Christopher Nolan



Christopher Nolan (b. 1970) is a British-American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He created several of the most successful films of the early 21st century, and his eight films have grossed over $3.5 billion worldwide. Having made his directorial debut with ‘Following’ (1998), he gained considerable attention for his second feature, ‘Memento’ (2000). The acclaim of these independent films afforded Nolan the opportunity to make the big-budget thriller ‘Insomnia’ (2002), and the more offbeat production ‘The Prestige’ (2006); which were well-received critically and commercially. He found popular success with ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy (2005–2012), ‘Inception’ (2010), and ‘Interstellar’ (2014). He runs the London-based production company Syncopy Inc. with his wife Emma Thomas.

His films are rooted in philosophical and sociological concepts, exploring human morality, the construction of time, and the malleable nature of memory and personal identity. Experimentation with metafictive elements, temporal shifts, elliptical cutting, solipsistic perspectives, nonlinear storytelling and the analogous relationship between the visual language and narrative elements, permeate his entire body of work.

Nolan was born in London. His British father was an advertising copywriter, and his American mother worked as a flight attendant. His childhood was split between London and Chicago. He has an older brother, Matthew, and a younger brother, Jonathan. Nolan began making films at age seven, borrowing his father’s Super 8 camera and shooting short films with his action figures. From the age of 11, he aspired to be a professional filmmaker. Nolan was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, and later read English literature atUniversity College London (UCL). He chose UCL specifically for its filmmaking facilities, which comprised a Steenbeck editing suite and 16mm cameras. He was president of the Union’s Film Society, and with Emma Thomas (his then girlfriend, and now wife and producer) he screened 35mm feature films during the school year and used the money earned to produce 16mm films over the summers.

During his college years, Nolan made two short films. The first was the surreal 8mm ‘Tarantella’ (1989), which was shown on Image Union (an independent film and video showcase on the Public Broadcasting Service). The second was ‘Larceny’ (1995), filmed over a weekend in black and white with a limited cast, crew, and equipment. Funded by Nolan and shot with the society’s equipment, it appeared at the Cambridge Film Festival in 1996 and is considered one of UCL’s best shorts. After graduation, Nolan directed corporate videos and industrial films. He also made a third short, ‘Doodlebug’ (1997), about a man chasing an insect around a flat with a shoe, only to discover when killing it that it is a miniature of himself. During this period of his career, he had little or no success getting his projects off the ground, and later recalled the ‘stack of rejection letters’ that greeted his early forays into making films, adding ‘there’s a very limited pool of finance in the UK. To be honest, it’s a very clubby kind of place … Never had any support whatsoever from the British film industry.’

In 1998 Nolan directed his first feature, which he personally funded and filmed with friends. ‘Following’ depicts an unemployed young writer who trails strangers through London, hoping they will provide material for his first novel, but is drawn into a criminal underworld when he fails to keep his distance. The film was inspired by Nolan’s experience of living in London and having his flat burgled: ‘There is an interesting connection between a stranger going through your possessions and the concept of following people at random through a crowd – both take you beyond the boundaries of ordinary social relations.’ The film was made on a modest budget of £3,000, and was shot on weekends over the course of a year. To conserve film stock, each scene was rehearsed extensively. Co-produced with Emma Thomas and Jeremy Theobald (who played the lead role), Nolan wrote, photographed and edited the film himself. ‘The New Yorker’ wrote that it ‘echoed Hitchcock classics,’ but was ‘leaner and meaner.’

‘Following’ was a critical success, affording Nolan the opportunity to make his breakthrough hit ‘Memento’ (2000), which he had been planning since 1997. During a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, his brother Jonathan pitched the idea for ‘Memento Mori,’ about a man with anterograde amnesia who uses notes and tattoos to hunt for his wife’s murderer. Nolan developed a screenplay that told the story in reverse; Aaron Ryder, an executive for Newmarket Films, said it was ‘perhaps the most innovative script I had ever seen.’ Joe Morgenstern of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ wrote in his review, ‘I can’t remember when a movie has seemed so clever, strangely affecting and slyly funny at the very same time.’ Basil Smith, in the book ‘The Philosophy of Neo-Noir,’ draws a comparison with John Locke’s ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ which argues that conscious memories constitute our identities, a theme which Nolan explores in the film.

