Despite its scope, director Christopher Nolan admits that Interstellar -- starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain -- is anything but a solely enormous sci-fi epic.
“The fun thing about this film for me is that a lot of it was one person in a room, not even two people in a room. A lot of it was extremely intimate,” Nolan said.
However, even watching the Interstellar trailer it's evident this flick is also a mind-blowing visual menagerie of interplanetary adventures and dimension-bending brilliance. “With this sort of film I get to do both. I get to do that (intimate movie moments) and I get to do action-adventure,” Nolan said.
If nothing else, Interstellar was Nolan’s chance to fully flex his creative muscles. With the Dark Knight trilogy, he had a source material to stay congruent with, a fan base to please and a studio that was equally concerned about both. The film he made between the last two Batman movies, Inception… he still had to be conscious of what he was creating due to the fact that he was still so immersed in the Dark Knight world.
“I try not to be particularly self-conscious of my choices, but with this film, I felt that I had the freedom to try to put a lot of different elements together and try a lot of different things that I am interested in,” Nolan said. “That resulted in getting to do huge things, large outlandish things, very intimate and personal things as a director.”
Interstellar follows McConaughey’s Cooper, an astronaut who had given up his dreams of space exploration as the demands of the Earth kept the space program grounded. Global warming had produced an almost universal dust bowl that has all of society’s resources devoted to simply staying alive.
That storyline also allowed the film to be about much more than a simplistic science fiction flick.
“When I first looked at Jonah’s (his brother Jonah Nolan) draft on Interstellar, it was very clear that at the heart of the story there was this great family relationship. We found the more we explored the cosmic side of things, the further out the universe you went, the more the focus came down to who we are as people and what are the connections between us,” Nolan said.
That element of not being restricted to a film story type even stretched to Nolan’s working with composer Hans Zimmer. “When it came to Hans Zimmer’s involvement with the music, one of the things I did with Hans is I didn’t want him to know what the genre was when he started working. It’s about a father who has to leave his children and I gave it to Hans and told him to start working. That was the seed to grow the score from. Indeed the finished score came from that particular creative act that is an illustration we all tried to take on this. It’s about using the exploration of the universe as really a lens through which to view ourselves as human beings.”
Interstellar also has, despite the hugest of obstacles to the continuation of the human race, an enormous amount of optimism. The filmmaker feels that has always been a benchmark of celestial study.
“Really space exploration has always represented the most hopeful and optimistic endeavor that mankind has ever really engaged with,” Nolan reported. “I feel very strongly that we’re at a point now where we need to start looking up again and exploring our place in the universe more.”
Nolan’s latest joins a long list of films that all have that clear Nolan cinematic stamp. Sure the scope of Interstellar is massive and intimate, but for the filmmaker, making movies for him is always about one thing and one thing only.
“I don’t like to talk about messages so much with films, simply because it’s a little more didactic. The reason I’m a filmmaker is to tell stories. And so you hope that it will have resonance for people,” Nolan said.
“What I really loved about Jonah’s original draft and was retained in this was the idea of blight -- the idea of there being an agricultural crisis, which has happened historically with the potato famine and so forth. We combined this with ideas taken very much from Ken Burns’ documentary on the Dust Bowl. We’re saying that in our story, mankind is being gently nudged off the planet by the Earth itself. The reason is non-specific because we didn’t want to be too didactic or political about this film. It’s not really the point for me.”
Watch Inception online for a tease of what explodes cinematically in Interstellar.