Christopher Nolan Discusses INCEPTION, 3D, But Not BATMAN 3, at the Hero Complex Film Festival

     June 12, 2010

Christopher Nolan Hero Complex Film Festival slice

Day two of the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival in Hollywood put director Christopher Nolan on display. The director’s 2002 film Insomnia and 2008 masterpiece The Dark Knight both screened and the man himself showed up for an extended Q&A between movies.

The one downside to the evening was that the words “Batman 3” were not uttered once. It was almost as if the host, LA Times writer Geoff Boucher, wasn’t allowed to say them. Other than that, though, Nolan proved he is a highly intelligent and articulate filmmaker who has really grown from his second film to his latest. We learned some news about Inception (it’s about one week from being totally done), Nolan’s thoughts on 3D (he prefers post conversion) and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Click here to read about Friday night at the festival with Leonard Nimoy, check back Sunday for the final day with Ridley Scott an hit the jump for a full rundown of the evening’s session, including the way Nolan almost got tricked into talking about Batman 3.

Christopher Nolan Batman 3After Insomnia’s credits, they immediately rolled the latest trailer for Inception before Nolan came out.

- The first question was about the casting of Robin Williams in Insomnia and Nolan called his performance “flawless.” Said the film benefited from the fact that One Hour Photo, which features a similar performance, was released after it.

- They then discussed the issue of similar timing, like Nolan encountered with The Illusionist vs. his film The Prestige. He said it happened almost all the time, even with Memento. When he was pitching that, a similar script – The Lookout – was floating around. It finally got made years later with Joseph Gordon Levitt.

- Nolan came directly to the event from the nearby Warner Brother’s lot where he was on a dub stage working on the final reels of Inception for early screenings. Said the film is one week from being totally done.

- Editing is Nolan’s favorite part of production and finds actual production to be a bit paint by numbers. However, he says that all aspects of directing are great at the beginning but by the end you just want them to be over.

- He prefers to use practical effects in most cases before resorting to digital effects and told a story about choosing between the two on Batman Begins. He said that effects are better when artists can match something real.

- Inception was an idea he has been working on for ten years and actually pitched it to Warner Brothers right after Insomnia. He then told us the basic jist, nothing more. They liked it and told him to write it. He figured it would take him a few months but it took 10 years. He thinks it worked out for the best though because the film is easier to watch than read on a page so his work in between gave the studio confidence in his ability to pull it off.

- Heist movies, like Inception, tend to be superficial so the time he took with the movie also helped him flesh out the characters. Leonardo DiCaprio helped with this too when he cam aboard.

Christopher Nolan- His favorite scene in The Dark Knight is the interrogation because it was so technical with the lights and it brought together many of the main players in the cast. They shot it second week so that Heath Ledger could have a good, meaty scene to use for the rest of the shoot. He also said that they couldn’t have done that scene with the suit used in Batman Begins because it wouldn’t look good under that light and that it’s the first scene where we finally get to see a Batman driven by rage.

- That location was also used in Batman Begins and Inception. In fact, many of the sets for all three of those movie are all still standing in a warehouse in London.

- He wasn’t aware of the fact that six of his top eight actors in Inception were Oscar nominees but he chats about them being great.

- Boucher then mentioned that it was probably “too early to talk about things” but asked why Nolan, whose characters are usually so haunted, would want to be involved in Superman, who is not. He said he’s strictly on it as a producer and he retold the story of David Goyer pitching him this great idea. He wouldn’t say what the idea was but said he knew he had to help get it done.

- Batman Begins was directly inspired by the Richard Donner Superman and Nolan pitched it as such. He called the Burton film “mad” and said that Donner’s structure and ensemble casting helped influence Begins. He believes that cast is the reason many of the superhero movies now have huge actors in all the small parts.

- Nolan is a huge Blade Runner fan, has seen it hundreds of times and knows every detail. He talked about how it spoke to him and influenced his story telling.

- He then talked about Alan Parker films, such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall, being an inspiration too, especially in their non-linear storytelling.  He screened the film to his cast and crew before Inception. They were left speechless.

- Jokingly said that Michael Caine claims to be his lucky charm and that’s the only reason he put him in Inception. He then went on to praise him.

- Christian Bale was brought up next and Nolan talked about how he went about the screen tests for Begins and that Bale was first. After that, they shot footage with every actor in Hollywood including Cillian Murphy. Bale was the stand out, but Murphy’s performance won him the role of Scarecrow.

- Here’s where Boucher worked in an “air quotes” Batman 3 question. He asked Nolan if he was amused when reading about his own casting on the Internet. Nolan got a look on his face and said that he doesn’t really look at the Internet and doesn’t even have an email or cell phone. He learned early on in the Begins process that it wasn’t a good idea to look at what the fans say. He did joke about the Cher rumor though and said the studio has called him and alluded to the fact they read those things.

