BEVERLY HILLS – Four years ago, when he was in the thick of an “Inception” Oscar campaign, I couldn't help but ask Christopher Nolan if he had any desire to go back to more modest filmmaking, smaller films akin to “Memento,” which debuted at Slamdance in 1999. “It depends on the story, really,” he said, unsurprisingly. “I tend to think that if you have the chance to do a big film, you should do it while you can. I”m always worried maybe I won”t be able to do a big film again.”
Apparently. Since that time the director has cranked out his two longest films to date, “The Dark Knight Rises” and now “Interstellar.” The latter finds him painting on his largest canvas to date, and conversely, it also provides some of the most intimate character relationship opportunities he's had in a while.
At a press conference for the film last week, Nolan was asked the question once more, and perhaps now it's a more applicable query than ever. “With this sort of film I get to do both,” he said. “I get to do [intimacy] and I get to do action adventure, those sort of thrilling set-pieces that you try and do and the scale of things. I try not to be particularly self-conscious in my choices, but with this film I felt I had the freedom to put a lot of different things together and try out a lot of things that I'm interested in. For me, that's the best of both worlds as a director.”
Nevertheless, I spoke with his wife and producer Emma Thomas following the press conference and she said the same thing she did four years ago with trademark mirth: “I certainly wouldn't mind doing something smaller!”
Will Nolan ever break away from these massive productions? If that quote from 2010 is any indication, probably not any time soon. Though maybe the more intimate elements of “Interstellar” will spur something. I do personally think it would be smart at least as an exercise, to explore visual storytelling in a modest manner once again, to work with character on that scale and build on those tools so that the next blockbuster is even stronger.
But that's obviously someone else's call.
“Interstellar” hits theaters Nov. 5 on film, Nov. 7 everywhere else.