Impressed by his work on ‘Memento,’ Steven Soderbergh recruited Nolan to direct the psychological thriller ‘Insomnia’ (2002), starring Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank. Warner Bros. initially wanted a more seasoned director, but Soderbergh and his Section Eight Productions fought for Nolan, as well as his choice of cinematographer (Wally Pfister) and editor (Dody Dorn). With a $50 million budget, it was described as ‘a much more conventional Hollywood film than anything the director has done before.’ A remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, ‘Insomnia’ is about two Los Angeles detectives sent to a northern Alaskan town to investigate the methodical murder of a local teenager. It was well received by critics and performed well at the box office, earning $113 million worldwide. Film critic Roger Ebert praised the character-driven film for introducing new perspectives and ideas on the issues of morality and guilt, rather than being overly reliant on the original film. ‘Unlike most remakes, the Nolan Insomnia is not a pale retread, but a re-examination of the material, like a new production of a good play.’ Actor and critic Dave Montalbano said that in the film Nolan ‘concocts his own recipe for film noir and creates his own cinema art form.’

After ‘Insomnia,’ Nolan planned a Howard Hughes biographical film starring Jim Carrey. He had written a screenplay, but when he learned that Martin Scorsese was making a Hughes biopic (2004’s ‘The Aviator’) he reluctantly tabled his script and moved on to other projects. Having turned down an offer to direct the historical epic ‘Troy’ (2004), Nolan worked on adapting Ruth Rendell’s crime novel ‘The Keys to the Street’ into a screenplay which he planned to direct for Fox Searchlight Pictures, but eventually left the project citing the similarities to his previous films. In early 2003, Nolan approached Warner Bros. with the idea to make a new Batman film. Fascinated by the character and story, he wanted to make a film grounded in a ‘relatable’ world more reminiscent of a classical drama than a comic-book fantasy. Batman Begins, the biggest project Nolan had undertaken to that point, premiered in 2005 to both critical acclaim and commercial success. Starring Christian Bale in the title role, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman, the film revived the franchise, heralding a trend towards darker films which rebooted (or retold) backstories. It tells the origin story of the character from Bruce Wayne’s initial fear of bats, the death of his parents, his journey to become Batman, and his fight against Ra’s al Ghul’s plot to destroy Gotham City. Praised for its psychological depth and contemporary relevance, Kyle Smith of ‘The New York Post’ called it ‘a wake-up call to the people who keep giving us cute capers about men in tights. It wipes the smirk off the face of the superhero movie.’

Before returning to the ‘Batman’ franchise, Nolan directed, co-wrote and produced ‘The Prestige’ (2006), an adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel about two rival 19th-century magicians. In 2001, when Nolan was in post-production for ‘Insomnia,’ he asked his brother Jonathan to help write the script for the film. The screenplay was an intermittent, five-year collaboration between the brothers. Nolan initially intended to make the film as early as 2003, postponing the project after agreeing to make ‘Batman Begins.’ Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in the lead roles, ‘The Prestige’ received critical acclaim (including Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction), and earned over $109 million worldwide. With a dark and twisting tale, Roger Ebert described it as ‘quite a movie — atmospheric, obsessive, almost satanic.’

In 2006 Nolan announced that the follow-up to ‘Batman Begins’ would be called ‘The Dark Knight.’ Approaching the sequel, Nolan wanted to expand on the noirish quality of the first film by broadening the canvas and taking on ‘the dynamic of a story of the city, a large crime story … where you’re looking at the police, the justice system, the vigilante, the poor people, the rich people, the criminals.’ Released in 2008, to great critical acclaim, ‘The Dark Knight’ has been cited as one of the best films of the 2000s and one of the best superhero films ever made. Manohla Dargis of ‘The New York Times’ found the film to be of higher artistic merit than many Hollywood blockbusters: ‘Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, it goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind.’ Ebert expressed a similar point of view, describing it as a ‘haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy.’ The film set a number of box-office records during its theatrical run, earning over a billion dollars worldwide. ‘The Dark Knight’ is the first feature film shot partially in the 15/70mm IMAX format.

