Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan Cannes 2018.jpg
Born
Christopher Edward Nolan

(1970-07-30) 30 July 1970 (age 49)
Citizenship
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Alma materUniversity College London
OccupationFilmmaker
Years active1989–present
Spouse(s)
Emma Thomas (m. 1997)
Children4
RelativesJonathan Nolan (brother)
John Nolan (uncle)
Lisa Joy (sister-in-law)

Christopher Edward Nolan, CBE (/ˈnlən/; born 30 July 1970) is an English-American film director, screenwriter, and producer, who is known for making personal, distinctive films within the Hollywood mainstream.

Having made his directorial debut with Following (1998), Nolan gained considerable attention for his second feature Memento (2000). He made the transition from independent to studio filmmaking with Insomnia (2002), and found further critical and commercial success with The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005–2012), The Prestige (2006), Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014), and Dunkirk (2017). Nolan has co-written several of his films with his brother Jonathan, and runs the production company Syncopy Inc. with his wife Emma Thomas. In addition to his filmmaking, he is an advocate for film preservation and the analog medium.

Nolan's films are typically rooted in epistemological and metaphysical themes, exploring human morality, the construction of time, and the malleable nature of memory and personal identity. His body of work is permeated by materialistic perspectives, unconventional narrative structures, cross-cutting, practical special effects, experimental soundscapes, large-format film photography, and analogous relationships between visual language and narrative elements.

Throughout his career, Nolan has received many awards and honours. His ten films have grossed over US$4.7 billion worldwide and garnered a total of 34 Oscar nominations and ten wins. Time magazine named Nolan one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2015, and in 2019, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to film.

Early life[]

Nolan attended University College London, and used its Flaxman Gallery for a scene in Inception (2010).[1]

Nolan was born in Westminster, London, and grew up in Highgate.[2][3] 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.[4][5][6] His childhood was split between London and Evanston, Illinois, and he has both British and US citizenship.[7][8][9][10] He has an older brother, Matthew Francis Nolan, a convicted criminal,[11] and a younger brother, Jonathan.[12] He began making films at age seven, borrowing his father's Super 8 camera and shooting short films with his action figures.[13][14] Growing up, Nolan was particularly influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Star Wars (1977).[15] Around the age of eight, he made a stop motion animation homage to the latter called Space Wars. His uncle, who worked at NASA building guidance systems for the Apollo rockets, sent him some launch footage: "I re-filmed them off the screen and cut them in, thinking no-one would notice," Nolan later remarked.[5][16][17] From the age of eleven, he aspired to be a professional filmmaker.[12]

Career[]

1989–1997: Career beginnings[]

When Nolan's family relocated to Chicago during his formative years, he started making films with Adrien and Roko Belic. He has continued his collaboration with the brothers, receiving a cr for his orial assistance on their Oscar-nominated documentary Genghis Blues (1999).[18] Nolan also worked alongside Belic on documenting a safari across four African countries, organised by the late photojournalist Dan Eldon in the early 1990s.[19][20] 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 ing suite and 16 mm film cameras.[21] Nolan was president of the Union's Film Society,[21] and with Emma Thomas (his girlfriend and future wife) he screened 35 mm feature films during the school year and used the money earned to produce 16 mm films over the summers.[22] 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).[23] The second was Larceny (1996), filmed over a weekend in black and white with limited equipment and a small cast and crew.[24] 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.[25]

After earning his bachelor's degree in English literature in 1993, Nolan worked as a script reader, camera operator, and director of corporate videos and industrial films.[21][6][26] He also filmed 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.[27] Nolan had written the script while a student at UCL.[28] During this period in his career, Nolan had little or no success getting his projects off the ground; he later recalled the "stack of rejection letters" that greeted his early forays into making films, adding "there's a very limited pool of finance in the UK. To be honest, it's a very clubby kind of place ... Never had any support whatsoever from the British film industry."[29]

1998–2004: Breakthrough[]

