Best known for his cerebral, often non-linear storytelling, acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. Over the course of a decade plus of filmmaking, Nolan has gone from low-budget independent films to working on some of the biggest blockbusters ever.
At an early age, Nolan began making short movies with his father's Super-8mm camera. While studying English Literature at University College London, he shot 16mm films at UCL's film society, where he learned the guerrilla techniques he would later use to make his first feature, Following (1998), on a budget of around $6,000. The noir thriller was recognized at a number of international film festivals prior to its theatrical release, and gained Nolan enough credibility that he was able to gather substantial financing for his next film.
Nolan's second film was Memento (2000), which he directed from his own screenplay based on a short story by his brother Jonathan. Starring Guy Pearce, the film brought Nolan numerous honors, including Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay. Nolan went on to direct the critically-acclaimed psychological thriller, Insomnia (2002), starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.
The turning point in Nolan's career occurred when he was awarded the chance to revive the Batman franchise in 2005. In Batman Begins (2005), Nolan brought a level of gravitas back to the iconic hero, and his gritty, modern interpretation was greeted with praise from fans and critics alike. Before moving on to a Batman sequel, Nolan directed, co-wrote and produced the mystery thriller The Prestige (2006), starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as magicians whose obsessive rivalry leads to tragedy and murder.
In 2008, Nolan directed, co-wrote, and produced The Dark Knight (2008) which went on to gross more than a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Nolan was nominated for a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award, Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award and Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award, and the film also received eight Academy Award nominations.
In 2010, Nolan captivated audiences with sci-fi thriller Inception (2010), which he directed and produced from his own original screenplay. The thought-provoking drama was a worldwide blockbuster, earning more than $800 million dollars and becoming one of the most discussed and debated films of the year. Among its many honors, Inception received four Academy Awards and eight nominations, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Nolan was recognized by his peers with DGA and PGA Award nominations, as well as a WGA Award win for his work on the film.
One of the best-reviewed and highest-grossing movies of 2012, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) concluded Nolan's Batman trilogy. Due to his success rebooting the Batman character, Warner Bros. enlisted Nolan to produce their revamped Superman movie Man of Steel (2013), which is set to open in Summer 2013.
Nolan currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, producer Emma Thomas, and their children. Nolan and Thomas also have their own production company, Syncopy.
Born in London in 1970, Christopher Nolan began making films at the age of seven using his father's super 8mm camera and an assortment of male-action figures. He graduated to making films involving real people, and his super 8mm surreal short 'tarantella' was shown on PBS' 'image union' in 1989. Chris studied English Literature at University College London while starting to make 16mm films at the college film society. His short film 'larceny' was shown at the Cambridge Film Festival in 1996, and his other 16mm shorts include a three- minute surreal film called 'doodlebug'.IMDb Mini Biography By: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Emma Thomas||(1997 - present) 4 children|
Begins his movies and introduces his main characters with a close up of their hands performing an action.
Frequently casts Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior and Larry Holden. As of 2012, Caine will have appeared in five of Nolan's films, the most of any single actor.
Usually starts films with a flashback or a scene from the end of the movie
When shooting a dialogue scene, the actors are often framed in wide close-up with a shallow depth of field to blur out the background.
Films conclude with the two central characters discussing the preceding events and the results which have stemmed from said events.
His endings have a recurring theme of justified dishonesty. (Examples: Guy Pearce's "Do I lie to myself to be happy" monologue in Memento (2000), Michael Caine's closing remark that the audience "wants to be fooled" from The Prestige (2006) and Christian Bale's rationale of how the citizens of Gotham City "deserve to have their faith rewarded" at the end of The Dark Knight (2008)).
His films usually revolve around characters that are afflicted with some kind of psychological disorder. (Examples: Guy Pearce's short-term memory "condition" in Memento (2000), Al Pacino's titular sleeping disorder in Insomnia (2002), Christian Bale's phobia of bats in Batman Begins (2005) and Aaron Eckhart's dual personality in The Dark Knight (2008) and Leonardo DiCaprio not being able to grasp onto reality in Inception (2010)).
