Christopher Nolan Poster

Quotes (65)

  • [on different acting styles] The best actors instinctively feel out what the other actors need, and they just accommodate it.
  • ...I studied English Literature. I wasn't a very good student, but one thing I did get from it, while I was making films at the same time with the college film society, was that I started thinking about the narrative freedoms that authors had enjoyed for centuries and it seemed to me that filmmakers should enjoy those freedoms as well.
  • As soon as television became the only secondary way in which films were watched, films had to adhere to a pretty linear system, whereby you can drift off for ten minutes and go and answer the phone and not really lose your place.
  • A lot of it is being done in commercials and music videos. I've never done them, but I think that those are forms in which cross-cutting and parallel action are absolutely standard and accepted as a mainstream language. Filmmakers like myself enjoy the fruits of that experimentation and absorption by the mainstream. I think people's capacity to absorb a fractured mise-en-scene is extraordinary now compared to forty years ago.
  • Yes, to me that's one of the most compelling fears in film noir and the psychological thriller genre - that fear of conspiracy. It's definitely something that I have a fear of - not being in control of your own life. I think that's something people can relate to, and those genres are most successful when they derive the material from genuine fears that people have.
  • The term 'genre' eventually becomes pejorative because you're referring to something that's so codified and ritualised that it ceases to have the power and meaning it had when it first started. What I'm trying to do is to create modern equivalents that speak to me of those tropes that have more of the original power.
  • I have always been a huge fan of Ridley Scott and certainly when I was a kid. Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) just blew me away because they created these extraordinary worlds that were just completely immersive. I was also an enormous Stanley Kubrick fan for similar reasons.
  • [on using CGI in Batman Begins (2005)] I think there's a vague sense out there that movies are becoming more and more unreal, I know I've felt it. The demand we put on ourselves was to be as spectacular as possible, but not depend on computer graphics to do it.
  • [on casting Batman Begins (2005)] Batman is a marvelously complex character - somebody who has absolute charm and then, just like that, can turn it into ice-cold ruthlessness. There are very few actors who can do that, and Christian is one of them.
  • I think there's a vague sense out there that movies are becoming more and more unreal. I know I've felt it.
  • Superheroes fill a gap in the pop culture psyche, similar to the role of Greek mythology. There isn't really anything else that does the job in modern terms. For me, Batman is the one that can most clearly be taken seriously. He's not from another planet, or filled with radioactive gunk. I mean, Superman is essentially a god, but Batman is more like Hercules: he's a human being, very flawed, and bridges the divide.
  • But there's a very limited pool of finance in the UK. To be honest, it's a very clubby kind of place. In Hollywood there's a great openness, almost a voracious appetite for new people. In England there's a great suspicion of the new. In cultural terms, that can be a good thing, but when you're trying to break into the film industry, it's definitely a bad thing. I never had any luck with interesting people in small projects when I was doing Following (1998). Never had any support whatsoever from the British film industry, other than Working Title, the company that [producer] Emma Thomas was working for at the time. They let me use their photocopier, stuff like that, which is not to be underestimated.
  • We all wake up in the morning wanting to live our lives the way we know we should. But we usually don't, in small ways. That's what makes a character like Batman so fascinating. He plays out our conflicts on a much larger scale.
  • Working with a legend like Michael Caine is about as enjoyable and relaxing an experience on set as one could hope for. His vast experience gives him an air of good-humored calm that you could almost mistake for complacency until the camera rolls, and you see his focus and efficiency nail each scene on the first take. He once told me that he's never asked for a second take -- he's happy to do one if you have an idea for him to try, but he brings a definitive interpretation to every line. His method has the casual air of effortlessness that can only come from decades of dogged hard work, and you sense that he's still as hungry for every last morsel of a part as he was when he first captured everyone's imagination. A fine actor first, and screen icon second, he's a director's dream.
