Christopher Nolan's Brother Becomes Director's Righthand Man

By Williams, Joe | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Christopher Nolan's Brother Becomes Director's Righthand Man


Williams, Joe, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


There's a scene in "The Dark Knight," co-written by director Christopher Nolan and his younger brother Jonathan, where the evil Joker hisses to the vigilant Batman, "You complete me."

The theme of duality and mirrored identity recurs throughout the film. Likewise, the Nolan brothers form a complementary pair. Director Chris, 44, is lefthanded and imaginative. Writer Jonathan Nolan, 38, is righthanded and analytical. Chris speaks with the English accent of their father. Jonathan speaks with the Midwestern accent of their mother. And tellingly, when the brothers started work on the new film "Interstellar," Chris was a father and Jonathan was not.

"In my original draft, the astronaut had to say goodbye to a son called Murphy," the younger Nolan said in a recent phone interview. "Chris wisely changed the kid to a girl. Now that scene has an emotional resonance that makes it hard for me to watch."

That original draft traces back to 2007, when "Interstellar" was a Steven Spielberg project. One of Spielberg's producing partners was British physicist Kip Thorne, who supplied the scientific angle long-distance travel via bended space. To turn the conceptual ideas into a dramatic story, Spielberg sought out the younger Nolan.

He set the story in the near future, when humanity is threatened by environmental collapse and needs a new place to call home.

"The fossil record dictates that at some point the planet will grow tired of us," Jonathan Nolan said. "Like a dog shrugging off a tick. And it will happen sooner rather than later if we continue to be bad custodians of the world."

But Nolan wanted his story to be hopeful.

"One idea I wanted to explore is that Earth is a nest and that humanity is a young life-form that needs to spread its wings. As a kid, I watched the Apollo missions, but in the last 40 years we've stepped away from that."

He said "The Right Stuff" was an inspiration on the film, as were the optimistic Dust Bowl migrants in "The Grapes of Wrath. …

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