Nolan’s next project was ‘Inception,’ ‘a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind.’ He wrote, directed, and co-produced the film with a $160 million budget from Warner Bros. The investment was a gamble for the studio, betting on unproven and highly abstruse material in a market that was increasingly dependent on sequels, spinoffs, reboots, and franchises. But, it was a bet they were not hesitant to make given Nolan’s unbroken string of hits, and ultimately the film went on to make back its budget several times over at the box office. By this point in his career Nolan had nearly unprecedented clout in Hollywood and was beginning to become something of a franchise himself. Before being released in theaters, critics like Peter Travers and Lou Lumenick wondered if Nolan’s faith in moviegoers’ intelligence would cost him at the box office. Mark Kermode named it the best film of 2010, stating ”Inception’ is proof that people are not stupid, that cinema is not trash, and that it is possible for blockbusters and art to be the same thing.’ Veteran producer John Davis speculated that its success could inspire studios to make more original content; ‘I can promise you that heads of studios are already going into production meetings saying we need fresh ideas for summer movies, we want original concepts like ‘Inception’ that are big and bold enough to carry themselves.’

In 2012, Nolan directed his third and final Batman film, ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ Although he was initially reluctant to return to the series, he agreed to come back after developing a story with his brother and David S. Goyer which he felt would end the trilogy on a high note. Andrew O’Hehir of ‘Salon’ called the film ‘arguably the biggest, darkest, most thrilling and disturbing and utterly balls-out spectacle ever created for the screen,’ further describing the work as ‘auteurist spectacle on a scale never before possible and never before attempted.’ Christy Lemire of ‘The Associated Press’ wrote in her review that Nolan concluded his trilogy in a ‘typically spectacular, ambitious fashion,’ but disliked the ‘overloaded’ story and excessive grimness; ‘This is the problem when you’re an exceptional, visionary filmmaker. When you give people something extraordinary, they expect it every time. Anything short of that feels like a letdown.’ Like its predecessor it performed well at the box office, becoming the thirteenth film in the world to gross over $1-billion. During a midnight showing of the film at the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman opened fire inside the theater, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. Nolan released a statement to the press expressing his condolences for the victims of what he described as a senseless tragedy.

During story discussions for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in 2010, Goyer told Nolan of his idea to present Superman in a modern context. Impressed with Goyer’s concept, Nolan pitched the idea for ‘Man of Steel’ (2013) to Warner Bros, who hired Nolan to produce and Goyer to write. Nolan recommended Zack Snyder to direct the film, based on his stylized adaptations of ‘300’ (2007) and ‘Watchmen’ (2009) and his ‘innate aptitude for dealing with superheroes as real characters.’ Nolan and Thomas also served as executive producers on ‘Transcendence’ (2014), the directorial debut of Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister. Based on a script by Jack Paglen, the film revolves around two scientists who work toward creating a machine that possesses sentience and collective intelligence. The film was a commercial and critical failure. A. A. Dowd of ‘The A.V. Club’ wrote that ‘[Pfister] lacks Nolan’s talent for weaving grand pop spectacle out of cultural anxieties.’ Nolan and Thomas are executive producers on the upcoming ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (2016), the sequel to ‘Man of Steel’ and the second installment in the DC shared film universe. According to producer Charles Roven, Nolan is involved with the production in an ‘advisory capacity.’

In 2013 it was announced that Nolan would direct, write and produce a science-fiction film entitled ‘Interstellar.’ The first drafts of the script were written by Jonathan Nolan, and it was originally to be directed by Steven Spielberg. Based on the scientific theories of renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, the film depicted ‘a heroic interstellar voyage to the farthest borders of our scientific understanding.’ ‘Interstellar’ starred Matthew McConaughey and was notably Nolan’s first collaboration with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. According to composer Hans Zimmer, they wanted to move in a new direction with the score: ‘We had this sort of conversation about — you know nine years we spent in our Batman world. The textures, the music, and the sounds, and the thing we sort of created has sort of seeped into other people’s movies a bit, so it’s time to reinvent.’ The film was released in late 2014 to critical acclaim.

Regarded as an auteur and postmodern filmmaker, Nolan’s visual style emphasises urban settings, men in suits, muted colors (often monochrome), dialogue scenes framed in wide close-up with a shallow depth of field, and modern locations and architecture. He has noted that all of his films are heavily influenced by film noir. Nolan has continuously experimented with metafictive elements and nonlinear storytelling and the merging of style and form. Discussing ‘The Tree of Life’ (2011), Nolan spoke of Terrence Malick’s work and how it has influenced his own approach to style, ‘When you think of a visual style, when you think of the visual language of a film, there tends to be a natural separation of the visual style and the narrative elements. But with the greats, whether it’s Stanley Kubrick or Terrence Malick or Hitchcock, what you’re seeing is an inseparable, a vital relationship between the image and the story it’s telling.’