- The audience questions began after that. Ed Brubaker, the comic book writer asked about Nolan’s writing process. He first admitted the screenplays you read that are published are like the 15th draft and are way more polished than any one person should get credit for. Then, he added that he doesn’t outline, just prefers to start from page one and write linearly and uses a lot of diagrams ala A Beautiful Mind.

- Said he wrote Joker origin stories just by spewing like 3 or 4 pages of stuff out there and then cutting back.

- He was totally surprised at the success of The Dark Knight and said that its success was due to a number or reasons including Heath Ledger. Another was that people were nervous about Batman Begins because of the previous film in the franchise and the idea of a reboot was foreign at the time. By the time Dark Knight came out, people trusted it more.

- Nolan is not a fan of 3D. He feels the image is too dark and it hasn’t really gotten to the right place technologically yet for him to consider. They did post production tests for Inception, which he liked, but they didn’t have enough time to convert the whole film to his high standards.

- He added that shooting in 3D is way too much of a compromise of the image, and gave a bunch of very technical examples. The most interesting thing, though was Nolan said if he was to do a film in 3D, he believes the way to do it best is in post production.

- Story comes first when he’s writing and the characters evolve second, mostly through the action.

- The final question was some guy screaming out something about how he remade Nolan’s short film Doodlebug and didn’t really make any sense. It was a weak ending to a fun Q&A. Thankfully, we had The Dark Knight to cleanse our palates.

Check back tomorrow for the final day with Ridley Scott.

Christopher Nolan image Batman The Dark Knight

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  • Kay-Nasty

    I have so much respect for Nolan. He is an incredible artist and has the potential to go down in history as one of the greatest directors.

  • Politicaldefiance

    What exactly does he mean by calling using the word “mad” when describing Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film?

  • Rabstown

    Well, he is a Brit, and “mad” in England is the equivalent to “crazy” or “insane” in America. So he basically said, “Tim Burton's Batman was insane.” In the good sense.

  • Dto1984

    He must mean it was over the top, because, in comparison to Nolan's two films, Burton's err on the side of fantastic.


    Nolan is one of the genius directors today with a vision that comes from left-field and has you thinking”oh wow i never thought to look at it in that way, and its cool” looking forward to anything this guy does…..

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  • [A]

    loved this. thanks a lot ;)

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    I'm going to say it again – PS Hoffman for Penguin and Peter Saarsgard (sp?) for Riddler. That is perfect casting and would make for a perfect ending to the trilogy. That is all.

  • Trick

    that guy at the end was a real punk
    not only was the question a real dud (judging by Nolan's face and response)
    but he didnt even get a mic till halfway through so I just heard like ramblings for the first half
    such a waste of the last question
    Im sure that kid feels great tho

  • Trick

    Yeah I believe he meant insane by the mad comment
    but it really felt like he went a little further than the article suggests
    I got a sense of criticism (constructive of course) when Nolan was discussing Burtons Batman film
    It basically was a “yeah it was great, BUT…” kinda comment
    I believe he meant the word mad to appear as an ambiguous kind/not-so-kind comment
    at least thats what it sounds like

  • Nunegro

    It's a shame Nolan prefers post-conversion on 3-D. I have yet ti see a post-conversion movie look nearly as good as the Avatar which was shot with 3-D cameras. However Avatar was VERY bright so I can understand that argument. Nolan is still my Favorite director.

  • Adam

    Insomnia was not Nolan's 2nd film… it was his third… memento was his second film and following was his first…

  • junierizzle

    QT and then NOLAN are my fave directors.

    I agree with him about 3D, it's too dark.

  • joe_6285

    Would be seeing a post-conversion 3D of Batman 3 I am pretty sure . Warner Bros has already announced that all their big budget movie are going to be in 3d that means Batman 3 is coming in 3d and Warner Bros are going to pressure Nolan to make it in 3d that means a post-conversion 3D of Batman 3 is what we will see after all even if people don’t like 3d it will be coming in 3d.

  • NightAvatar

    I think you could possibly have squeezed that sentence in your post one more time.

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  • Tes

    thank God for Christopher Nolan !

  • Sarah Saunders

    So excited for this movie:D

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  • polyp2000

    “he prefers post conversion” is that for cost reasons ? or because he actually thinks it's better?

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  • Yahzee

    yeah right, like Warner is gonna mess with Chris Nolan right now… if he doesn't want to go 3D, they'll just have to suck it

  • Daniel

    It sounds like he simply doesn't like to shoot in 3D and he'd rather not use it at all.

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  • darci

    The HBO trailer ( ) has got me pumped to see it again…I only caught it once in theaters, so I can’t wait. Whathat a perfect choice of songs to use (“Without You” by Junip) too…the song fit so well with the way they edited the footage together.

    Does anyone know if the rumors of HBO eventually having Inception in 3D on their new 3D channel are true? Any idea when we might see that happen?