In 1998 Nolan directed his first feature, Following, which he personally funded and filmed with friends.[30] It depicts an unemployed young writer (Jeremy Theobald) who trails strangers through London, hoping they will provide material for his first novel, but is drawn into a criminal underworld when he fails to keep his distance. The film was inspired by Nolan's experience of living in London and having his flat burgled: "There is an interesting connection between a stranger going through your possessions and the concept of following people at random through a crowd – both take you beyond the boundaries of ordinary social relations".[31] Following was made on a modest budget of £3,000, and was shot on weekends over the course of a year.[32] To conserve film stock, each scene in the film was rehearsed extensively to ensure that the first or second take could be used in the final .[33][34] Co-produced with Emma Thomas and Jeremy Theobald, Nolan wrote, photographed, and ed the film himself.[33] Following won several awards during its festival run[35][36] and was well received by critics; The New Yorker wrote that it "echoed Hitchcock classics", but was "leaner and meaner".[13] Janet Maslin of The New York Times was impressed with its "spare look" and agile hand-held camerawork, saying, "As a result, the actors convincingly carry off the before, during and after modes that the film eventually, and artfully, weaves together."[37] On 11 December 2012 it was released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection.[38]

[The] difference between shooting Following with a group of friends wearing our own clothes and my mum making sandwiches to spending $4 million of somebody else's money on Memento and having a crew of a hundred people is, to this day, by far the biggest leap I've ever made.

—Nolan (in 2012) on the jump from his first film to his second.[30]

As a result of Following's success, Nolan was afforded the opportunity to make his breakthrough hit Memento (2000). During a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, his brother Jonathan pitched the idea for "Memento Mori", about a man with anterograde amnesia who uses notes and tattoos to hunt for his wife's murderer. Nolan developed a screenplay that told the story in reverse; Aaron Ryder, an executive for Newmarket Films, said it was "perhaps the most innovative script I had ever seen".[39] The film was optioned and given a budget of $4.5 million.[40] Memento, starring Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss, premiered in September 2000 at the Venice International Film Festival to critical acclaim.[41] Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal wrote in his review, "I can't remember when a movie has seemed so clever, strangely affecting and slyly funny at the very same time."[42] Basil Smith, in the book The Philosophy of Neo-Noir, draws a comparison with John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which argues that conscious memories constitute our identities, a theme that Nolan explores in the film.[43] The film was a box-office success[44] and received a number of accolades, including Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for its screenplay, Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay, and a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award nomination.[45][46] Memento was considered by numerous critics to be one of the best films of the 2000s.[47] In 2017, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[48]

Oscar-winning film director Steven Soderbergh (pictured) supported Nolan in his transition to studio filmmaking.

Impressed by his work on Memento, Steven Soderbergh recruited Nolan to direct the psychological thriller Insomnia (2002), starring Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank.[49] Warner Bros. initially wanted a more seasoned director, but Soderbergh and his Section Eight Productions fought for Nolan, as well as his choice of cinematographer (Wally Pfister) and or (Dody Dorn).[50] With a $46 million budget, it was described as "a much more conventional Hollywood film than anything the director has done before".[49] A remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, Insomnia is about two Los Angeles detectives sent to a northern Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a local teenager. It received positive reviews from critics and performed well at the box office, earning $113 million worldwide.[51][52] Film critic Roger Ebert praised the film for introducing new perspectives and ideas on the issues of morality and guilt. "Unlike most remakes, the Nolan Insomnia is not a pale retread, but a re-examination of the material, like a new production of a good play."[53] Erik Skjoldbjærg, the director of the original film, was satisfied with Nolan's version, calling it a "well crafted, smart film ... with a really good director handling it".[54] Richard Schickel of Time deemed Insomnia a "worthy successor" to Memento, and "a triumph of atmosphere over a none-too-mysterious mystery".[55]