Drawing attention to the intrinsically manipulative nature of the medium, Nolan uses narrative and stylistic techniques (notably mise en abyme and recursions – reduplication of images or concepts referring to the textual whole) to stimulate the viewer to ask themselves why his films are put together in such ways and why the films provoke particular responses. He often uses editing as a way to represent the characters’ psychological states, merging their subjectivity with that of the audience. For example, in ‘Memento’ the fragmented sequential order of scenes is to put the audience into a similar experience of Leonard’s defective ability to create new long-term memories. In ‘The Prestige,’ the series of magic tricks and themes of duality and deception mirror the structural narrative of the film.

The protagonists of Nolan’s films are usually psychologically damaged, obsessively seeking vengeance for the death of a loved one. They are often driven by philosophical beliefs, and their fate is ambiguous. In many of his films the protagonist and antagonist are mirror images of each other, a point which is made to the protagonist by the antagonist. Through these clashings of ideologies, Nolan highlights the ambivalent nature of truth. His writing style incorporates a number of storytelling techniques such as flashbacks, shifting points of view and unreliable narrators. Scenes are often interrupted by the unconventional editing style of cutting away quickly from the money shot (or nearly cutting off characters’ dialogue) and crosscutting several scenes of parallel action to build to a climax. Nolan has also stressed the importance of establishing a clear point of view in his films, and makes frequent use of ‘the shot that walks into a room behind a character, because … that takes [the viewer] inside the way that the character enters.’

He uses cinéma-vérité techniques (such as hand-held camera work) to convey realism. In an interview at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Nolan explained his emphasis on realism in ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy: ‘You try and get the audience to invest in cinematic reality. When I talk about reality in these films, it’s often misconstrued as a direct reality, but it’s really about a cinematic reality.’ He has said, ‘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 onscreen, 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.’

Nolan prefers shooting on film to digital video, and opposes the use of digital intermediates and digital cinematography, which he feels are less reliable and offer inferior image quality to film. In particular, he advocates for the use of higher-quality, larger-format film stock such as anamorphic 35mm, VistaVision, 65mm, and 70mm IMAX. Nolan uses multi-camera for stunts and single-camera for all the dramatic action, from which he will then watch dailies every night; ‘Shooting single-camera means I’ve already seen every frame as it’s gone through the gate because my attention isn’t divided to multi-cameras.’ When working with actors, Nolan prefers giving them the time to perform as many takes of a given scene as they want. ‘I’ve come to realize that the lighting and camera setups, the technical things, take all the time, but running another take generally only adds a couple of minutes. … If an actor tells me they can do something more with a scene, I give them the chance, because it’s not going to cost that much time. It can’t all be about the technical issues.’ Gary Oldman praised the director for having a calm and relaxed atmosphere on set, adding ‘I’ve never seen him raise his voice to anyone.’ He also explained that Nolan does not give direction for direction’s sake, rather ‘He lets you have the space to find things in the scene, and if he needs to tweak something he will simply step in and give you a note.’

Nolan chooses to minimize the amount of computer-generated imagery for special effects in his films, preferring to use practical effects whenever possible, only using CGI to enhance elements which he has photographed in camera. For instance his films ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Inception’ featured 620 and 500 visual-effects shots, respectively, which is considered minor when compared with contemporary visual-effects epics which may have upwards of 1,500 to 2,000 VFX shots: ‘I believe in an absolute difference between animation and photography. 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. There are usually two different goals in a visual effects movie. One is to fool the audience into seeing something seamless, and that’s how I try to use it. The other is to impress the audience with the amount of money spent on the spectacle of the visual effect, and that, I have no interest in.’

Nolan shoots the entirety of his films with one unit, rather than using a second unit for action sequences. In that way he keeps his personality and point of view in every aspect of the film. “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 … 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?’ A famously secretive filmmaker, Nolan is also known for his tight security on scripts, even going as far as telling the actors of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ the ending of the film verbally to avoid any leaks and also keeping the ‘Interstellar’ plot secret from his composer Hans Zimmer.

