Christopher Nolan Talks ‘Interstellar’ & Celluloid vs. Digital

Published 1 year ago by , Updated March 27th, 2014 at 5:31 am,

Christopher Nolan Talks Interstellar Christopher Nolan Talks Interstellar & Celluloid vs. Digital

Christopher Nolan movies have become something of a cinematic event in recent years; even when he’s not adapting Batman – as with Inception – his name is enough to draw audiences by the droves.  After all, what other working director is known for making huge blockbuster movies shot on actual film with as many practical effects as possible?

The next movie on the Christopher Nolan docket is science fiction film Interstellar, of which we’ve only seen a teaser trailer. Nolan recently talked about the film – as well as his love of the theatrical experience and the superiority of celluloid over digital – at a lunch in his honor during the 2014 CinemaCon.

Courtesy of THR and Variety, Nolan referred to Interstellar as a vehicle for “using interstellar travel to go to other places you couldn’t reach beyond normal space travel.” (Let’s hope that’s the titular line in the movie.) He also said:

“I grew up in an era that was a golden age of the blockbuster, when something we might call a family film could have universal appeal. That’s something I want to see again. In terms of the tone of [Interstellar[, it looks at where we are as a people and has a universality about human experience.”

As previously stated, Nolan is a director who strives to use practical effects and on-location filming whenever possible. Of course, this isn’t news to fans of The Dark Knight trilogy or Inception, the action scenes of which never felt burdened with an overabundance of CGI or green screen. Rather, they’re quite beloved (in part) for their impressive stunt-work.

Christopher Nolan on the set of The Dark Knight Rises Christopher Nolan Talks Interstellar & Celluloid vs. Digital

It should come as no surprise, then, that Nolan is employing similar tactics for Interstellar. According to THR, “[Nolan] built the interior of a space shuttle for some scenes, and placed actual images outside the windows so that the actors could see what their characters would see.”

Said Nolan:

“I want to capture as much in camera as possible. It’s a much higher quality than if you shoot on a green screen.”

Which isn’t to say that films that shoot with green screen can’t look amazing – Gravity proved that they very much can. But Alfonso Cuarón’s space-thriller was the rare sort of movie that got all of that stuff right: the CGI, the green screen, and the 3D.

Gravity Returns to Theaters 570x320 Christopher Nolan Talks Interstellar & Celluloid vs. Digital

But to Nolan’s point, when a large amount of CGI and green screen are usually employed in movies, it can be very apparent that you’re watching something that a computer put together. With Nolan’s films, it’s not.

Nolan went on to talk about the cast of Interstellar, which includes Academy Award winners Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, and Ellen Burstyn, as well as Academy Award nominees Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck (and other great actors who have neither been nominated for nor awarded an Oscar).

On McConaughey:

“[Mud] showed me a side of Matthew’s capabilities that I never knew was there. It was a transformative performance. From when I first saw it, I had an inside track on how great he could be. [...] I needed someone who is very much an everyman, someone the audience could experience the story with. He’s just a phenomenal, charismatic presence in the movie. His performance is shaping up to be extraordinary.”

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective Season 1 Episode 6 Christopher Nolan Talks Interstellar & Celluloid vs. Digital

As for Michael Caine:

“He comes so prepared and he is just so good with such a minimal effort. I cast him in every film just as an example to everyone else. He’s just a lovely guy to be around. He jokes that he’s my lucky charm. It was a very good strategy on his part.”

Finally, Nolan talked about movie technology and the continued superiority of celluloid (a topic he hasn’t shied away from in the past). Said Nolan:

“Film is the best way to capture an image and project that image. It just is, hands down. That’s based on my assessment of what I’m seeing as a filmmaker. As far as innovation and experimentation, I’m in favor of any technological innovation, but it will always have to exceed what came before. None of the new technologies have done that.”

This is one of those arguments that I can see both sides of. While I generally agree with Nolan that film just looks better – more detailed, more beautiful, more tangible in appearance – I also can’t help but feel that some films were just meant to be digital. Michael Mann, Danny Boyle, David Fincher, and many more filmmakers have all used the digital format to incredible success, so it – like green screen and CGI – obviously has its place.

