Early in pre-production, Dr. Kip Thorne laid down two guidelines to strictly follow: nothing would violate established physical laws, and that all the wild speculations would spring from science and not from the creative mind of a screenwriter. Christopher Nolan accepted these terms as long as they did not get in the way of the making of the movie. That did not prevent clashes, though; at one point Thorne spent two weeks talking Nolan out of an idea about travelling faster than light.
Steven Spielberg, who was attached to direct the film in 2006 and hired Jonathan Nolan to write the screenplay, chose other projects instead. In 2012, after Spielberg's departure, Jonathan Nolan suggested the project to his brother Christopher Nolan.
Composer Hans Zimmer was instructed by Christopher Nolan to make a unique score: "it's time to reinvent. The endless string [ostinatos] need to go by the wayside, the big drums are probably in the bin." Nolan did not provide Zimmer a script or any plot details for writing music for the film and instead gave the composer "one page of text" that "had more to do with [Zimmer's] story than the plot of the movie."
The method of space travel in this film was based on physicist Kip Thorne's works, which were also the basis for the method of space travel in Carl Sagan's novel "Contact," and the resulting film adaptation, Contact (1997). Matthew McConaughey stars in both films.
According to Dr. Kip Thorne, the largest degree of creative license in the film are the clouds of the ice planet, which are structures that probably go beyond the material strength which ice would be able to support.
Like Inception (2010) and the last two "Dark Knight" films, Christopher Nolan has focused on as many real environments as possible. "We have spatial interiors . . . we built closed sets [and] shot it like a documentary like [the actors] were really there," he said. Nolan had the film's visual effects created in advance and projected onto screens placed outside the spacecraft set, so when the actors looked out the windows of their vessel they would be able to see and react to a real environment and not a green screen. Technically, Nolan said he shot with an IMAX camera on this film more than on any of his previous pictures. He also wanted to give greater enhancement to the audio experience this time around. He stated that he has "very ambitious sound mix plans. [I want to] give audiences an incredible immersive experience. The technical aspects are going to be more important than any film I've made before."
The majority of shots of the robot TARS were not computer-generated. Rather, TARS was a practical puppet controlled and voiced on set by Bill Irwin, who was then digitally erased from the film. Irwin also puppeteered the robot CASE, but in that instance had his voice dubbed over by Josh Stewart.
The screenplay is based on the works of theoretical physicist Dr. Kip Thorne. He described the story as "based on warped space-time--the most exotic events in the universe suddenly becoming accessible to humans."
Christopher Nolan was initially concerned that a scientifically accurate depiction of a black hole would not be easily depicted for the common audience. However, he found the finished effect to be explainable provided that he maintained consistent camera perspectives: "As long as we didn't change the point of view/the camera position too much, we could get something very understandable."
Christopher Nolan cast Matthew McConaughey after seeing his performance in Mud (2012). It was an "ideal moment" for Nolan when they landed a Texas native, McConaughey, for the lead role: "I'm thrilled for him right now. I didn't know how much potential he had until I saw 'Mud', not just as a leading man but in sheer acting talent." He remarked that in McConaughey he "needed an everyday man who can experience these extraordinary events."
Kip Thorne won a scientific bet against Stephen Hawking upon the astrophysics theory that underlies Interstellar (2014). As a consequence, Hawking had to subscribe Penthouse magazine for a year. This famous bet is depicted in The Theory of Everything (2014) which was released in the same year as Interstellar.
Features the most footage ever shot using 15/70mm IMAX cameras for a feature film, and, due to the film industry's rapid conversion to digital projection formats, will potentially be the last feature film ever to be projected on 15/70mm IMAX film.
The Ranger, Endurance and Lander spacecraft were created using miniature effects and full-size models by effects company New Deal Studios, as Christopher Nolan felt they were better than computer-generated effects to give the ships a tangible presence in space.
The robot personalities are inspired by Douglas Adams' universe ("Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"), where the Sirius Cybernetics Corp. created the Genuine People Personalities ("GPP") which imbue their robots with intelligence and emotion. The most recognized example in Adams' universe is Marvin, a paranoid android.
Production designer Nathan Crowley based the Endurance ship's design on the International Space Station: "It's a real mishmash of different kinds of technology; you need analog stuff as well as digital stuff, you need back-up systems and tangible switches. Every inch of space is used, everything has a purpose. It's really like a submarine in space."
In order to offer Jessica Chastain her role, Christopher Nolan sent an assistant to Ireland, where she was filming Miss Julie (2014) with a script watermarked with Chastain's name. Chastain was not allowed to keep the script after she read it.
