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Interstellar - Christopher Nolan interview


Compiled by Ann Lee and Rob Carnevale

CHRISTOPHER Nolan talks about why he wanted to make Interstellar, both for himself and for audiences, and discusses some of the challenges involved in the process.

He also talks about some of the science behind the movie and how it relates to real-life incidents and ideology and he discusses his ongoing collaboration with Hans Zimmer. He was speaking at a UK press conference…

Q. Interstellar is an amazing film. It’s a combination of epic and intimate, space and love, galaxies and time but at the core of it is a father and daughter story. What is the reason for making the film?
Christopher Nolan: My interest in it was a couple of key things. The first was the relationship between the father and his children. I’m a father myself. I related to it a lot. I found it really powerful. I liked the idea of combining it with this story that speculates about a potential moment in human evolution where mankind would have to reckon with its place in the wider universe. I grew up in an era which was really the golden ages of blockbusters films like Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] that addressed that idea of the supernatural from a family perspective. I really liked the idea of trying to give today’s audiences some sense of that form of story.

Q. After the success of Gravity, does that mean we’ll be seeing more science fiction movies now?
Christopher Nolan: Well obviously, the success of films like Gravity is very encouraging for everyone working in science fiction. We’ll see how we do. The thing you hope for doing an original project such as this, which isn’t a sequel or part of a franchise or based on something from another medium, is that it encourages more of this kind of thing within the studio system. It’s what we tried to do with Inception and now with this one too. But we’ll have to wait and see.

Q. What would it take for you to dip into television and work on something for a channel like HBO?
Christopher Nolan: I like movies at the moment.

Q. Do you feel compelled to make films on this scale in IMAX at a time when Hollywood is under threat from other mediums such as TV and the gaming industry?
Christopher Nolan: For me, the great thing about movies has always been the large screen and the large audience experience. That’s what you always hope for. One of my earliest movie experiences was going to Leicester Square to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was seven-years-old and I’ve never forgotten the scale of that experience. I saw my first IMAX film when I was 15. So, really for me working on this scale in this medium has been a long-held dream.

Q. Can you talk a little about how science informs your storytelling?
Christopher Nolan: Well, in the case of Interstellar it’s obvious because of Kip Thorne’s involvement. Kip’s long-held dream was to do a science fiction film that was based on the possibilities offered by science. I enjoyed working that way because it wasn’t a set of rules imposed on storytelling. It was really about a set of possibilities and what can real world science offer us. And the things that he was able to open up to me were far more exotic and surprising than anything I could have come up with as a screenwriter.

Q. Can you talk about working with Hans Zimmer on this score?
Christopher Nolan: I’ve done several films with Hans now and really enjoy the process. We try and change the way we work. In the case of this one, I called him up and said: “I’d like you to give me a day of your time.” This was before I started writing the script. He had no idea what the genre was going to be. He had no idea about any of it. So, I gave him a letter comprised of one page which described the fable at the heart of the film, which was really about the relationship between a father and his child. I said: “OK, work on that for a day.” And at the end of the day he would play me what he had done and that would be the score for the film. And that’s what we did. I thought what he did perfectly captured the feelings at the heart of the film and then over the next two years we built that out. But I’m very pleased with what he did and I think working that way we were able to achieve a very close relationship between the music and the emotion.

Q. Which films have been the most influential upon you when making Interstellar?
Christopher Nolan: There are so many influences. In particular, 2001 is an obvious influence and a huge inspiration. There are quite a few others but a key one in a technical sense is a film called The Right Stuff, which is an extraordinary film. There were a lot of different things.

Q. The film’s tag-line, ‘the end of Earth will not be the end of us’ is quite a reassuring one. Do you think audiences will read it as a call to arms?
Christopher Nolan: Well, I think it is a reassuring sentiment. I think the film is optimistic in that sense. As far as it being a call to arms, no… specifically, within the context of the film, it has a jumping-off point saying we’re not meant to save the earth, we’re meant to leave it. Obviously, if that’s taken literally and we don’t act now it would not be particularly positive. The film feeds off certain worries and concerns that are very valid in the world today. But really it’s about saying: “What is mankind’s place in the universe?” I think it’s very exciting to deal with that dramatically and I think it’s important that we have to deal with that out of necessity. But I also think in real life, it would be far better if we dealt with that issue out of choice.

Q. Do you think the NASA rocket explosion will affect the way people view Interstellar? And will it highlight the dangers associated with space travel even more so?
Christopher Nolan: Well, I think anytime you’re reminded of how difficult this is it brings people’s attention to it, particularly when you’re looking at astronauts and what they face. Every time a rocket blows up or something or like that we’re reminded of the incredible bravery of these people and the extraordinary nature of this endeavour, which requires resources from the entire world put together. One of the things that I absolutely love about space exploration is that it does represent the highest ambition of our collective endeavour to actually do something that difficult and get out into the universe and off this planet. It’s an extraordinary thing. I think people are constantly being reminded of that.

Q. Professor Brian Cox has recently said that the possibility of alien life is not certain at all. Has doing this film changed your perspective on that and do you believe there could be life beyond our planet?
Christopher Nolan: It’s probably not certain. There is a lot of probability going in around that. There’s a thing called The Drake Equation, which pretty well establishes from a mathematical point of view that it’s extremely likely, actually. I mean, everything is speculation beyond that. What you can say is given the number of celestial bodies, the number of potentially habitable planets and all the rest, it’s very difficult to approach these things from a mathematical, probability point of view.

Read our review of Interstellar