After Insomnia, Nolan planned a Howard Hughes biographical film starring Jim Carrey. He penned a screenplay, which he said was "the best script I've ever written", but when he learned that Martin Scorsese was making a Hughes biopic (2004's The Aviator), he reluctantly tabled his script and moved on to other projects.[56][57] After turning down an offer to direct the historical epic Troy (2004),[58] Nolan worked on adapting Ruth Rendell's crime novel The Keys to the Street into a screenplay that he planned to direct for Fox Searchlight Pictures, but eventually left the project, citing the similarities to his previous films.[59]

2005–2013: Mainstream and critical success[]

In early 2003 Nolan approached Warner Bros. with the idea of making a new Batman film. Fascinated by the character and story, he wanted to make a film grounded in a "relatable" world more reminiscent of a classical drama than a comic-book fantasy.[60] Batman Begins, the biggest project Nolan had undertaken to that point,[60] premiered in June 2005 to critical acclaim and commercial success.[61] Starring Christian Bale in the title role, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson, the film revived the franchise, heralding a trend towards darker films that rebooted (or retold) backstories.[62][63] Praised for its psychological depth and contemporary relevance,[64] Kyle Smith of The New York Post called it "a wake-up call to the people who keep giving us cute capers about men in tights. It wipes the smirk off the face of the superhero movie."[65] Batman Begins was the eighth-highest-grossing film of 2005 in the United States and the year's ninth-highest-grossing film worldwide.[66] It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and three BAFTA awards.[67][68] On the film's 10th anniversary, Forbes published an article describing its lasting influence: "Reboot became part of our modern vocabulary, and superhero origin stories became increasingly en vogue for the genre. The phrase "dark and gritty" likewise joined the cinematic lexicon, influencing our perception of different approaches to storytelling not only in the comic book film genre but in all sorts of other genres as well."[69]

Before returning to the Batman franchise, Nolan directed, co-wrote, and produced The Prestige (2006), an adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel about two rival 19th-century magicians.[70] In 2001, when Nolan was in post-production for Insomnia, he asked his brother Jonathan to help write the script for the film. The screenplay was an intermittent, five-year collaboration between the brothers.[71] Nolan initially intended to make the film as early as 2003, postponing the project after agreeing to make Batman Begins.[72] Starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in the lead roles, The Prestige received critical acclaim (including Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction),[73] and earned over $109 million worldwide.[74][75] Roger Ebert described it as "quite a movie – atmospheric, obsessive, almost satanic".[76] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called it an "ambitious, unnerving melodrama".[77] Philip French wrote in his review for The Guardian: "In addition to the intellectual or philosophical excitement it engenders, The Prestige is gripping, suspenseful, mysterious, moving and often darkly funny."[78]

Nolan (left) with the cast and crew of The Dark Knight at the 2008 European premiere in London.
The cast of Inception at the premiere in July 2010.

In July 2006 Nolan announced that the follow-up to Batman Begins would be called The Dark Knight.[79] Approaching the sequel, Nolan wanted to expand on the noirish quality of the first film by broadening the canvas and taking on "the dynamic of a story of the city, a large crime story ... where you're looking at the police, the justice system, the vigilante, the poor people, the rich people, the criminals".[80] Released in 2008 to great critical acclaim, The Dark Knight has been cited as one of the best films of the 2000s and one of the best superhero films ever made.[47][81][82] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times found the film to be of higher artistic merit than many Hollywood blockbusters: "Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, it goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind."[83] Ebert expressed a similar point of view, describing it as a "haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy."[84] The Dark Knight set a number of box-office records during its theatrical run,[85] earning $534,858,444 in North America and $469,700,000 abroad, for a worldwide total of $1,004,558,444.[86] It is the first commercial feature film shot partially in the 15/70 mm IMAX format.[87] At the 81st Academy Awards, the film was nominated for eight Oscars, winning two: the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger.[88] Nolan was recognised by his peers with nominations from the DGA, Writers Guild of America (WGA), and Producers Guild of America (PGA).[45] In 2018, Bilge Ebiri of The Village Voice wrote, "Its politics have been discussed ad infinitum. Its stylistic influence has become ubiquitous, then passé, then somehow aspirational ... The Dark Knight is perhaps the most powerful exploration of guilt the modern American blockbuster has given us."[89]

