Christopher Nolan is an English-American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and editor. He is one of the highest-grossing directors in history, and among the most successful and acclaimed filmmakers of the 21st century.
Let’s find out intriguing facts about him!
1. Christopher Edward Nolan was born 30 July 1970 in London, UK.
2. His English father, Brendan James Nolan, was an advertising executive, and his American mother, Christina (née Jensen), worked as a flight attendant and an English teacher.
3. His childhood was split between London and Chicago, and he has both British and American citizenship.
4. He has an older brother, Matthew Francis Nolan, a convicted criminal, and a younger brother, Jonathan.
5. He began making films at age seven, borrowing his father’s Super 8 camera and shooting short films with his action figures.
6. Growing up, Nolan was a great admirer of Star Wars (1977), and around the age of eight he made a stop motion animation homage called Space Wars. His uncle who worked at NASA, building guidance systems for the Apollo rockets, sent him some launch footage.
7. “I re-filmed them off the screen and cut them in, thinking no-one would notice,” Nolan later remarked.
8. From the age of 11, he aspired to be a professional filmmaker.
9. When Nolan’s family relocated to Chicago during his formative years, he started making films with Adrien and Roko Belic.
10. He has continued his collaboration with the brothers, receiving a credit for his editorial assistance on their Oscar-nominated documentary Genghis Blues (1999).
11. Nolan also worked alongside Roko (and future Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Gettleman) on documenting a safari across four African countries, organized by the late photojournalist Dan Eldon in the early 1990s.
12. Nolan was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, and later read English literature at University College London (UCL). He chose UCL specifically for its filmmaking facilities, which comprised a Steenbeck editing suite and 16 mm film cameras.
13. Nolan was president of the Union’s Film Society, and with Emma Thomas (his girlfriend and future producer) he screened 35 mm feature films during the school year and used the money earned to produce 16 mm films over the summers.
14. During his college years, Nolan made two short films. The first was the surreal 8 mm Tarantella (1989), which was shown on Image Union (an independent film and video showcase on the Public Broadcasting Service).
15. The second was Larceny (1995), filmed over a weekend in black and white with a limited cast, crew, and equipment.
16. Funded by Nolan and shot with the society’s equipment, it appeared at the Cambridge Film Festival in 1996 and is considered one of UCL’s best shorts.
17. After graduation, Nolan directed corporate videos and industrial films.
18. He also made a third short, Doodlebug (1997), about a man chasing an insect around a flat with a shoe, only to discover when killing it that it is a miniature of himself.
19. During this period of his career, Nolan had little or no success getting his projects off the ground.
20. Nolan directed his first feature film “Following,” in the year 1998, which he filmed with his friends. It took more than a year for just for the principal photography, as the entire cast and crew members had other full-time jobs and they were able to film only on Saturdays.
21. He happened to come up with the concept of the movie “Following,” because he had his home broken into and wondered what the people thought as they went around looking at his belongings.
22. “Following” was made on a modest budget of £3,000 and in order to conserve film stock the crew members rehearsed each scene extensively to make sure that either the first or second take itself could be used in the final edit. The entire movie was shot almost in a handheld, single camera.
23. The movie was co-produced by Emma Thomas and Jeremy Theobald, while it was Nolan who wrote, photographed and edited the film all by himself. The film was well received by critics with The New Yorker stating that the “Following” has “echoed Hitchcock classics”, but was “leaner and meaner.”
24. The success from “Following,” landed him his next breakthrough movie “Memento,” which is considered by numerous critics to be one of the best films of the 2000s. The movie was a box office success and even won him a number of awards and nominations. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal wrote in his review about the movie that, “I can’t remember when a movie has seemed so clever, strangely affecting and slyly funny at the very same time.”
25. It was his brother Jonathan who pitched the idea for “Memento Mori” while a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. Nolan developed the idea into a screenplay which told the entire story in reverse. About the script of the movie Aaron Ryder, an executive for Newmarket Films, said it was “perhaps the most innovative script I had ever seen.”