According to Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity, it would take an infinite amount of time to cross the threshold of a black hole's event horizon, as seen by a distant observer. The person crossing the threshold, however, would notice no change in the flow of time.
When presenting the American Cinematheque award to Matthew McConaughey, Christopher Nolan said, "I'm not a believer in the McConaissance . . . I think Matthew's success of late is the rest of us catching up to what he's been doing . . . " Jennifer Garner talked about two different films she'd done with him and explained that he'd given the same gravity and intensity to both different genres, "and I can tell you as a director, there's no question that this is a performer who can't say, 'Pass the salt' without it being truthful, without meaning something . . . I've never worked with an actor so relentless in his pursuit of truth in everything he does." Nolan also recalled that while he was presenting the night's award to McConnaughey, he remembered how the super-dad would play with Nolan's own kids while on set: "I find him extremely serious. [But] my kids found him very amusing on his days off when he would build forts with them and his kids, thereby making me look like a slightly worse father."
Starting in 2014, Paramount Pictures began to cease releasing its features on traditional film stock in favor of digital projection formats. However, as Christopher Nolan is a strong proponent for the continued use of film prints over digital, he insisted that this film be additionally released in the 15/70mm IMAX, standard 70mm and 35mm film formats a full two days before its wider digital release.
Several tracks of Hans Zimmer's original score are recorded at a tempo of a beat per second (60 BPM) - precisely matching the passage of time, a recurring theme of the movie. These key scenes include "Imperfect Lock," "No Time For Caution" (the docking scene), and varying portions of "Stay," "Mountains" (the water planet) and "Detach."
The film parodies the story that the moon landings were faked by the government. It's used in the movie as an attempt to quell future generations' enthusiasm for space travel. Amazingly, real-life conspiracy theorists claim that Stanley Kubrick directed the TV footage of the landings using leftover props from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which itself is one of the inspirations for this film.
The wormhole shown in this film near Saturn is exactly the same place shown in Man of Steel (2013), produced by Christopher Nolan. In Man of Steel (2013), Superman as a child arrives into our solar system in a spaceship when it drops out of warp.
In a Q&A interview at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on March 26, 2014, Christopher Nolan stated that this film is "very different" from his past work and he was inspired by the movies he saw growing up during what he termed "the golden age of the blockbuster" - essentially, four quadrant films that didn't need a "family" label to appeal to all audiences. Nolan noted it's "really about going back to those sort of films."
The "hyper-sleep" chambers place the astronauts' bodies in a cold liquid, as seen after they wake up, when they are covered in blankets or thermal blankets. This is likely a practical reference to studies that have shown a state of hibernation can be achieved in the human body by causing hypothermia. This technology has been used to treat brain damage, and has been proposed as a viable means of keeping people with severe injuries alive after accidents, while they are transported to medical facilities, where they can be treated by specialists.
The name of the black hole is "Gargantua," who was also a giant with an incredible appetite, very difficult to satisfy. This character was created by Francois Rabelais in his "Gargantua et Pantagruel" novels.
The school where Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) goes to the parent-teacher conference is called "Longview School" and is an actual school in Longview, Alberta, Canada, where the scene was filmed. Coincidentally, McConaughey graduated from Longview High School in Longview, TX.
Besides Saturn's connection to crops, he was also known as Kronos, the god of time ("chronos") and cycles (thus the eponymous chronology, chronicle, etc.). Since time is a key theme in the movie, the appearance of the wormhole next to the planet Saturn is highly significant.
The film began as a Paramount production. When Christopher Nolan took the director's chair, Warner Bros., which had released Nolan's recent productions, sought a stake in the project. In exchange for international distribution rights, Warners gave Paramount the rights to co-finance future sequels of Friday the 13th (2009) and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999).
Kip Thorne also collaborated with game developer Sticky Studios on the official mobile and web game by providing paper excerpts and equations. The entire game is scientifically correct in respect to time dilation, gravity and energy.
The documentary-style interviews of older survivors shown at the beginning of the film and again on the television playing in the farmhouse towards the end of the movie are from Ken BurnsThe Dust Bowl (2012). They are real survivors, not actors, of that natural disaster.
The 70mm IMAX version is two minutes shorter than the regular 70mm, Digital IMAX, 35mm, and digital projection versions. This is because the end credits are played in an abbreviated slide-show form (rather than scrolling from bottom to top), due to the size capacity of the IMAX platters, which can hold a maximum of 167 minutes of film.