After The Dark Knight's success, Warner Bros. signed Nolan to direct Inception. Nolan also wrote and co-produced the film, described as "a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind".[90] Starring a large ensemble cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film was released on 16 July 2010, and was a critical and commercial success.[91] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film a perfect score of "A+" and called it "one of the best movies of the [21st] century".[92] Mark Kermode named it the best film of 2010, stating "Inception is proof that people are not stupid, that cinema is not trash, and that it is possible for blockbusters and art to be the same thing."[93][94] The film ended up grossing over $820 million worldwide[95] and was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay; it won the award for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.[96] Nolan also received BAFTA, Golden Globe, DGA, and PGA Award nominations, as well as a WGA Award for his work on the film.[45]

In 2012 Nolan directed his third and final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Although he was initially hesitant about returning to the series, he agreed to come back after developing a story with his brother and David S. Goyer that he felt would end the series on a high note.[97][98] The Dark Knight Rises was released on 20 July 2012 to positive reviews; 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", further describing the work as "auteurist spectacle on a scale never before possible and never before attempted".[99] Christy Lemire of The Associated Press wrote in her review that Nolan concluded his trilogy in a "typically spectacular, ambitious fashion", but disliked the "overloaded" story and excessive grimness.[100] Like its predecessor, the film was a box office success, becoming the thirteenth film to reach the billion-dollar mark.[101] During a midnight showing of the film at the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman opened fire inside the theatre, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.[102] Nolan released a statement to the press expressing his condolences for the victims of what he described as a senseless tragedy.[103]

Nolan at the 2013 premiere of Man of Steel in London.

During story discussions for The Dark Knight Rises in 2010, Goyer told Nolan of his idea to present Superman in a modern context.[104] Impressed with Goyer's first contact concept, Nolan pitched the idea for Man of Steel (2013) to Warner Bros,[104] who hired Nolan to produce and Zack Snyder to direct.[105][106] Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, and Michael Shannon, Man of Steel grossed more than $660 million at the worldwide box office, but received a divided critical reaction.[107][108] However, Nolan was thoroughly impressed by Snyder's work, saying that the director "knocked it out of the park", and believed the film would have the same potential to excite audiences as when he himself saw the Christopher Reeve version in 1978.[109]

2014–present: Large-scale epics[]

Nolan's younger brother, Jonathan, co-wrote the screenplay for Interstellar.

In 2014 Nolan directed, wrote, and produced the science-fiction film Interstellar. The first drafts of the script were written by Jonathan Nolan, and it was originally to be directed by Steven Spielberg.[110] Based on the scientific theories of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, the film follows a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity.[111] Interstellar starred Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Michael Caine, and Ellen Burstyn, and was notably Nolan's first collaboration with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. co-financed and co-distributed the project, released on 5 November 2014 to largely positive reviews and strong box office results, grossing over $670 million worldwide.[112][113][114] A. O. Scott wrote, in his review for The New York Times, "Interstellar, full of visual dazzle, thematic ambition ... is a sweeping, futuristic adventure driven by grief, dread and regret."[115] Documentary filmmaker Toni Myers said of the film, "I loved it because it tackled the most difficult part of human exploration, which is that it's a multi-generational journey. It was a real work of art."[116] Interstellar was particularly praised for its scientific accuracy, which led to the publication of two scientific papers[117] and the American Journal of Physics calling for it to be shown in school science lessons.[118][119] It was named one of the best films of the year by The American Film Institute (AFI).[120] At the 87th Academy Awards, the film won Best Visual Effects and received four other nominations – Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Production Design.[121]

