Geoff Boucher then got into the good stuff. He asked if Warner Bros. was knocking at the door for Inception.
“We are just getting off the dub stage – just finished the last reels’ sound work for our early screenings. I’ve got about another week finishing it off.”
Boucher followed this up with a query on the status of CG in films today. It is the driving force for blockbusters and rakes in the big bucks, but Nolan has managed to protect the integrity of his work by using practical effects and in-camera tricks.
“Inception has a lot of physical effects in it, as did The Dark Knight and Batman Begins. I think I’ve always had a belief that however sophisticated the process of animation is, the audience can always tell the difference between something that has been photographed and something that has been animated by an artist.”
“…If you can photograph something for real – you know, there’s a shot in the trailer for Inception of massive buildings crumbling into the sea and even that, we took the actors up to Morocco, we shot the beach with waves coming in and some small representation of buildings there, just to give them something to start with. We always knew it was going to be a massive CG affair, but just to have lighting to match, textures to match, they were able to do much, much better work.”
Nolan went on to explain the history behind Inception and how it came to be a $160 million production. He essentially reiterated points made in earlier interviews about his initial pitch to Warner Bros., including the complicated screenplay.
Another recycled answer was given regarding Leonardo DiCaprio’s involvement at every stage of the filmmaking process. DiCaprio apparently had a tremendous impact on the screenplay, which took a decade to complete. The actor brought the essential heart and “emotional shifts” to a character that had too much of a classically superficial heist film narrative. Said Nolan:
“…The people we are showing them to early certainly seem to be able to connect with the material emotionally and not just on the level of being a clever, clever puzzle box film.”
Boucher asked Nolan about the director’s favorite scene in The Dark Knight – the interrogation scene. The extended answer from Nolan delves into both the technical and personal side of shooting the sequence.
“I think for me, the scene means a lot to me for all kinds of different reasons. On a technical level, I was able to do the scene very much in the way I wanted. I worked very early with Nathan Crowley, my designer with the look of the room. We actually shot screen tests for Heath’s makeup and the new batsuit. We sort of put the guys together and put the wall coloring that we wanted to use and got Wally Pfister, my DP, to experiment with these incredibly hot overkeys, with five stops over with lighting. It took a lot of convincing, because instead of doing a dark, traditional interrogation scene we wanted to throw the lights on and have it be the opposite. There was a big technical challenge with that, firstly with making the batsuit look good. We could never have done that scene with the batsuit we used for Batman Begins. It simply didn’t have the quality of the one we built for TDK. We put it up very early in the schedule because I felt like doing one of the biggest Joker scenes early on as a way of breaking the ice and giving him and all of us the confidence that we knew what we were doing with the character.
So, we shot it in the second week and [Heath] was up to it and threw himself into it with a great passion. Heath was in awe of Gary [Oldman] as all young actors are. So, just having him involved added a level of professionalism and seriousness to it all. It really just came off very well. It was everything I wanted it to be and so much more because the actors just brought so much to it. I think it was one of the first times, and I’m sure Christian feels the same way, on Batman we were really able to show how driven by rage he is. It was something we tried to get into Batman Begins in other ways, but the material didn’t really sustain it. This was a situation where we were able to show the dark side of that character.”
Boucher followed this up with a question about the lasting memories of Heath Ledger. Nolan apparently worked in the same location as that interrogation scene for part of Inception and it is always a pleasure to hear him honor the legacy Ledger left with The Joker.
Somehow, Nolan did not even know he had six Oscar nominees under his direction for Inception. When Boucher brought it up, Nolan was surprised, but gave tremendous credit to the relative newbies on set.
“I hadn’t actually noticed. It is an incredible cast. I’ve been very fortunate on my films to work with true ensembles, but this is spectacular and there are some newer talents with Ellen and Joe and Tom Hardy. These guys are just incredible. It is really fun to see them come together as an ensemble. It is very much the story in the film as well. Very good energy.”
Later on Nolan explained why he chose Pink Floyd’s The Wall to screen for his Inception cast and crew.
“…I like to screen movies and watch it with the crew and see if it inspires anything related to what we are going to do…As far as The Wall, what I was showing everybody is it is a film I saw as a teenager that I found really influential in terms of the non-linear nature of the storytelling. It is very non-narrative in the traditional sense. There is no dialogue, except for two lines. Everything is all music or image. And what he does is he connects different timelines through imagery – through symbolism. It was something very influential to me and I think once again it is something I’ve taken in a more verbal narrative direction. It is extremely visual in that film, it is extremely extraordinary…It is a very creepy film.”