The visual effects that portray the wormhole with stars stretching out on its horizon is known in astrophysics as "Gravitional Lensing," That is, in fact, how astronomers have identified black holes (an intense gravitational field bending space so much that light coming from stars behind it is stretched out around the sphere of the black hole's "event horizon"). Considering the high-degree of scientific accuracy of this film, it's not inconceivable that a wormhole would look much in real life as it is portrayed on this movie.
The ship they take through the wormhole is named "The Endurance," which was also the name of Ernest Shackleton's ship that he took on his expedition to be the first to travel the full diameter of Antarctica. That expedition was stymied when the ship was trapped in the ice sheets that surrounded Antarctica. Though the mission was considered a failure, everyone on the ship made it back alive. Perhaps this name alludes to the hope of saving all the lives of everyone back on Earth.
Anne Hathaway's character is named Amelia. This may be a nod to famous pilot Amelia Earhart who, like Hathaway's on-screen persona, was a woman who went further than any other person in exploring and flying.
Donald's generation in the movie is supposed to be the current "millennial" generation. This is evidenced by his comments such as "In my day they had real ball players," hinting at a more normal existence on earth.
The wormhole in the film is placed near the planet Saturn. Saturn was the god of Roman agriculture. This seems very fitting since the film itself is about a blight which destroys farmers' crops. The only hope for humanity is to pass through a wormhole near a planet which is named after the god of agriculture.
In Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), an engineer stumbles across a top-secret government operation by following a mysterious message. The government rendezvous' with aliens when they send map coordinates for humans to follow. In this film, Matthew McConaughey plays an engineer who receives map coordinates from a mysterious source and follows them to a top-secret government operation. Also in both films, stumbling upon this operation leads directly to him being invited to take part in a space flight. Both films also feature a scene of the main character in his truck fumbling with maps. Appropriately, Steven Spielberg was the one who originally developed this project.
This film is the first time brothers Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan have worked on a completely original script, unlike their past projects which were adapted from novels, short stories or comic books (although. technically, Memento (2000) was billed as an original script, even though it was indeed based on a short story titled "Memento Mori"- but as this story was written by Jonathan Nolan, and the script was published before the short story, the case could be made that "Memento" was actually the brothers' first original script).
In the scene where Donald (John Lithgow) is watching the baseball game with Cooper and Murph, he comments that "popcorn at a baseball game is unnatural," and then after a brief pause says, "I want a hot dog." In 2010 (1984) Walter Curnow (also played by Lithgow) gets into a similar discussion with Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) about missing hot dogs. with Curnow's preference being "Astrodome. Good hot dogs there."
Hans Zimmer's score for Interstellar bears a striking resemblance to his previous iconic theme "Journey to the Line" from The Thin Red Line (1998). That theme was born out of trial and error. Terrence Malick had been dissatisfied with Zimmer's score and had Zimmer continuously reworking melodies to come up with various approaches to the music. Thus "Journey to the Line" was finally born. Many of his latter scores (especially Interstellar) would go on to bear an uncanny resemblance or seem to work as variations building on that theme.
Although released in 2014, this was the most pirated movie of 2015. As a result, Russian YouTube "mockbuster" Interstelar (2014) reached hundreds of thousands of views mistaken for the pirated copy of this movie, before it was subsequently deleted. It was later reinstated on another channel to coincide with the release of sequel, Interstelar 2: Operation Terra 2040 (2016).
While filming on the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland, gusts of wind could reach speeds up to 100 miles per hour. These extreme conditions forced the film crew to retreat to the hotel they were staying. Because of Christopher Nolan's persistence to shoot something, the crew ended up shooting insert shots on the parking lot of the hotel.
One of the books on Murph's shelf is David Wroblewski's "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle," the story of a family whose flaws contribute to its tragic end, all while they develop a genetically superior breed of dog that can survive without man's intervention.
While planning the mission to Millers Planet, Cooper says, "There's not going to be any time for chit-chat or monkey business down there, so TARS you should definitely stay here," then the shot cuts to TARS in a monolithic position, referencing the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Dr. Brand makes a reference to the biblical Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. While not explicitly referenced, the "Dark Knight Trilogy" directed by Christopher Nolan features a character known as Ra's Al Ghul, who in the original source material of the Batman comics cheated death numerous times thanks to the magic and science of the "Lazarus Pit." Both the trilogy and this film share common themes such as rebirth and beginning new lives, and they also involve end-of-the-world type of scenarios (although in the Batman films, it would be on a smaller scale in the beginning, at least).