Nolan and Emma Thomas also served as executive producers on Transcendence (2014), the directorial debut of Nolan's longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister.[122] The film was released to mostly unfavorable reviews and disappointing box office results.[123][124] A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave it a C- rating, pointing out that "[Pfister] lacks Nolan's talent for weaving grand pop spectacle out of cultural anxieties."[125] In 2015 Nolan's production company Syncopy formed a joint venture with Zeitgeist Films, to release Blu-ray ions of Zeitgeist's prestige titles.[126] As part of a Blu-ray release of the Quay brothers animated work, Nolan directed the documentary short Quay (2015). He also initiated a theatrical tour, showcasing the Quays' In Absentia, The Comb, and Street of Crocodiles. The program and Nolan's short received critical acclaim, with Indiewire writing in their review that the brothers "will undoubtedly have hundreds, if not thousands more fans because of Nolan, and for that The Quay Brothers in 35mm will always be one of latter's most important contributions to cinema".[127][128] In 2015 Nolan joined The Film Foundation's board of directors, a non-profit organisation dedicated to film preservation.[129] An advocate for the survival of the analogue medium, Nolan and visual artist Tacita Dean invited representatives from leading American film archives, labs, and presenting institutions to participate in an informal summit entitled Reframing the Future of Film at the Getty Museum in March 2015.[130][131] Subsequent events were held at Tate Modern in London, Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, and Tata Theatre in Mumbai.[132] On 7 May it was announced that Nolan and Martin Scorsese had been appointed by the Library of Congress to serve on the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) as DGA representatives.[133] Nolan and Thomas opted to only serve as executive producers on Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017), the sequels to Man of Steel.[134][135]

In 2017, Nolan directed and produced Dunkirk, based on his own original screenplay. The story is set amid World War II and the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, in 1940. Describing the film as a survival tale with a triptych structure, he wanted to make a "sensory, almost experimental movie" with minimal dialogue.[136] Nolan said he waited to make Dunkirk until he had earned the trust of a major studio to let him make it as a British film, but with an American budget.[137] Before filming, Nolan sought advice from Spielberg, who later said in an interview with Variety, "Knowing and respecting that Chris [Nolan] is one of the world's most imaginative filmmakers, my advice to him was to leave his imagination, as I did on Ryan, in second position to the research he was doing to authentically acquit this historical drama."[138] Starring Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and Kenneth Branagh,[139] Dunkirk was released in theatres on 21 July 2017 to widespread critical acclaim and strong box office results,[140][141][142] grossing over $525 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing World War II film of all time. In his review, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "It's one of the best war films ever made, distinct in its look, in its approach and in the effect it has on viewers. There are movies—they are rare—that lift you out of your present circumstances and immerse you so fully in another experience that you watch in a state of jaw-dropped awe. Dunkirk is that kind of movie."[143] The film received eight nominations at the 71st British Academy Film Awards; winning one for Best Sound, three at the 75th Golden Globes, and eight at the 90th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Nolan's first Oscar nomination for directing); winning three for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing.[144][145][146] Nolan was also nominated by the DGA and PGA, among other accolades.[147][148]

Nolan (right) with Keir Dullea, Katharina Kubrick, Ron Sanders and Jan Harlan at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

In the months following the Oscar season, he began supervising a new 70mm print of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), made from the original camera negative.[149] He presented the film at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.[150] While in Cannes, the director also held a two-hour masterclass at the Palais des Festivals. USA Today observed that he was greeted "like a rock star", and with a prolonged standing ovation.[151] After the premiere, Warner Bros. released the "unrestored" prints in a select few locations to both critical and commercial success.[152][153] Nolan served as executive producer on The Doll's Breath (2019), an animated short directed by the Quay brothers. The film was inspired by Felisberto Hernández's Las Hortensias, and was commissioned by Nolan "on the condition that it was shoot on 35mm film."[154]

Upcoming projects[]

In 2019, Warner Bros. announced Nolan's eleventh feature, Tenet (2020), an action epic "evolving from the world of international espionage".[155] Nolan also wrote the screenplay and is producing with Emma Thomas. It stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Dimple Kapadia, Clémence Poésy, Kenneth Branagh and Michael Caine.[156]