26. Before directing the 2005 movie “Batman Begins,” which was the year’s ninth-highest-grossing film worldwide, Nolan had a number of projects planned including the Howard Hughes biographical film and Ruth Rendell’s crime novel “The Keys to the Street.”
27. He had to drop the Hughes biopic when he learned that Martin Scorsese was already making one. In case of “The Keys to the Street,” he had to leave the project due to similarities to his previous work.
28. He even postponed the project “The Prestige,” released only in 2006 but was intended to be released as early as 2003, as he agreed to work on “Batman Begins.” The screenplay of “The Prestige,” was an intermittent, five-year collaboration between him and his brother Jonathan, whom he approached Jonathan for help in writing the script in 2001.
29. It is reported that Nolan oversaw each and every shot of “Batman Begins,” as well as “The Dark Knight,” as there was no second unit while filming.
30. “The Dark Knight” movie, which set a number of box-office records during its theatrical run, has been cited as one of the best films of the 2000s and one of the best superhero films ever made. It is in fact the first feature film shot partially in the 15/70 mm IMAX format.
31. Following the success with “The Dark Knight,” Warner Bros., approached Nolan to direct “Inception.” According to Cinematographer Wally Pfister, he was approached by the executives at Warner Bros., to make the film in 3D. However, he had refused the idea, claiming “it will distract the storytelling experience of Inception.”
32. It is said that during the entire production of the movie “Inception,” details of the movie’s plot were kept secret. Nolan, being the writer of the movie, described it as a contemporary sci-fi action thriller “set within the architecture of the mind.”
33. Although he was initially hesitant about making the third and final Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises,” he agreed to do it when he felt the story he developed with his brother Jonathan and David S. Goyer would end the series on a high note. Andrew O’Hehir of Salon called it “arguably the biggest, darkest, most thrilling and disturbing and utterly balls-out spectacle ever created for the screen.”
34. While discussing “The Dark Knight Rises” in the year 2010, Goyer came up with the idea to present Superman in a modern context. Nolan, who was impressed with the concept, pitched the idea for the 2013 movie “Man of Steel,” to Warner Bros. He was hired to produce the movie, while Goyer was hired to write it.
35. His 2014 movie “Interstellar,” is the first to have him and his brother Jonathan work together on a completely original script, unlike the previous movies that were adapted from comic books, novels and short stories. In fact, it was Steven Spielberg who was to direct the movie in 2006, with Jonathan writing the screenplay. Since Spielberg chose other projects, Jonathan suggested this project to Nolan in 2012.
36. As of 2016, Nolan is all set to direct his first historical film “Dunkirk,” based on World War II, which is scheduled for a release on July 21, 2017. Following the tradition, the director has decided to use the real naval destroyers instead of CGI for sea battle sequences in the movie. He has also chose to film the movie in a combination of 15/70mm IMAX film and Super Panavision 65mm film, over digital recording, in order to achieve the maximum possible image quality.
37. He is married to Emma Thomas, who has co-produced all of his films including “Memento.” He met her when he was just 19 years old, during his days at the University College of London. They have four children – Flora Nolan, Rory Nolan, Oliver Nolan and Magnus Nolan. The duo have together founded the production company Syncopy Inc. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his family.
38. Nolan is the second director to have made 2 movies – “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” that have grossed more than $1 billion in the worldwide box office, following James Cameron.
39. However, he is the first director to have released both of his billion dollar grossing movies only in 2D as Cameron’s films “Avatar” and “Titanic” were also released in 3D.
40. He is the first director to have made three live action film adaptations of the DC Comics character “Batman.”
41. He was honored with the first-ever Founder’s Award from the Slamdance Film Festival in the year 2014.
42. He was honored with a handprint and footprint ceremony on July 7, 2012 at Graceman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, becoming the youngest director ever.
43. As of 2014, he has seven of his films on the IMDB’s “Top 250 Movies” list. Out of the total nine movies he has directed, the only two movies which missed the spot are “Insomnia” and “Following.”