Christopher Jonathan James Nolan is a British-American film director, screenwriter and producer.
He received serious notice after his second feature Memento (2000), which he wrote and directed based on a story idea by his brother, Jonathan Nolan. Jonathan went to co-write later scripts with him, including the Batman series and The Prestige. He also first collaborated with Wally Pfister, who would photograph all his subsequent films. After directing Insomnia (2002), Nolan pitched an idea for a reboot of the Batman film franchise to Warner Brothers, eventually making a successful trilogy. Inception (2010) was an original screenplay by Nolan, a heist film set in the world of "shared dreaming." Nolan co-founded Syncopy Films with his wife, Emma Thomas, and they have produced all his films since The Prestige (2006).
Nolan has also worked with screenwriter David S. Goyer, film editor Lee Smith, composers David Julyan and Hans Zimmer, special effects coordinator Chris Corbould, and actors Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Jeremy Theobald, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Michael Caine.
Nolan spent his childhood in the United States and England, and later studied English literature at University College, London, which he chose specifically for its film-making facilities. There he made a series of shorts in the college film society, and met the friends with whom he would later make Following (1998), his independent début feature.
Nolan was born in London, the son of an Englishman, who worked as an advertising copywriter, and an American mother, a flight attendant. He has a younger brother, Jonathan, with whom he often collaborates on film scripts. As a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States, he spent his childhood in both London and Chicago. Nolan found an interest in botany and "dicots" early on, until he found his father's camera. He began film-making at the age of seven using his father's Super 8 camera and his toy action figures. While living in Chicago as a child, he also made short films with Roko Belic, who would become a director and producer in his own right.
Nolan was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school on Hertford Heath in Hertfordshire, England, and later read English literature at University College London. Nolan chose UCL specifically for its film-making facilities, which consisted of a "Steenbeck editing suite (real film, real spools) plus a couple of 16mm cameras." Nolan was president of the society from 1992 to 1994, a contemporary described him as talented and focused on learning as much as possible about the mechanics and technology of film-making. He was ever present in the society's rooms, wearing his now recognisable linen suit and open-necked shirt. Confident and assured, he was never arrogant but debonair and "conservative with a small 'c". Nolan graduated from UCL in 1993, but continued to associate with the film society, friends from there would later be involved in Following. Meanwhile he earned a living by producing corporate training videos. Nolan married Emma Thomas, his university girlfriend and long-time film producer, in 1997. They have four children.
He dislikes smoking, and no main characters have been portrayed smoking in his later films.
Tarantella (1989) was shown on Image Union, an independent film and video showcase on the Public Broadcasting Service.
Larceny (1996) was a short film by Nolan which contained traits later to be seen in his first feature, Following. Jeremy Theobald also appeared in Larceny, a short film shot by Nolan while in the UCLU Film Society. Theobald stated "Still, it was clear Chris was different. We met through friends because he’d heard that I was interested in making films. He gave me a script for Larceny, a short that he proposed to make in black-and-white with a restricted cast, crew and equipment in the space of a weekend. It was different from any other script I’d read at college. They were often art pieces that would explore the slamming of train doors on Euston station (in the days when trains had doors that you could slam). This script was sharp, irreverent and clever. Larceny worked well and I thought as a first foray into film acting, I did okay." Larceny was funded by Nolan himself, but shot using the Society's equipment. It is considered to be one of the best shorts produced by the Society in recent generations. Filmed in black and white on an Arri 16BL, it contains some superb hand-held camera work, and a fast-paced, gripping story.
Doodlebug (1997) is a three minute film about a man chasing an insect with a shoe around a grotty flat, only to discover on killing it that it is a miniature of himself: seconds after he himself is crushed by a larger version of himself. Nolan wrote, directed, co-produced, photographed, and edited the film. Jeremy Theobald was listed as "the men" in the credits; he would later play the protagonist in Following (1998), Nolan's first feature.
Nolan directed his first feature film, Following, in 1998. The film depicts a writer who is obsessed with following random people. Scenes are shown out of chronological order. Nolan made the film on a budget of only $6,000. He shot it on weekends, over the course of a year, working with friends he had met at the University College London film society. To conserve expensive film stock, every scene in the film was rehearsed extensively to ensure that the first or second take could be used in the final edit. Nolan directed the film from his own script, and also photographed and edited it himself. It began to receive notice after a screening at the 1998 San Francisco Film Festival, and was eventually distributed on a limited basis by Zeitgeist in 1999.