Filmmaking[]

Nolan's films are often grounded in existential and epistemological themes, exploring the concepts of time, memory, and identity.[157][158][159] His work is characterised by unconventional narrative structures, richly textured imagery, and evocative use of music and sound.[5][160] Film theorist David Bordwell argues that the director has been able to blend his "experimental impulses" with the demands of mainstream entertainment, further describing Nolan oeuvre as, "experiments with cinematic time by means of techniques of subjective viewpoint and crosscutting."[161]

Personal life[]

Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas in January 2011

Nolan is married to Emma Thomas, whom he met at University College London when he was 19.[12][22] She has worked as a producer on all of his films, and together they founded the production company Syncopy Inc.[162] The couple have four children and reside in Los Angeles, California.[163][164] Protective of his privacy, he rarely discusses his personal life in interviews.[165] However, he has publicly shared some of his sociopolitical concerns for the future, such as the current conditions of nuclear weapons and environmental issues that he says need to be addressed.[166] He has also expressed an admiration for scientific objectivity, wishing it were applied "in every aspect of our civilization."[167] He is red-green colour blind.[168]

Nolan prefers not to use a mobile phone or an email address,[169] saying, "It's not that I'm a Luddite and don't like technology; I've just never been interested ... When I moved to Los Angeles in 1997, nobody really had cell phones, and I just never went down that path."[170] He also prohibits use of phones on set.[171]

Recognition[]

Having made some of the most influential and popular films of his time,[172][173][174] Nolan's work has been as "intensely embraced, analyzed and debated by ordinary film fans as by critics and film academics".[165][175][176] According to The Wall Street Journal, his "ability to combine box-office success with artistic ambition has given him an extraordinary amount of clout in the industry."[177] Geoff Andrew of the British Film Institute (BFI) and regular contributor to the Sight & Sound magazine, called Nolan "a persuasively inventive storyteller", singling him out as one of the few contemporary filmmakers producing highly personal films within the Hollywood mainstream. He also pointed out that Nolan's films are as notable for their "considerable technical virtuosity and visual flair" as for their "brilliant narrative ingenuity and their unusually adult interest in complex philosophical questions".[178][179] In 2015, Forbes called him "one of the most successful and acclaimed filmmakers of our time."[180] Film scholar David Bordwell compared Nolan to Stanley Kubrick, citing his ability to turn genre movies into both art and event films.[181] Film director and critic Mark Cousins also applauded Nolan for embracing big ideas, "Hollywood filmmakers generally shy away from ideas — but not Christopher Nolan".[182] Scott Foundas of Variety declared Nolan "the premier big-canvas storyteller of his generation",[183] while Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times called him "the great proceduralist of 21st century blockbuster filmmaking, a lover of nuts-and-bolts minutiae."[184] In 2008, film critic Philip French called Nolan "The first major talent to emerge this [21st] century."[185]

The filmmaker has been praised by many of his contemporaries, and some have cited his work as influencing their own. Rupert Wyatt said in an interview that he thinks of Nolan as a "trailblazer ... he is to be hugely admired as a master filmmaker, but also someone who has given others behind him a stick to beat back the naysayers who never thought a modern mass audience would be willing to embrace story and character as much as spectacle".[186] Kenneth Branagh called Nolan's approach to large-scale filmmaking "unique in modern cinema", adding "regardless of how popular his movies become, he remains an artist and an auteur. I think for that reason he has become a heroic figure for both the audience and the people working behind the camera."[187] Michael Mann complimented Nolan for his "singular vision" and called him "a complete auteur".[188] Nicolas Roeg said of Nolan, "[His] films have a magic to them ... People talk about 'commercial art' and the term is usually self-negating; Nolan works in the commercial arena and yet there's something very poetic about his work."[188] Martin Scorsese identified Nolan as a filmmaker creating "beautifully made films on a big scale",[189] and Luca Guadagnino called him "one of the ultimate auteurs."[190] Damien Chazelle said of Nolan, "This is a filmmaker who has managed, time and again, to make the most seemingly impersonal projects — superhero epics, deep-space mind-benders — feel deeply personal".[191]