  • At the time I did Following (1998), I was looking at the American ultra-low-budget model that didn't really exist in the UK. A low-budget film in England tended to be about £500,000 to £600,000. In America, there was a tradition of guys like Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith making films for thousands, and that's what we'd been doing for short films. So it was really just a case of using that knowledge and expanding it to feature length. I hear of people doing it in the UK now and I think that's a great thing.
  • [on Memento (2000)] The budget was about £ 3 million, which is low for an independent film - but yes, it was a huge leap of faith. "Memento" was clearly on a bigger scale than Following (1998) but, at the same time, there were very strong stylistic connections. People want to see something that shows them you can do what you say. That's the trick.
  • The procedure is basically to try to get into film festivals. I'm half American, so I was able to come over to America and live here and start battering the American film festivals. There are a lot of great festivals, not just Sundance. So the key is to get it screened at a festival and start interesting people there.
  • I didn't go to film school. I guess my whole experience has been just to make films. What I've talked about on the commentary to the DVD of Following (1998) is the production method and how things came about. I feel like that might be a point of interest that a lot of people might be thinking about with their own films, so I've tried to put in as much of the detail as I can remember. The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that everybody's situation is unique, and the one thing I've learned is that instead of copying someone else's model for a low-budget film, you really have to look at what you've got available and see how you can tell the story you want to tell, using the things that you have around you. That's what we did with "Following", and on the DVD I try to explain how it worked for us and what I learned from it, but at the same time suggest that it'll be different for someone else.
  • [on the budget of Following (1998)] We've got a pretty serious claim on being the cheapest film ever made.
  • I always find myself gravitating to the analogy of a maze. Think of film noir and if you picture the story as a maze, you don't want to be hanging above the maze watching the characters make the wrong choices because it's frustrating. You actually want to be in the maze with them, making the turns at their side, that keeps it more exciting... I quite like to be in that maze.
  • Films are subjective - what you like, what you don't like. But the thing for me that is absolutely unifying is the idea that every time I go to the cinema and pay my money and sit down and watch a film go up on-screen, I want to feel that the people who made that film think it's the best movie in the world, that they poured everything into it and they really love it. Whether or not I agree with what they've done, I want that effort there-I want that sincerity. And when you don't feel it, that's the only time I feel like I'm wasting my time at the movies.
  • Every film should have its own world, a logic and feel to it that expands beyond the exact image that the audience is seeing.
  • [reacting to the premiere shooting in Aurora, Colorado] Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises (2012), I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting, but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families.
  • I sometimes get frustrated with studio executives - and indeed critics - who will watch a film in a very linear way and make notes as they go, because that's not how movies work. You get to the end - the audience gets to the end - and then you take about five minutes to decide "Okay, what was all that?" and your brain really looks at everything in a different way and then you decide. And that's why endings are so important and that's why you really have to get to the end of a movie before you know what it is.
  • Anybody who sees an original-negative print of a film shot in IMAX is looking at the best image quality available to filmmakers today. As long as any new technology is required to measure up to that, I think film has to remain the future.
  • 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. But you have to be very aware that the audience is extremely ruthless in its demand for newness, novelty and freshness.
  • We're definitely well into a phase where our actors are not willing to brand themselves as movie stars, the way actors of the past did. When you look at a guy like Christian (Bale), whether he's wearing a mask or not, this is one of our great actors. But he wants to be different in every film. He doesn't want the audience to go to a 'Christian Bale movie'. He wants them to come see the character he's playing.
  • [regarding his canceled Howard Hughes film] Luckily, I managed to find another wealthy, quirky character who's orphaned at a young age.
  • For me, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins (2005), where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he's more than that. He's a symbol, and the symbol lives on.
