An Interstellar Press Conference

by Daniel Goodwin on 05/11/2014


Christopher Nolan’s latest work of wonder Interstellar opens in cinemas this week. Despite a clunky final third it’s a visually astounding and riveting sci-fi blockbuster with a strong, emotional core that will hopefully pave the way for more intelligent mainstream movies based on original concepts.

New Empress attended a press conference with the director and cast in London last week to discuss the production, the future of film as a medium and asked the actors what it was like working with Chris Nolan on a project of such a scale.

Christopher Nolan (Director): My interest in Interstellar came down to a couple of key things. The first was the relationship between the father and his children. I’m a father myself so I found it very powerful. I liked the idea of combining that with a story that speculates about a potential human evolution, where mankind would have to reckon with its place in the wider universe. I grew up in an era that was really a golden age of blockbusters. If you look at Close Encounters and the way that addressed the idea of a supernatural environment, where humans would meet aliens, then addressed the fact that it came from a very human perspective. I really liked the idea of trying to present today’s audiences that kind of storytelling.

Matthew McConaughey (Cooper): One of the things that attracted me to it was that is that it challenged mankind but remained incredibly faithful in our capacities. But I don’t think any of the actors ever felt overwhelmed by that. Even though we filmed for five months and on a large scale, when you’re acting in a Chris Nolan film it feels just as intimate, raw and natural as most independents. But that’s mainly because Chris was never overwhelmed by any of it.

Jessica Chastain (Murph): With Chris it’s all practical, so you actually have things to react to as an actor. There’s no green screen, they were chucking dust in my face every day and that was a real corn field we grew. We would do three or four takes and he would let me try what I wanted to without imposing anything that wasn’t natural. Chris opened up my performance in a way that I would never have imagined. So, as incredible as the technical and visual aspects of the sets were, we never lost the emotional components.

Christopher Nolan (Director): One of the other things I loved most about Interstellar was Amelia, the character Anne plays. I think it was just a wonderful role and I took it to Anne knowing that she was very interested in science and knew she would completely get this character and know what she was about.

Anne Hathaway (Amelia): I just loved my space suit! The moment I first put it on, I lit up. I felt like a kid at Halloween I was so happy. I’d be putting it on and Chris would come in and I’d be like “I need to adjust something, it might take twenty minutes” and he would be like “Ok. I’ll be looking at jet packs.” But it was also very challenging. During my first fitting, I had been wearing the suit for about an hour and I realised I was not going to be able to slack off in the gym on this one. I initially thought I could eat, as I wasn’t going to be wearing a catsuit but I had to work out just as hard. And that’s also what I love about it, the inherent challenges. They’re not easy, and they’re not easy in real life but they raise the dramatic stakes.

Michael Caine (Professor Brand): I’ve done six pictures with Christopher and every one was a hit so whenever he asks me if I want to do a movie I say yes. And when he asks if I want to read the script I say no. It’s quite extraordinary. Nothing is what it seems with Chris. I’m a very good amateur gardener and I’ve seen quite a lot of wormholes but I never understood them before this movie. And then I met Kip Thorne (Scientific Consultant and Executive Producer), who I was basically playing in the film. I thought I knew what to do. I grew a beard like Kip and asked him lots of questions about things that were puzzling me. Then I went into my office set, which he had designed, and there was an algebraic problem which was about fifty feet long and four feet high. And that’s when I stopped trying to be clever.

Christopher Nolan (Director): The thing you hope for, doing an original project like this that isn’t a sequel, franchise or based on something from another medium. You hope that if you succeed, it would encourage that type of film-making within the studio system. It’s what we tried to do with Inception and it would be nice if it would work with this as well. One of my earliest movie memories was going to Leicester Square to see 2001[A  Space Odyssey]. I was seven years old and I have never forgotten the scale of that experience. I saw my first IMAX film when I was fifteen and then immediately wanted to make features. So working on this scale and in this medium is a long held dream of mine. We have been swamped by digital video technology but film has to have a future. Even from an archival perspective, the libraries and film studios can’t function without it, so it’s very important to preserve its place in the film-making process and obviously that’s something I do, to help preserve it for future generations.

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