The storyline in his films usually involves a determined character seeking vengeance over the death of a loved one. (Examples: Guy Pearce in Memento (2000), Christian Bale in Batman Begins (2005), Hugh Jackman in The Prestige (2006) and Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight (2008), and 'Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)).
Often casts actors in roles contrary to their usual screen persona
Frequently uses hard cuts when transitioning to the next scenes. This is most prominent in his films from 'Batman Begins' onward, especially in 'The Dark Knight', where, in some instances, the hard cuts he uses will go so far as to nearly cut off character's lines in order to quickly and efficiently get to the next scene.
All of his films contain a major reference to the film prior to it
His protagonists will often resort to tactics of physical or psychological torture to gain information (e.g. (SPOILERS) in 'Batman Begins', Batman uses the hallucinagenic fear compound on Jonathan Crane in order to gain information about his "boss"; in 'The Prestige', Angier buries Borden's assistant alive in order to get Borden to talk; in 'The Dark Knight', Batman throws Salvatore Maroni off a building, breaking his legs, in order to gain information about The Joker; in the same movie, Harvey Dent puts a gun to one of the Joker's henchman and flips a coin for his life every second he doesn't talk to scare him into talking. Also in this movie Batman uses physical intimidation for the interrogation of The Joker; in 'Insomnia', Dormer drives into oncoming traffic in order to scare the victim's best friend into talking; in Inception Cobb demands that Saito discloses information to him on gunpoint; in The Dark Knight Rises, Batman physically threatens Bane to accquire the location of the trigger).
Employs non-linear storytelling techniques, often flipping around the three acts of a movie to tell the story in an interesting fashion.
Characters in films often gain a physical or psychological handicap in the course of the film (SPOILERS: in 'The Prestige', Angier gets a crippled leg while Borden loses two fingers; in 'The Dark Knight', Salvatore Maroni gets a crippled leg; in 'Insomnia', Dormer gets insomnia; in 'Memento', Leonard gains a memory handicap, the event of which is shown in flashback during the film)
His films often have obsessive protagonists with a troubled past, who are obsessed to gain justice by any means in life (e.g. Leonard in Memento (2000), Al Pacino's character in Insomnia (2002), Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005). Also the protagonist of Following (1998) and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige (2006) were obsessive)
Lonely troubled protagonists who are unwillingly forced to hide their true identity from the world.
Typically ends his films with a character giving a philosophical monologue
Frequently in his films the protagonists, at some crucial moment, feel let down or betrayed by their mentors whom they have been following blindly and with respect. (e.g. The protagonist being cheated by Cobb in Following (1998), Leonard "discovering" that Teddy is the culprit in Memento (2000), Hilary Swank's character respecting Al Pacino as a great detective in Insomnia (2002) only to find out that he is also flawed, Bruce Wayne and Liam Neeson's character's confrontation in Batman Begins (2005), Cutter not supporting Angier in The Prestige (2006), Ariadne feeling betrayed by her mentor Cobb when he doesn't tell her about Mal's domain over his dreams in Inception (2010), Blake feeling let down by Gordon when his lie about Dent's death is exposed in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)).
His films' protagonists have mostly lost their loved ones and/or failed in love, a circumstance that causes them turn into malevolent and/or apathetic forever. (e.g. Leonard in Memento (2000) has lost his wife in a brutal murder in the past, Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005) has lost Rachel Dawes' faith in him throughout the film, Borden in The Prestige (2006) does not get his wife's love because of his character's 'act' in the movie and Angier loses his beloved in a mishap during a magic trick, Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight (2008) loses Rachel as well as Bruce Wayne is not able to win her love back)
Uses camera revolving around a character. (The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Memento and Inception)
Displays the title before the end credits (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises)
The original scores of his films usually play over most of the film, or one piece of music will play over many small scenes, as if they are edited in a montage; there are few moments in his films when there is no music playing in the background.
Characters who are unreliable narrators (e.g. Borden, through his Journal, in "The Prestige", the Joker through his conflicting monologues in "The Dark Knight", and Leonard through his memory problem and 'conditioning' from "Memento").
