeniably put a greater priority on surfing and playing the bongos naked than seeking out challenging projects. He’s currently the most sought-after leading man in showbiz, so Chris Nolan can consider himself very fortunate to have Hollywood’s hottest commodity on board to head up his impressive Interstellar cast. As Nolan explains: “I had seen an early cut of Mud because my friend Aaron Ryder produced it. At the time, people hadn’t yet figured out what a great actor Matthew is. So we raised a few eyebrows when we first brought his name up. But the thing with Matthew is, once you realise what a great actor he is, it’s like a switch being flipped. You can’t get enough of the guy at that point.”
4. He Never Planned On Making Any Sequels To Batman Begins
Batman Begins earned a healthy, though not overwhelming, $374 million worldwide and was warmly received by critics, who by and large welcomed the intelligence and ambition Nolan brought to bear. Nevertheless, while Batman Begins did enough to warrant another outing, it was never in Nolan’s mind that he would be the man to deliver it. Fearful of the potential pitfalls of sequels and a firm believer in only committing to one project at a time, Nolan commented: “I wanted to put everything into making one great film, I didn’t want to hold anything back.”
5. He Doesn’t Use A Second Unit
Taking his tendency to involve himself in every aspect of his films to its logical extension, Nolan has called second units “an expensive luxury” and believes that, rather than saving time and simplifying a film shoot, employing a second unit is an unnecessary expense that often produces precious little usable material.
While acknowledging that many talented filmmakers use a second unit to great effect, Nolan’s view is: “If I don’t need to be directing the shots that go in the movie, why do I need to be there at all? The screen is the same size for every shot.”
6. He’s A FILMmaker
Christopher Nolan shoots exclusively on celluloid and will presumably continue to do so until film stock disappears entirely, explaining: “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.”
Nolan believes that the main impetus behind shifting to digital might be the economic interests of the manufacturers of new equipment, and is keen to ensure that fellow traditionalists like Abrams and Steven Spielberg retain the ability to choose their medium rather than have the decision made for them.
- Nolan’s left handed.
- He didn’t go to film school, either. Everything Christopher Nolan knows, he taught himself. Curiosity is the best teacher, after all.
- Christopher Nolan has never done a re-shoot. Think about that for a moment. Think about how David Yates reshot the epilogue of HP7.2, or the many weeks Peter Jackson spent reshooting the Hobbit to turn it into a trilogy. Think about how complicated some of the stunts and shots were in the Batman movies. Yeah. That was all done in one go.
- Shoots on film, not digital. In a world where everything is increasingly becoming digital, he has experienced some pressure to switch, but he’s adamant about his medium. “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,” said Nolan. “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.”
- Doesn’t believe in 3D. Nolan says the whole point of photography is that it’s three dimensional. Until the industry can figure out how to do it right, he will stick with film and the occasional IMAX.
- Also doesn’t believe in CGI. Anything that can be actually filmed, miniature or real, is done that way. Nolan even tried to do the thousand bats swamp at the end of Batman Begins with real bats at first. When that didn’t work out, he stuck a dead bat on a stick and tossed it around so that his team could get an idea of what a bat looks like in flight for their CGI swarm.
- Only storyboards action scenes. Where some directors prefer to plan most things out, Nolan likes to leave room for improvisation.
- Follows one of the most basic rules of photography: don’t use zoom lenses! If you have a huge beautiful camera, move it closer to the subject!
- Uses only one camera unit for dramatic sequences. Most directors prefer two or even three units in different spots so that they can get different angles, etc. Nolan prefers to have minimal shots so he can choose the ones he wants himself, which brings me to my next point:
- He can memorize shots and edit entire film sequences in his head. Filming with only one unit, minimal takes and real stunts makes the editing process fairly simple, even on huge films like Batman. Well, it’s simple to Christopher Nolan, at least.