  • We tried with all three [Batman] films, but in the most extreme way with The Dark Knight Rises (2012), what I call this sort of snowballing approach to action and events. We experimented with this in The Dark Knight (2008), where the action is not based on clean and clear set pieces the way Batman Begins (2005) was, but we pushed it much further in this film. The scope and scale of the action is built from smaller pieces that snowball together so you're cross-cutting, which I love doing, and trying to find a rhythm in conjunction with the music and the sound effects, so you're building and building tension continuously over a long sustained part of the film, and not releasing that until the very last frame. It's a risky strategy because you risk exhausting your audience, but to me it's the most invigorating way of approaching the action film. It's an approach I applied with Inception (2010) as well, to have parallel strands of tension rising and rising and then coming together. In "The Dark Knight Rises", from the moment the music and sound drop and the little boy starts singing "The Star-Spangled Banner", it's kind of like the gloves are coming off. I've been amazed and delighted how people have accepted the extremity of where things go.
  • I never considered myself a lucky person. I'm the most extraordinary pessimist, I truly am. I think I'm not so much a fan of science fiction as I am a fan of cinema that creates worlds, that creates an entire alternate universe that you could escape into for a couple of hours.
  • I think anytime you look at science fiction in movies, there are key touchstones; Metropolis (1927), Blade Runner (1982), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Whenever you're talking about getting off the planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is somewhat unavoidable.
  • 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. The little shot of, say, a watch on someone's wrist, will occupy the same screen size as the shot of a thousand people running down the street. Everything is equally weighted and needs to be considered with equal care, I really do believe that. I don't understand the criteria for parceling things off. Many action films embrace a second unit taking on all of the action. For me, that's odd because then why did you want to do an action film?
  • Many of the filmmakers I've admired over the years have used sound in bold and adventurous ways. I don't agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue. Clarity of story, clarity of emotions - I try to achieve that in a very layered way using all the different things at my disposal - picture and sound.
  • There are filmmakers who pride themselves on "one for the studio, one for me", and I just don't see it that way. I have an opportunity that very few filmmakers get, to do something on a huge scale that I can control completely and make as personal as I want, so I feel a big responsibility to make the most of it. Because there are tremendous filmmakers out there who will never get that opportunity but would do something extraordinary with it.
  • I don't look at the scale of the films in terms of money or the physical size of what we're shooting. It's in terms of my life, my time, however much I'm investing in it. It took me a couple of years to make Following (1998) and another year to take it round the festival circuit. It was and remains a huge movie to me.
  • [on his cinematic inspirations for The Dark Knight (2008)] I always felt Heat (1995) to be a remarkable demonstration of how you can create a vast universe within one city and balance a very large number of characters and their emotional journeys in an effective manner.
  • [on why his films often show multiple dimensions] It might be unusual in movies, but it's very well established in other media. I'm very inspired by the prints of M.C. Escher and the interesting connection-point or blurring of boundaries between art and science, and art and mathematics. I'm thinking of his Penrose steps illustrations that inspired Inception. Also, the writing of Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentinian writer, wrote all kinds of incredible short stories that dealt with paradox. But I feel like films are uniquely suited towards addressing paradox, recursiveness, and worlds-within-worlds. [2014]
  • [on Kodak's new Super 8 camera] The news that Kodak is enabling the next generation of filmmakers with access to an upgraded and enhanced version of the same analogue technology that first made me fall in love with cinematic storytelling is unbelievably exciting. [2016]
  • [on projecting on film vs. digital] It's got considerably better color reproduction and higher resolution when well projected. I think that people have in their minds, when they think of film projection, bad film projection - which isn't great, it's certainly true. But the highest quality film projection, you know, to my eye - and even in technical terms - exceeds anything digital projection is capable of. I think that, as far as standardizing the industry goes, then obviously digital is a powerful logistical tool for doing that and for keeping a consistent level of quality. But I don't see any reason we need to standardize. I mean, yes, it's cheaper. But the music industry doesn't standardize. No other industry standardizes. You know, Broadway plays don't standardize - you build the set you need and you configure the theater how you want it. We've had massive success on this film [Interstellar] with the theaters where we went in and literally put a projector in the booth and said, "Okay, for the run of this movie, this is how we're going to do it," you know, whether it was the 70 mm in the Chinese or 70 mm at the Cinerama Dome or whatever - those screens did incredibly well for us. People see it as an old-fashioned mentality, but it's not. It's about putting on a show for the audience in the venues where we can put on something special, something extraordinary. Yes, it requires money to do that, but if you can do it, why not? If it can pay for itself, why not?