As a result of the film's success, Newmarket Films optioned the script for Nolan's next film, Memento. Memento (2000) is a critically acclaimed cult film, and was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award (Oscar) for best screenplay. The movie is based on the short story Memento Mori, written by Christopher's brother, Jonathan Nolan. It follows widower Leonard Shelby (played by Guy Pearce) who suffers a head injury and is unable to form new memories. In keeping with this inability to know what has just happened before, the film's narrative structure runs in reverse (with an interlude between each pair of major "flashback" sequences). At the Sundance Film Festival in 1999, Nolan met Wally Pfister, after being impressed by his work on The Hi-Line (1999). They shot about a quarter of Memento in black and white, and elsewhere used colours, light and darkness to emphasise the noir nature of the story.
In 2002, Nolan directed Insomnia, an American remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, albeit with major changes in both the plot and the nature of the main character. The plot of Insomnia revolves around two Los Angeles homicide detectives that are dispatched to a small town in Alaska, where the sun does not set, to investigate the methodical murder of a local teenager. The never setting sun was a central reference point in the story, and indeed the title, and while filming in Alaska during the summer months, Nolan and Pfister opted for a natural look to evoke the landscape, and played with putting the actors in darkness or light, for instance, they asked the production designer to position the detective's bed in a certain way in relation to the window. This allowed them to move his face in and out of shadows. Pfister recounted one shot of Al Pacino, when his character was struggling with his guilt as local policemen came looking for him. Pfister explained to the actor in the darkness he would catch the "ambient bounce", but the light was eight stops over-exposed. He recalled, "I said, when you’re in the shadows, you’ll be catching the ambient bounce. If you move forward, you’ll be in this nuclear, bright melting light. He knew exactly how to play it."
In 1997, Warner Bros. put its Batman film franchise on an indefinite hiatus when the fourth installment, Batman & Robin, was released to negative reviews and disappointing box office reception. In 2003, Nolan, together with David S. Goyer, who had written Blade (1998) convinced Warner Bros. to entrust the first of a revived Batman film series to a relatively unknown director. Batman Begins was released on June 15, 2005 and became a box office hit, ranking as the eighth highest grossing film of 2005 in the United States and the ninth highest grossing worldwide. It received a very positive critical and public reception, with many ranking it as superior to Tim Burton's Batman (1989); for instance Rotten Tomatoes' wide panel gave it an 85% rating compared to 71% for Burton's film. Strengths of the movie included its dark and intelligent storyline, strong emphasis on character, and the predominant themes of fear and duality. At the 32nd annual Saturn Awards, Batman Begins won "Best Fantasy Film", "Best Actor" for Christian Bale, and "Best Writing" for Nolan and Goyer. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
In late July 2006, a sequel was officially confirmed as The Dark Knight with Nolan again directing, and Heath Ledger cast as The Joker, Batman's arch-enemy. Nolan and his brother Jonathan wrote a script, based on a treatment written by himself and David S. Goyer. The film began production in early 2007 and was released on July 16, 2008 in Australia and July 18, 2008 in the United States, to overwhelming critical acclaim: some critics calling it the greatest comic-book based movie ever made. It also had enormous box office success, setting the record for the highest-grossing weekend opening in the U.S., over $158 million, and, As of October 2011[update] becoming the 3rd highest earning film of all time in the United States (it was the second at the time), and the sixth-highest worldwide at the time. At the 2009 Golden Globe Awards, Christopher Nolan accepted the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture on behalf of the deceased Ledger. Nolan was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Best Director for The Dark Knight. At the 81st Academy Awards, it was nominated for a total of eight Oscars, and won two, the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, and a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Ledger.
Nolan also confirmed they will make The Dark Knight Rises, a sequel to The Dark Knight and said it will be his last Batman movie and a conclusion to the story: "Without getting into specifics, the key thing that makes the third film a great possibility for us is that we want to finish our story. And in viewing it as the finishing of a story rather than infinitely blowing up the balloon and expanding the story... I'm very excited about the end of the film, the conclusion, and what we’ve done with the characters. My brother has come up with some pretty exciting stuff. Unlike the comics, these things don’t go on forever in film and viewing it as a story with an end is useful. Viewing it as an ending, that sets you very much on the right track about the appropriate conclusion and the essence of what tale we're telling. And it hearkens back to that priority of trying to find the reality in these fantastic stories." Warner Bros. announced the film is scheduled to be released July 20, 2012.