Mazes, impossible constructions and paradoxes are featured in Nolan’s work. He explores existential, ethical and epistemological themes such as subjective experience, distortion of memory, human morality, the nature of time, and construction of personal identity: ‘I’m fascinated by our subjective perception of reality, that we are all stuck in a very singular point of view, a singular perspective on what we all agree to be an objective reality, and movies are one of the ways in which we try to see things from the same point of view.’ His characters are often emotionally disturbed and morally ambiguous, facing the fears and anxieties of loneliness, guilt, jealousy, and greed; in addition to the larger themes of corruption and conspiracy. By grounding ‘everyday neurosis – our everyday sort of fears and hopes for ourselves’ in a heightened reality, Nolan makes them more accessible to a universal audience. Another signature theme is characters refusing the passing of time and letting go of the past. Writing for ‘Film Philosophy, Emma Bell’ points out that the characters in ‘Inception’ do not literally time-travel, ‘rather they escape time by being stricken in it – building the delusion that time has not passed, and is not passing now. They feel time grievously: willingly and knowingly destroying their experience by creating multiple simultaneous existences.’ Jason Ney of ‘Film Noir Foundation’ insists that Nolan’s later films seem more hopeful and open in regards to the possibility that the characters can escape and overcome these fears.

In Nolan’s films reality is often an abstract and fragile concept. Alec Price and M. Dawson of ‘Left Field Cinema,’ noted that the existential crises of conflicted male figures ‘struggling with the slippery nature of identity’ is a prevalent theme in Nolan’s work. The actual (or objective) world is of less importance than the way in which we absorb and remember, and it is this created (or subjective) reality that truly matters. ‘It is solely in the mind and the heart where any sense of permanency or equilibrium can ever be found.’ According to film theorist Todd McGowan, these ‘created realities’ also reveal the ethical and political importance of creating fictions and falsehoods. Nolan’s films typically deceive spectators about the events that occur and the motivations of the characters, but they do not abandon the idea of truth altogether. Instead, ‘They show us how truth must emerge out of the lie if it is not to lead us entirely astray.’ McGowan further argues that Nolan is the first filmmaker to devote himself entirely to the illusion of the medium, calling him a Hegelian filmmaker.

‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy explored themes of chaos, terrorism, escalation of violence, financial manipulation, utilitarianism, mass surveillance, and class conflicts. Batman’s arc of rising (philosophically) from a man to ‘more than just a man,’ is similar to the Nietzschian Übermensch (superman). The films also explore ideas akin to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophical glorification of a simpler, more-primitive way of life and the concept of general will. Theorist Douglas Kellner saw the series as a critical allegory about the Bush-Cheney era, highlighting the theme of government corruption and failure to solve social problems, as well as the cinematic spectacle and iconography related to 9/11. In ‘Inception,’ Nolan was inspired by lucid dreaming and dream incubation. The film’s characters try to embed an idea in a person’s mind without their knowledge, similar to Freud’s theories that the unconscious influences one’s behavior without their knowledge. Most of the film takes place in interconnected dream worlds; this creates a framework where actions in the real (or dream) worlds ripple across others. The dream is always in a state of emergence, shifting across levels as the characters navigate it. ‘Inception,’ like ‘Memento,’ and ‘The Prestige,’ uses metaleptic storytelling devices and follows Nolan’s ‘auteur affinity of converting, moreover, converging narrative and cognitive values into and within a fictional story.’

Nolan has cited Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, Nicolas Roeg, Sidney Lumet, David Lean, Ridley Scott, Terry Gilliam, and John Frankenheimer as influences. His personal favorite films include ‘Blade Runner’ (1982), ‘Star Wars’ (1977), ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (1975), ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962), ‘Chinatown’ (1974), and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968). Nolan’s habit for employing non-linear storylines was particularly influenced by the Graham Swift novel ‘Waterland,’ which he felt ‘did incredible things with parallel timelines, and told a story in different dimensions that was extremely coherent.’ He was also influenced by the visual language of the film ‘Pink Floyd – The Wall’ (1982) and the structure of ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994), stating that he was ‘fascinated with what Tarantino had done.’ Other influences Nolan has cited include figurative painter Francis Bacon, graphic artist M. C. Escher, and authors Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Jim Thompson, Jorge Luis Borges, and Charles Dickens.