  • [on his filmmaking approach] I try not to separate the side of me that admires sophisticated, aesthetic filmmakers with the side of me who grew up loving Star Wars and James Bond films.
  • Most of the movies that have really inspired me were box-office failures - Blade Runner (1982), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), a terrific movie, but there's no correlation between my favourite movies and box-office success.
  • [on Dunkirk (2017)] I wanted it to be an intense an experience as possible and therefore as lean and stripped down and short an experience as possible. You can only sustain the degree of suspense and tension that we wanted from the film for so long before you exhaust the audience. I think perhaps people hearing that I was doing a film about Dunkirk, particularly British people who know the story already are thinking big historical epic, they're imagining a three-hour film with a lot of talking and all the rest. What I did is I wrote a script that was 76 pages that is really half the length of my old screenplays because I didn't want to tell the story in words - I didn't want the theatrics of people telling the audience why you should care about them. I wanted to care about them just because of the physical situation they were in, and in that way build up a subjective experience of the events of Dunkirk that would hopefully have a cumulative quality, emotional quality through the course of the film that will pay off at the end of the film without ever being overly theatrical or sentimentalising these real life events. So the relentless pacing of it and the stripped down nature of it was something I was very determined to stick to with right from the beginning before I wrote the script. [2017]
  • [on remastering "The Dark Knight" trilogy in 4K] The wonderful thing about 4K technology is it gets closer to the resolution that we shot the films in. Photo-chemically finished films such as 35mm have at least 6K resolution, IMAX film upwards of 18K. So as home video formats keep evolving, 4K, particularly 4K with HDR, it allows us to give somebody at home an experience that's much much closer to what it was like to see the original film prints as projected on film. I think its a very exciting prospect and it's a long, complicated process that we're doing right now, but I think the results I'm seeing are very pleasing and very spectacular. [2017]
  • [on Dunkirk (2017)] [It's] one of the greatest stories of human history. At its heart, it's a survival story. The enemy is closing in on the British on this beach with no escape. I wanted to put the audience in the story. [2017]
  • [at the world premiere of Dunkirk (2017)] I won't say enjoy the film, that doesn't seem quite right. So I would say, experience the film and hope you get something out of it. [July 2017]
  • [Dunkirk (2017) has] ...the most radical structure I've employed since Memento (2000). [2017]
  • [on being nervous before the release of Dunkirk (2017)] It's this kind of horrible holding pattern of stress. I make films for an audience, so for me, the film isn't complete until it goes out there into the world. It's this awful, tense moment. It never gets any easier. [2017]
  • [on Dunkirk (2017) as 'cinema of experience'] Telling the story primarily pictorially and through sound and music rather than having people talk about who they are and where they're from - that was very attractive to me. (...) We're trying to create an experience that I talk about as being like virtual reality without the goggles. I think what's exciting about movies right now, as opposed to television or novels or the stage, is the cinema of experience, where you're sitting in a room with a lot of different people and you're being taken to a world you'd never normally travel to. [2017]
  • [on releasing Dunkirk (2017) in the summer] It's very exciting to be putting something different out to the audience, but it's also very frightening. It feels like it raises the stakes for the success of the film. It feels like we're carrying a bit more than we realized going into it in terms of what movies can work or can't work in the summer. [2017]
  • [on sound mixing] I love this part - once you lock picture, all you're doing is trying to make it the most it could be. [2017]
  • [on Dunkirk (2017)] I'm in a position to be able to take risks, and I feel a responsibility to take risks. You need that nervousness. You need those risks. My job is to be right on the edge of what's going to work. [2017]
  • [on the costs of shooting on film vs. digital] As far as the cost, it's a complete fallacy. I'm making my films cheaper than anybody working at the same scale on digital. There are no efficiencies to be gained there and no money to be saved. There's been an aggressive fight against photochemicals by companies who make money by change. They make money by selling you new equipment and building new equipment. The studios saw an opportunity to stop paying as much for release prints and follow more of a television model where you're broadcasting films rather than physically shipping them. But all of that's irrelevant. I gave a speech some years ago where I was asked to defend film, and I said that I felt like a stonemason defending marble. It's ridiculous. This is why we're all here. It's what we do. This is film. Every digital format so far devised is just an imitation of film. [2017]
  • [on Dunkirk (2017)] I wasn't interested in backstories. The event itself is the main character, and the empathy for the soldiers has nothing to do with their story. You're looking at their physical situation, you're looking at the task they are faced with physically, and you as the audience don't want to be in that position. The film is dragging you into an empathetic relationship with them through the openness of their expressions and the genuineness of their reactions, and you are being dragged along with their journey. You don't particularly want to be there. You want them to succeed by virtue of the fact that you are empathizing with another human being.