What say you, Screen Ranters? Do you prefer film to digital or vice versa? Are you looking forward to Interstellar? Drop us a line in the comments.


Interstellar hits theaters November 7th, 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

Sources: THR & Variety

Follow Ben Moore on Twitter @benandrewmoore
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Nolan + McConaughey = oscar nominated movie

    As for celluloid vs digital, it’s just an inevitable evolution. You know like digital movies are the next step.
    Nolan himself has confessed in an interview years ago that he doesn’t mind going digital and IMAX. But he won’t go 3D. His movies proved that.

    • I think certain stories are told better in 3D, such as Gravity. Blockbuster popcorn movies hardly deserve the price of 3D, but if there was a good enough story that warranted 3D, Nolan might do it.

  2. I can’t wait for this! heres hoping this turns out too be something really special.

  3. Nolan does not Settle for Less. He thinks of his Craft and his Audience as Well. With 7 Billion People in the World, Everyone will Relate to his New Story. These Brothers are Geniuses!!! :)

  4. Nolan remains one of those rare gems where the soul of the indie director never leaves him no matter how high the budget is he works with. He knows and feels the true responsibility of having so much resources.

    He, and (vicariously) those who work with him in the collaborative medium of film, is (are) as far as I’m concerned one of the greatest artists out there today, if only because of his consistently sincere and holistic approach to his own art form.

    Can not wait to see and hear Interstellar.

  5. I find him to be highly over rated. Does he make good films..? Yes. But his isn’t the type of films I want to revisit over and over again

  6. Interstellar looks fairly good in concept from what I’ve read so far. I have added that to my favorite movie-viewing venue, Netflix, and look forward to the film. The article mentioned Michael Caine. I remember first seeing him in the great landmark movie Zulu, a movie I also have and periodically enjoy.

  7. The Today Show just released TMNT trailer. GET ON IT NOW! lol no rush.

    • is it as bad as it sounds?

      • Looks better than expected.

        There are some people out there who are saying “ew no way!” but the overall feeling is “oh okay, there’s a change the movie might work.”

        • *Chance, not change*

  8. First of all, Michael Caine needs no tricks to be in a film – if he want to be in your movie YOU SAY YES.

    As for the film, I love that it’s a subject that is often hand waved away in most science fiction. Everything is either heavily rooted in somewhat realistic technology, or everyone has hyperdrive and can zip around the galaxy at will. There is little connective tissue between the two (First Contact is literately the only thing I can think of at the moment).

    I have hopes that this will deal with FTL travel and the excitement and implications of it as Contact did with alien contact. How the hell did McConaughey land his ass in these movies. I love that crazy man – the only person who getting caught high playing bongos naked with another dude actually HELPED his career.

  9. cant wait for this movie, love all his movies and hopefully its kind of like prometheus instead of liek gravity…i thought gravity was great but i just dont want to see all these goodf actors in a space shutttle or adrift in space the whole time and when i mean more like prometheus im not sayign prometheus is better than gravity i just hope that they explore planets and have adventures outside of the actual space shuttle

  10. Thats why I love his films. You can see how passionate his is about his craft and thats what makes his films stand out.

  11. To anyone who says that you can tell when CGI or green screen is being employed because the quality is not as good as the real thing, I recommend they watch “Boardwalk”.

  12. First and foremost– this is a great article. I am very anxious about this movie and have pretty much devoured every piece of information released about this upcoming film. If you enjoyed this article or even enjoy the topic of film vs digital… watch SIDEBYSIDE… great documentary.

  13. If he wants to use film because of its look then that’s his choice. He doesn’t have to use 3D if he doesn’t want to, that’s fine.

    But I just wish he’d use the new digital IMAX cameras if he wants to go IMAX, since they’re quiet and he can use them for the whole darn film instead of just outside shots. That way, we won’t have to have switching aspect ratios throughout the film. In this respect (and in terms of storage space and transportation), digital has provided something better than film.