Christopher Nolan Says He Shot Interstellar ‘Like a Documentary’

The two major studio presentations on CinemaCon Day 3 were bisected by a special luncheon showcasing the work of filmmaker Christopher Nolan called “From Passion to the Big Screen: The Work of Christopher Nolan.” Since Nolan’s next movie, coming out on November 7, is the enigmatic Interstellar, one would think that he’d want to talk about that a little bit. Nope.

Try as he might, interviewer Todd McCarthy, senior film critic for The Hollywood Reporter, kept asking Nolan direct questions about Interstellar, trying to get him to talk about the movie, only to get largely the same response (always with a smile, mind you):

“I don’t want to say too much about ‘Interstellar.'”

This is a far cry from a few years back when Nolan was at the then-ShoWest, ready to finally reveal what his next movie, Inception was about, following an equally enigmatic teaser that had The Dark Knight fans scratching their heads.

Nolan did confirm that the film involved wormholes that allow us to travel long distances to places we couldn’t travel to otherwise, but brushed off McCarthy’s question on whether the movie dealt with time travel at all. He did once again mention the fact that theoretical physicist Kip Thorne was one of the film’s executive producers.

Nolan also said that one of the reasons he cast Matthew McConaughey as the lead in the film is because he wanted an “everyman” with whom the audience could experience the fantastic events of the movie through. It was after seeing the Oscar-winning actor’s performance in Jeff Nichols’ Mud that made Nolan think that McConaughey might be right for that role.

When asked about the use of locations versus CG environments in Interstellar — something that might be hard to do with a film set in outer space — Nolan said that he had his team construct sets of the interiors of the spaceships, but had monitors outside the windows so that the actors could see exactly what they’d see outside of the ship. It meant that the visual FX people had to work overtime in advance of shooting to have things ready for the actors when they arrived (similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s approach to Gravity, in fact). It also allowed him to shoot the movie “like a documentary.”

Towards the end, Nolan suggested that his film harkens back to the “Golden Age of blockbusters” in which he grew up. He mentioned that seeing Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey as a child were two huge film influences on him. He thought that back then films were more broad-based and that “family films” weren’t looked down upon by cinephiles as they are today. Mentioning that the film has a very different tone than one he’s done in the past, a tone he was interested in exploring, made us think that Interstellar may be something closer to Disney’s The Black Hole than 2001 and it might not be nearly as dark or intellectually challenging or an “adult movie” like Inception was.

Nolan also mentioned that he wanted the film to have a “universality” that looked at where we are as people and where we want to go, as he’s really trying to create an experience in moviegoers to carry with them similar to the ones he had when he was watching films growing up.

Once again, Nolan has shot the film using IMAX technology, stating that he shot more for this film in that format than his previous films. While the film will roll out in all different formats, they do have something planned to give the audience an “incredible immersive experience” while still using existing equipment already in theaters. Nolan still isn’t a fan of 3D and only thinks it works for the right project, but he hasn’t felt that 3D is right for any of the films he wants to make, including Interstellar. (Nolan cited Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby as one of the 3D movies he’s seen that used that technology in the most effective way for the story.)

There was a lot more information to be had from the luncheon spotlight on Nolan, talking about why he likes working with Michael Caine and writing with his brother Jonah as well as his mainly technical issues with shooting digitally vs. on film because he doesn’t feel it captures what he sees as accurately. If we have time, we’ll post some more from the insightful career-spanning interview sometime soon.

Interstellar doesn’t come out until November 7, so you’ll just have to wait a little bit longer to learn more.