Inception: Interview with director Christopher Nolan

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Christopher Nolan is the writer/director of "Inception," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page, which Warner will release July 16.

Director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan reveals that he began creating the world of "Inception" almost a decade before he made the movie. "About ten years ago, I became fascinated with the subject of dreams, about the relationship of our waking life to our dreaming life. I've always found it to be an interesting paradox that everything within a dream–whether frightening, or happy, or fantastic–is being produced by your own mind as it happens, and what that says about the potential of the imagination is quite extraordinary. I started thinking how that could be applied to a grand-scale action movie with a very human dimension."



"Inception" hinges on the premise that it is possible to share dreams…dreams that have been designed to look and feel completely real while you're in them. And in that subconscious state, a person's deepest and most valuable secrets are there for the taking. Nolan elaborates, "At the heart of the movie is the notion that an idea is indeed the most resilient and powerful parasite. A trace of it will always be there in your mind…somewhere. The thought that someone could master the ability to invade your dream space, in a very physical sense, and steal an idea–no matter how private–is compelling."


Nolan asserts that the central theme of the story is both personal and universal "because we all dream. We all experience the phenomenon of our minds creating a world and living in that world at the exact same time. There is also an incredible contrast in the world of dreams–they are so intimate and yet they have infinite possibilities in terms of what we can imagine. So the challenge was to blend the intimacy and emotion of what might take place in a dream with the massive scope of what our brains can conceive of. I wanted to create a film that would allow the audience to experience the limitless realities that only in dreams can we realize."


Working with his actors


Nolan offers, "It was fascinating to watch the actors evolve as a group, very much the way the characters do in the story. It really brought a richness to their scenes together. As a writer, you hope for that kind of chemistry, but it's not until you get on the set that you see the cast bring out their characters' idiosyncrasies and interesting inter-relationships. That's a vital part of any movie, especially a heist movie, and I think these actors really delivered that.


"The film follows a team of very different people, each with singular skills, who are brought together to accomplish a very special task," Nolan continues. "If any one of them fails, it can spell disaster, so each individual is integral to their success. And we understand everything they're going through because we are on that journey with them."


Focused Crew


"I love watching my team react with a little bit of panic when I first present them with what I'm thinking," Nolan admits, laughing. "But it's astounding to watch the various departments break it down and then come up with inventive approaches to get it done. And at every stage of 'Inception,' everyone delivered in extraordinary ways."

Nolan says he has reason to trust the cinematographer's instincts. "I've worked with Wally on a number of films now, and he has an extraordinary eye. He is also always motivated by the concerns of the story and not just the look of the film. That makes him a tremendous creative ally in determining how we progress from one shot to the next to advance the audiences' immersion in the world of the film."


Nolan says, "I think we experienced a number of extremes, from burning sun to heavy rain to incredible snowfalls, and that's something we were after in making this film. We took our actors to the top of mountains and under the water and all over the world, and they rose to every challenge marvelously. I am a great believer in getting out there on location and confronting an environment because it brings so much to the credibility of the action. And, at the end of the day, I think it adds something to the feeling the audience has of being taken someplace they haven't been before."


Decontstructing Your Own Dreams


Nolan concludes, "Once you start examining what the dream experience might mean, it invites people to think about their own dreams and what they reveal. It raises interesting questions about how we assess the nature of our own reality."