How Christopher Nolan Shot INTERSTELLAR Documentary Style

Christopher Nolan barely opens up about his next huge blockbuster.

How Christopher Nolan Shot INTERSTELLAR Documentary Style

Christopher Nolan just did a 45 minute Q&A with The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy at CinemaCon and - to no one's surprise - his most common response to questions about Interstellar was "I can't say much about the movie." But he did drop a tidbit that intrigued me, and it was about how he shot the spaceship interiors. 

Is it news that Nolan confirmed space ships? Well, he did, and he says they built vast sets. Nolan says he prefers to go practical with sets as much as possible, and that giving people something tangible onscreen supports the VFX illusions (sorry for the paraphrasing, I didn't record the talk and am working from notes). On most movie space ship sets the windows would open up onto green screens, but Nolan didn't want to do that. 

The director said that he worked with the special effects team to "put reality outside the windows" of the enormous ship sets. Actors could walk around and look out the windows and see what their characters would see. "It paid huge dividends for the actors in terms of oerformance," Nolan said.

But more than that having the reality outside the windows offered Nolan a choice in how he shot the scenes. "It allows cinematographer] Hoyte Van Hoytema and myself to shoot like a documentary," he explained. That means scenes on the ship could be played with naturalism instead of worrying about hitting FX marks. Nolan concedes it was tough on the FX team, who needed to have their work finished on an accelerated schedule.

There was almost nothing else revealed about the film, except that Nolan is going for a tone similar to the family-friendly ("Before that became a disparaging term," he explained) all-audiences blockbusters of his youth. Star Wars came up a lot, and Nolan called it a "perfectly cinematic experience."

"It's about harking back to the films I grew up with that took me to places I could never imagine," he said. He's looking to explore something simple: "The universality of human experience."

Devin Faraci's photo About the Author: A ten year veteran of writing for the web, Devin has built a reputation as a loud, uncompromising and honest voice – sometimes to the chagrin of his readers, but usually to their delight.
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