Very frequently his films contain blackmail, attempted blackmail or a reference to blackmail.
The main characters in all his films are primarily driven by an obsession
His soundtracks are typically score-based. Anytime that a song is heard, its always source music in the sense that we see the characters playing the song from a device ("Non, je ne regrette rien" by Edith Piaf used as a kick in "Inception")
His films almost always end with the character's fate open to interpretation
Enormous visual scope and heavy emphasis on location and architecture
Villains in his films often threaten to harm the hero's friends or family
His antagonists are often motivated by a philosophical belief rather than money
Recurring theme of betrayal (Friends and mentors often turn out to be untrustworthy or outright treacherous)
Older brother of Jonathan Nolan.
Is red and green colorblind.
Studied English Literature in college.
His top ten favorite movies are: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Black Hole (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Chinatown (1974), The Hitcher (1986), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)), Star Wars (1977), The Man Who Would Be King (1975) and Topkapi (1964), as well as anything by Stanley Kubrick.
Doesn't like CGI in movies and purposely avoided it when he made Batman Begins (2005).
Following Insomnia (2002), his next project was going to be a Howard Hughes biopic starring Jim Carrey. Nolan had the screenplay written (calling it "one of the best things I've ever written"), but once it became apparent Martin Scorsese was making his own Hughes biopic, The Aviator (2004), Nolan reluctantly tabled his script and took up directing Batman Begins (2005).
Spent his childhood moving back and forth between United Kingdom and the United States. His accent is mostly English, but occasionally varies into an American accent. Nolan is comfortable with and knowledgeable of both cultures.
Has both US and UK citizenship.
He is a big fan of the band, Radiohead.
Resides in Los Angeles with his wife Emma Thomas and their three children.
Always has both his US and UK passports with him at all times, just in case of emergency.
Is of Irish descent.
As of 2012, 6 out of eight films Nolan directed are on the IMDB's top 250: The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Begins (2005), Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006), Inception (2010), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
Was doing camera and sound work on training videos before making his film debut.
Adapted Ruth Rendell's novel, "The Keys to the Street", into a screenplay that he was set to direct for Fox Searchlight after Insomnia (2002). However, he instead went on to direct Batman Begins (2005). "Keys to the Street" remains unproduced.
The first Director to do three live action Film adaptations of the DC Comics character Batman.
Prefers shooting on film stock over digital, and has been outspoken against the threat by studios to phase out the use of film as a choice over digital.
Refuses to use Digital Intermediates for his films, instead opting to use the photochemical timing process.
He is one of the few people (also including his brother Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer) to work on films about DC Comics' two most famous characters and two of the most iconic heroes in Comics, "Batman" and "Superman".
Honored with a hand-print and foot-print ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theater on July 7, 2012 in Los Angeles.
Father of Flora Nolan, Rory Nolan, Oliver Nolan and Magnus Nolan.
He initially directed his Batman films so he could get funding and support for his bigger films. The one he had planned for years was ''Inception''.
After James Cameron, Christopher Nolan is the second director make 2 films that have grossed more than $1 billion in the worldwide box office (The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises). However, Nolan is the first director to have released both of the billion dollar grossing films in 2D only (James Cameron's Avatar and Titanic have both been released in 3D at some point during their releases).
Always refuses to use a second unit in his movies, preferring instead to oversee every shot himself with DP Wally Pfister.
Was inspired to create the "Dark Knight" trilogy after viewing Richard Donner's Superman Films.
"The best actors instinctively feel out what the other actors need, and they just accommodate it." - commenting on working with actors who have distinctively different styles.
...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. Film-makers 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] "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. 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.
I never considered myself a lucky person. I'm the most extraordinary pessimist. I truly am.
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 £3million, 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 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 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.
(on The Dark Knight Rises premiere shooting in Colorado) Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, 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 'OK, 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" 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," 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," what I call this sort of snowballing approach to action and events. We experimented with this in "The Dark Knight," where the action is not based on clean and clear set pieces the way "Batman Begins" 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" 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 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.
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