When Cooper is being shown the launching bay and ship for the first time, he passes a pillar on the left side of the screen with the words "LEVEL" written on it. While the pillar is coming into frame, the "L"'s are cut off, and all that is visible is the word "EVE." As the scene cuts to Professor Brand, you can see the same thing on a different pillar on the left. This word continues to be obvious throughout the entire scene. This appears to be a nod to the popular video game, EVE Online (2003), which has a back story in which a gateway mysteriously appeared in the solar system, and how mankind migrated through the wormhole into an uncharted region of space.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Matt Damon was not included in the promotion for the film. His name was not mentioned and he did not attend any of the premieres. In fact, apart from an article in "Variety" announcing his casting as an "unspecified role," his role was kept secret until the release of the film.
To create the wormhole and black hole, Dr. Kip Thorne collaborated with VFX supervisor Paul J. Franklin and his team at Double Negative. Thorne provided pages of deeply sourced theoretical equations to the team, which then created new CGI software programs based on these equations to create accurate computer simulations of these phenomena. Some individual frames took up to 100 hours to render, and ultimately the whole CGI program reached to 800 terabytes of data. The resulting VFX provided Thorne with new insight into the effects of gravitational lensing and accretion disks surrounding black holes, and led to him writing two scientific papers--one for the astrophysics community and one for the computer graphics community.
The Wormhole is placed near Saturn as a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), because Stanley Kubrick originally planned for part of that movie to take place at Saturn. Unfortunately, as special effects technology wasn't able to make Saturn's rings at that time, he changed it to Jupiter.
There is a reference to a "tesseract." The first known reference to the term in science fiction literature occurred in Robert A. Heinlein's 1941 short story "And He Built a Crooked House." In the story an architect designs a house based upon the geometric concept of a four-dimensional analog of the cube. He does this so well that the house folds in upon itself and creates a dimensional loop within the structure. People within the house can see themselves by looking through one room into another which is, in fact, the room they are in and find it (near) impossible to leave as they are in a loop, much like what Coop saw when he entered the black hole.
The very first line in the movie, spoken by Coop's daughter Murph is as follows: "I thought you were the ghost." She means that she heard him moving around and thought her "ghost" was making noise. This line carries more significance when the ending is known; Cooper truly was Murph's ghost the whole time.
Although Doyle is presumed drowned after being struck by the tidal wave on Miller's planet, his suit appears intact when the Ranger leaves, meaning it is remotely possible he could have survived the impact and is merely unconscious. Given the extreme time dilation on Miller's planet, a rescue is very possible. Assuming a mission were to be dispatched from Cooper Station orbiting Saturn, it would take only nine hours in relative time for Doyle to be rescued, but 65+ years would have passed for the rest of the world (assuming a dilation factor of one hour per seven years).
Cooper and Dr. Brand came back to Endurance after 23 years, four months and eight days. This means that their entire mission on Miller's planet took some three hours 17 minutes (based on the plot's assertion that one hour on the planet equals seven years on Earth/Endurance)
After the crew landed on Miller's planet, just when they are about to get off Ranger 1, the score softens, and we can hear ticks approximately once every second. Because of the time dilation due to Gargantua's gravity, every tick represents approx. 17 hours on earth.
Hans Zimmer's soundtrack was so powerful that many people stated that they cried during the docking sequence (when Endurance is spinning and the crew needs to dock their Ranger to it). In the initial release of the soundtrack the full music of that sequence was not included. A few weeks after the release of the soundtrack, Zimmer added the music to the soundtrack, as a bonus track on the iTunes Deluxe Edition.
The characters mention traveling via a "tesseract," which is a multi-dimensional geometric structure also known as a "hypercube." Coined by Charles Howard Hinton in 1888 in his book "A New Era of Thought," the tesseract is a structure that extends a normal cube into four dimensions. It was popularized in Robert A. Heinlein's short story "--And He Built a Crooked House" from 1941 and later in the 1962 sci-fi novel "A Wrinkle In Time" by Madeleine L'Engle.
The escape method from the black hole, using the space ships jointly as thrusting power (and then leaving only one thrusting ship behind for Hathaway's character), resembles the escape method in the movie 2010 (1984) (from one of Jupiter's changing moons).