  • I think the job of a director is to be the lens through which other people's input is focused, and so really my job is to have a clear point of view, and a sincere point of view, and things that I take pleasure in, things I don't like, things that make me uncomfortable, whatever that is, whatever that input is, you're trying to focus it in a coherent manner, and that's where the personality of a director's important.
  • Suspense is a primarily visual language.
  • [on Michael Caine's vocal cameo in Dunkirk (2017)] I wanted very much to squeeze him in here. It's a bit of a nod to his character in Battle of Britain (1969). And also, it's Michael. He has to be in all my films, after all.
  • [on the narrative structure of Dunkirk (2017)] The air (planes), the land (on the beach ) and the sea (the evacuation by the navy). For the soldiers who embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities. On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; and if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry an hour of fuel. To mingle these different versions of history, one had to mix the temporal strata. Hence the complicated structure; even if the story is very simple. Do not repeat it to the studio: it will be my most experimental film. ['Premiere' magazine, 2017]
  • [if he would be interested in directing a James Bond movie] ...definitely. I've spoken to the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson over the years. I deeply love the character, and I'm always excited to see what they do with it. Maybe one day that would work out. You'd have to be needed, if you know what I mean. It has to need you.
  • [on Dunkirk (2017)] This tale is about the idea of home It's about the desperate frustration of not being able to get to where you need to be. We live in n era where the idea of too many people piling onto one boat to try and cross difficult waters safely isn't something that people can dismiss as a story from 1940 anymore. We live in an era where the virtue of individuality is very much overstated. The idea of communal responsibility and communal heroism and what can be achieved through community is unfashionable. "Dunkirk" is a very emotional story for me because it represents what's being lost.
  • I think when people are critical of the amount of exposition that I've engaged in in my films, it's probably important that they take into account the complexity of the films as well. In some of those films, there's a lot I'm trying to get across narratively. Exposition is very tough. It's artifice. It's theatricality.
  • Whether you're talking about Silicon Valley billionaires or politicians, I think we're living in an era that over-prizes individuality at the expense of community. It's the Silicon Valley billionaire as opposed to the union. We've steered too far in one direction. We need to be reminded of the potential of what we can do together. It's become very fashionable in the last couple of decades to forget what good government can do, what good union organizing can do. The idea that benevolent capitalists will just take care of us and the people on top will magically distribute wealth and happiness and security to us little people ... no. It's time we wised up. Strength comes from community in all things. Dunkirk is one of those stories.
  • [on self-reliance] I didn't go to film school and I always made my own films. I know enough about every job on set to sort of be a pain in the ass to everybody. [May 2018]
  • However sophisticated your computer-generated imagery is, if it's been created from no physical elements and you haven't shot anything, it's going to feel like animation.
  • [why he doesn't deploy second units] To me, if I'm the director, I have to be shooting all the shots that go into a film. [May 2018]