Olivier Assayas said he admired Nolan for "making movies that are really unlike anything else. The way I see it, he has a really authentic voice."[192] Discussing the difference between art films and big-studio films, Steven Spielberg referred to Nolan's Dark Knight series as an example of both;[193] he has described Memento and Inception as "masterworks".[194] Denis Villeneuve said of Nolan, "[He] is a very impressive filmmaker, because he is able to keep his identity and create his own universe in that large scope ... To bring intellectual concepts and to bring them in that scope to the screen right now — it's very rare. Every movie that he comes out with, I have more admiration for his work."[195] Nolan has also been commended by Quentin Tarantino,[5] Duncan Jones,[196] James Cameron,[197] Brad Bird,[198] Guillermo del Toro,[199] Matt Reeves,[200] Danny Boyle,[201] Wong Kar-Wai,[202] Steven Soderbergh,[203] Sam Mendes,[204] Werner Herzog,[205] Matthew Vaughn,[206] Paul Thomas Anderson,[207] Paul Greengrass,[208] Rian Johnson,[209] and others.[210] Film critic Mark Kermode complimented the director for bringing "the discipline and ethics of art-house independent moviemaking" to Hollywood blockbusters, calling him "living proof that you don't have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to be profitable".[211] The Observer described Nolan as a "skilful, stylish storyteller, capable of combining the spectacle of Spielberg with the intellectual intricacy of Nicolas Roeg or Alain Resnais".[212]

In 2013 a survey of seventeen film academics showed that Nolan was among the most studied directors in Britain.[213] His work has also been recognised as an influence on video games.[214][215] Video game designer Hideo Kojima compared Dunkirk to his own work: "Its approach to technology in movie making and refusal to rely on defeating one's enemies as a portrayal of war, reminds me in many ways of my work on Metal Gear and where I hope to see my next game go".[216] Nolan appeared in Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2015 and in the Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2011 and 2013.[217][218]

Awards and honours[]

Nolan's hand and shoeprints in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood

Nolan was named an Honorary Fellow of UCL in 2006, and received an honorary doctorate in literature (DLit) in 2017.[219][220] In 2012, he became the youngest director to receive a hand-and-footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.[221] Nolan was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for his services to film.[222]

Filmography[]

Directed features[]

Critical, public and commercial reception to Nolan's directorial features as of September 2019.

Year Film Rotten Tomatoes[223] Metacritic[224] BFCA[225] CinemaScore[226] Budget Box office[227]
1998 Following 80% (25 reviews) 60 (11 reviews) N/A N/A $6 thousand $240.4 thousand
2000 Memento 92% (173 reviews) 80 (34 reviews) 90/100 N/A $9 million $39.7 million
2002 Insomnia 92% (201 reviews) 78 (36 reviews) 93/100 B $46 million $113.7 million
2005 Batman Begins 84% (278 reviews) 70 (41 reviews) 91/100 A $150 million $374.2 million
2006 The Prestige 76% (197 reviews) 66 (36 reviews) 83/100 B $40 million $109.7 million
2008 The Dark Knight 94% (333 reviews) 84 (39 reviews) 96/100 A $185 million $1.005 billion
2010 Inception 87% (350 reviews) 74 (42 reviews) 94/100 B+ $160 million $828.3 million
2012 The Dark Knight Rises 87% (358 reviews) 78 (45 reviews) 91/100 A $250 million $1.085 billion
2014 Interstellar 72% (349 reviews) 74 (46 reviews) 80/100 B+ $165 million $677.5 million
2017 Dunkirk 92% (435 reviews) 94 (53 reviews) 90/100 A− $100 million $526.9 million
2020 Tenet

In 2016, Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception appeared in BBC's 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century list.[228] In the following year, five of his (then nine) films featured in Empire magazine's poll of The 100 Greatest Movies.[229]

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