The original script of the Steven Spielberg version of this film depicts an almost entirely different movie. Some examples include Murph being a boy, no humans are first sent into space (probes are) and a probe leads Cooper to the hidden NASA base, which is on a remote island in California where Brand and Cooper deep-sea dive for parts. Also, the robots are much more human-like, featuring hands and shoulders. TARS is sucked into space early on when the ship gets stuck between two black holes (Gargantua and Pantagruel--two French mythical giants) immediately after entering the wormhole. Afterwards the crew, including an additional member named Roth, only visit the ice planet where they discover that a Chinese mission had been there some 30 years prior and seemed to have vanished until it is learned that they were killed by radiation of a neutron star. The crew falls through the ice into an entirely different ecosystem with a living rearranging forest and colonial organisms that fight each other every night, compounding into larger organisms to reach a higher spot closer to the ice sky for sunlight in the day. After searching the area, they find an abandoned Chinese camp with an experimental black box that can control gravity nearly at will and are then discovered by Chinese robots who sabotage their return home with the box. The crew orbits a black hole (lasting hundreds of Earth years) before entering a second wormhole where they interact directly with the fifth dimension bulk beings who lead them to a 4000-year-old space station built by the Chinese that's only a few hundred years old due to space-time relativity, powered by a captured mini black hole that views galaxies as flat, lines of light. The Chinese have built thousands of worm holes and tried to travel back in time with the gravity technology to save all of Earth but died in the process. Cooper returns to Earth, in the year 2230, to find a barren land with ice storms. He sits down prepared to die in the storm, then awakes in a manner similar to the movie where he meets his great-great-grandson rather than an aged Murph. After being bored with the current world, Cooper steals a ship to find Brand (the two had been intimate before Brand parted Cooper to continue to explore space rather than return to Earth).
One of the books visible on Murph's shelf is David Wroblewski's 'The Story of Edgar Sawtelle'. This book hints at key plot points where the title character, who also lives on a farm, is aided in solving a mystery through the help of his deceased father's ghost.
When the TARS robot and Romily are repairing the KIPP robot on Dr. Mann's planet, TARS warns, "get back, professor, get back!" Right before KIPP detonates, you can faintly hear it say, "please don't make me . . . " Light is shed on what this means in director Christopher Nolan's since-released comic "Absolute Zero," an account of Dr. Mann's and KIPP's survey of the planet.
When Cooper exits the wormhole back to Earth's solar system, the scene resembles the "star child" scene from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which is referenced several times in this film.
The tesseract scene (which looks like a giant library and allows Cooper to access his daughter's bookshelf in the past) bears some resemblance to the concept of L-space as described in Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" books. L-space (short for Library space) is the principle that the mass of information contained in a large collection of books warps space and time, and in consequence a sufficiently large library allows the visitor to access any library anywhere in space and time.
Onscreen body count: 4. Several characters also die offscreen by the end of the film: Donald, Jesse (Tom's firstborn son, possibly from dust-related respiratory problems) and most likely Tom, as he is never mentioned nor seen during Cooper's time on the space station at the end of the film.
Toward the end of the movie when Cooper is walking toward the copy of his house on the space station, a series of screens on his path depict people narrating their past experiences on Earth. On the very last screen for an instant you can see someone who looks vaguely like Arthur C. Clarke, the writer of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). This is not actually Clarke and is in fact one of the people featured from the The Dust Bowl (2012) footage, possibly selected because of the resemblance.
The starship near the end of the film resembles the starship in the Arthur C. Clarke novel Rendezvous with Rama, a 50-kilometre (31 mi) cylindrical alien starship, that also carry human colony to the stars.
In the scene where Cooper has to land their ship on Miller's water planet, the camera focuses on him gripping the seat of his chair. This is a reference to a common aviation saying, "Fly by the seat of your pants." Before modern instruments, pilots relied on instinct and their senses to fly, such as sight, using landmarks to gauge altitude or distance. Pilots also used feeling from the vibrations in their seat from air hitting the plane to determine windspeed and direction. Cooper verifies this when he said he needs to "feel the air" in order to land properly instead of relying on technology.
Cooper and Donald sit on their porch before Cooper's departure drinking what appears to be beer, despite the fact that all crops except for corn (including ostensibly hops and barley, ingredients in beer) are not able to be grown.
In Timestalkers (1987) an historian researches clues of time travel in the past (from a remote, plausible future) which leads him to a top-secret military base/hangar. The plot device is similar (although it's a former pilot and, later, his astrophysicist daughter) to this film. William Devane acted in both films.
While Coop takes down time at (the orbital replica of) his homestead, the surroundings are curved upwards in Möbius-like angles. Elysium (2013) - which also starred Matt Damon - had a similar, human settlement apart from Earth.
When Cooper wakes Dr. Mann, he says, "You literally raised me from dead," to which Cooper replies, "Lazarus." The "Lazarus Pit" was a major location in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), a film directed by Christopher Nolan.
When Dr. Mann fails to dock perfectly, and the Endurance explodes, the pod that exploded may have significance. When looking at images of Endurance, it traditionally has the 'arm' in the 3:00 position of the clock face the ship represents. The exploded pod therefore is at 10:00. This is interesting, as this is the tenth film Christopher Nolan has directed. This may have been intentional, or an odd coincidence.