The Prestige, released on October 20, 2006, is an adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel about two rival magicians in the 19th century. It reunites Nolan with Batman Begins stars Christian Bale and Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman plays the other lead role. The movie had a mostly positive response from critics and made over $109 million worldwide. The film was co-written with his brother, Jonathan Nolan and co-produced with his wife, Emma Thomas. The film revolves around the intense professional rivalry between two stage illusionists, their desire to develop better tricks than the other draws them into a battle of skill and technology, dominated by obsession, secrecy and duality. Like the novel before it, the film has aspects of meta-fiction and makes use of flash-back to tell parts of the story. Its title refers to the final part of a stage performance, where the performer attempts to return a vanished object before the eyes of the audience.
After the success of The Dark Knight (2008), Warner Bros. contracted Nolan to a seven-figure deal to direct Inception (2010). Nolan wrote and directed the film which was described as "a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind". Filming began in summer 2009, and Inception was released on July 16, 2010 to largely positive reviews and became a box office hit.
Writing in Senses of Cinema, Ian Allen Paul placed Inception within a trend in modern American film which treats themes of simulation and "meta-reality". Exploration of the subjectivity of experience, and questioning the reality of the material world had been explored in the preceding decade in The Matrix (1999), eXistenZ (1999), and Charlie Kaufman’s Baudrillard-inspired Synecdoche, New York (2008), and have existed long before in Western philosophy and post-modernism. Nolan's framework in Inception is lightly different to other films: characters sedate themselves, connect to a machine and can inhabit a shared dream space built by one of them, "the architect". The world is constantly evolving as each character's movements affects the shared environment.
During post-production on Inception, Nolan gave an interview for These Amazing Shadows, a documentary spotlighting film appreciation and preservation by the National Film Registry. He agreed to do the interview after speaking with Doug Blush, the producer, at a piano recital featuring his son and Blush's daughter.
On March 10, 2010, Nolan confirmed that he and David Goyer have been working on an idea for a Superman film. Nolan says, "He basically told me, 'I have this thought about how you would approach Superman.' I immediately got it, loved it and thought: That is a way of approaching the story I’ve never seen before that makes it incredibly exciting. I wanted to get Emma and I involved in shepherding the project right away and getting it to the studio and getting it going in an exciting way… A lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that’s what I know how to do." Although Zack Snyder is set to direct, Nolan will have significant creative input in the process.
Originally scheduled for production in 2004, Nolan's film about Howard Hughes was delayed due to the release of Martin Scorsese' s The Aviator (2004); Nolan feels that making it ten years after The Aviator would be more suitable as people would have forgotten about Scorsese's rendition. Nolan described the screenplay as being "The best thing I ever wrote...it's going to be a very, very unusual script and a very unusual movie." He described how the film will focus on Hughes's later life which was not covered in depth in Scorsese's film, "We’ll meet the Howard Hughes who spent much of 1948 sitting naked in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel with only a pink dinner napkin covering his genitals as he screened movies from his studio, RKO Pictures, and ran up an $11 million tab; the Hughes who — obsessed with food safety — once bought every franchise restaurant chain in his home state of Texas, and who was similarly so concerned about air quality that he installed an aircraft filtration system in his 1954 Chrysler New Yorker, taking up its entire trunk; the Howard Hughes who had his hair cut and nails trimmed only once a year, and who was seemingly as addicted to Baskin Robbins Banana Ripple ice cream as he was to regular codeine injections; the Hughes who at the end of his life considered only Mormons trustworthy enough to be let into his inner circle." The script would be based on Citizen Hughes: The Power, the Money and the Madness, a biography of the industrialist by Michael Drosnin.
Gemma Arterton showed interest in starring in The Keys to the Street, based on a Ruth Rendell novel that was adapted by Nolan. Christopher Nolan had adapted the book into a screenplay which he originally planned to direct for Fox Searchlight, but moved on to make Batman Begins at Warner Bros instead. The film has since been deemed dead until interest recently re-appeared for it. It is unknown whether Nolan will direct the script though he has said that he probably would not given similarities between it and his previous films. The project is currently "in development" and not planned for production.