Christopher Nolan is a vocal proponent for the continued use of film stock over digital recording and projection formats, summing up his beliefs as, ‘I am not committed to film out of nostalgia. I am in favor of any kind of technical innovation but it needs to exceed what has gone before and so far nothing has exceeded anything that’s come before.’ Nolan’s major concern is that the film industry’s adoption of digital formats has been driven purely by financial factors as opposed to digital being a superior medium to film, saying: ‘I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo.’ Shortly before Christmas of 2011, Nolan invited several prominent directors, including Edgar Wright, Michael Bay, Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau, Eli Roth, Duncan Jones, and Stephen Daldry, to Universal CityWalk’s IMAX theater for a private screening of the first six minutes of ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ which had been shot on IMAX film and edited from the original camera negative. Nolan used this screening in an attempt to showcase the superiority of the IMAX format over digital, and warn the filmmakers that unless they continued to assert their choice to use film in their productions, Hollywood movie studios would begin to phase out the use of film in favor of digital. Nolan explained; ‘I wanted to give them a chance to see the potential, because I think IMAX is the best film format that was ever invented. It’s the gold standard and what any other technology has to match up to, but none have, in my opinion. The message I wanted to put out there was that no one is taking anyone’s digital cameras away. But if we want film to continue as an option, and someone is working on a big studio movie with the resources and the power to insist [on] film, they should say so. I felt as if I didn’t say anything, and then we started to lose that option, it would be a shame. When I look at a digitally acquired and projected image, it looks inferior against an original negative anamorphic print or an IMAX one.’

Nolan is also an advocate for the importance of films being shown in large screened cinema theaters as opposed to home video formats, as he believes that, ‘The theatrical window is to the movie business what live concerts are to the music business—and no one goes to a concert to be played an MP3 on a bare stage.’ In 2014, Christopher Nolan wrote an article for ‘The Wall Street Journal’ where he expressed concern that as the film industry transitions away from photochemical film towards digital formats, the difference between seeing films in theaters versus on other formats will become trivialized, leaving audiences no incentive to seek out a theatrical experience. Nolan further expressed concern that with content digitized, theaters of the future will be able to track best-selling films and adjust their programming accordingly; a process that favors large heavily marketed studio films, but will marginalize smaller innovative and unconventional pictures. In order to combat this, Nolan believes the industry needs to focus on improving the theatrical experience with bigger and more beautiful presentation formats that cannot be accessed or reproduced in the home, as well as embracing the new generation of aspiring young innovative filmmakers.

Emma Thomas has co-produced all of his films (including ‘Memento,’ in which she is credited as an associate producer). He regularly works with his brother, screenwriter and producer Jonathan Nolan, who describes their working relationship in the production notes for ‘The Prestige’: ‘I’ve always suspected that it has something to do with the fact that he’s left-handed and I’m right-handed, because he’s somehow able to look at my ideas and flip them around in a way that’s just a little bit more twisted and interesting. It’s great to be able to work with him like that.’ When Nolan’s family relocated to Chicago during his formative years, he started making films with Adrien and Roko Belic. He has continued his collaboration with the brothers, receiving a credit for his editorial assistance on their Oscar-nominated documentary ‘Genghis Blues’ (1999). Nolan also worked alongside Roko (and future Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Gettleman) on documenting a safari across four African countries, organized by the late photojournalist Dan Eldon in the early 1990s.

Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Cillian Murphy have been frequent collaborators since ‘Batman Begins.’ Caine is Nolan’s most prolific collaborator, having appeared in six of his films, and is regarded by Nolan to be his ‘good luck charm.’ In return, Caine has described Nolan as ‘one of cinema’s greatest directors,’ comparing him favorably with the likes of David Lean, John Huston and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Nolan is also known for casting stars from the 1980s in his films, i.e. Rutger Hauer (‘Batman Begins’), Eric Roberts (‘The Dark Knight’), Tom Berenger (‘Inception’), and Matthew Modine (‘The Dark Knight Rises’). Modine said of working with Nolan: ‘There are no chairs on a Nolan set, he gets out of his car and goes to the set. And he stands up until lunchtime. And then he stands up until they say ‘Wrap.’ He’s fully engaged – in every aspect of the film.’

Nolan does not have a cell phone or an email account; when Warner Bros. assigned him an office email account, he was unaware until some time later. ‘There were thousands of emails in this account – some from quite important people, actually … I had them take it down, so people didn’t think they were getting in touch with me.’ On the topic of cell phones, he said: ‘It’s not that I’m a luddite and don’t like technology; I’ve just never been interested. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1997, nobody really had cell phones, and I just never went down that path.’

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