At the end of a busy Monday, a few friends got together to discuss their latest achievement. What most of these men had in common is that they have worked together before and they have all been united because of Christopher Nolan. In what was likely the last Q&A to discuss “Inception,” Wally Pfister (cinematography), Hans Zimmer (original score), Guy Hendrix Dyas (art direction), visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin (visual effects), Richard King (sound editing), Ed Novick and Gary Rizzo (sound mixing) and special effects supervisor Chris Corbould (Visual Effects) all took some time to reflect on he picture that landed them Oscar nominations this year.
Speaking to Pfister and Corbould beforehand, it’s clear both men are a bit more preoccupied with prepping “The Dark Knight Rises” than worrying about campaigning for “Inception.” Pfister told me it would be an even longer shoot than “Inception,” which was seven months, and Corbould noted Nolan had provided a number of practical effect challenges which would be their most complicated yet. And considering that Pfister has worked with Nolan since “Memento” and Corbould on all the “Batman” films as well as “Inception,” that’s quite a statement. But what was clear from my short chat and the eventual Q&A was the tremendous respect they all have for each other and how much they enjoy working together.
It was obvious the 30 minute discussion could have gone on for much longer and that the work on “Inception” was so intricate on sp many levels that moviegoers and film students won’t run out of questions to ask any of the participants for years. Some of the interesting revelations this night (at least for this busy writer) concerned how closely Zimmer and sound designer Richard King worked together to layer the score and the movie’s sounds (a rarity according to Zimmer), the fact that the sample of Edith Piaf singing “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” was a logistical wonder (Zimmer still has one of the few pristine digital audio tracks of Piaf’s voice), the fact that Pfister is one of the rare d.p.’s not to digitally manipulate his film for final print and that the visual effects people prefer it that way (not to mention Dyas who said bad D.I.’s, as they are known, can ruin a well crafted set) and Corbould’s amazing spinning hallway that never went full speed because the actor’s couldn’t act out of fear for their safety (it went at about 40% of the speed Nolan originally asked for). But the biggest story of the night was the one man not in attendance, the director and screenwriter himself. And longtime collaborator Pfister pretty much summed up what everyone in the room was thinking.
“I see all these people up here lined up for this discussion and what you start to realize is that there is a very signature voice at that top of this and every single person deals directly with Christopher Nolan,” Pfister says. “I’ve been working with Chris for 12 years and this is how it has always been. He’s a consummate director. He has his finger on every part of that film. Every microscopic bit on that film and everybody here has direct communication and when I hear that Ed [Novick] say that he is protected by a director who cares about getting good production sound because he knows that’s is what can make a better a film and all the individual conversations you realize you’re working with a very exceptional man. This is something that we all know is not true with some other directors. I just want to say flat out that none of us would be in this position if this man hadn’t written and directed an incredible piece of work.”
And if you want to take that as a dig to the director’s branch for not nominating Nolan, well, Pfister makes an excellent case for their historic mistake.
Now, overall, “Inception” pretty much lost its chance to be best picture player months ago (although Warner Bros. now seems to be spending allot to make up for lost time in both TV and online), but if any Academy member heard these gents discuss their particular contributions on this night it would be hard not to vote for them. And it certainly has us salivating on what they’ll all end up creating next.