Following the amazing Interstellar LIVE stream red carpet premiere (see below), we now have the video interviews with the cast Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConnaughey, Jessica Chastain and director Christopher Nolan.
Director Christopher Nolan
Building a Black Hole
Watch the LIVE STREAM from the European Premiere in 360 degrees. Those in attendance included cast members Matthew McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and film-makers Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, amongst others.
The European Premiere of Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR live stream took place at 6pm Wednesday 29th October in London’s Leicester Square. You can watch the live stream showing all the action from the red carpet including the world-first fully interactive 360 degree camera.
The 360 degree camera will give you a rotating screen so you can control the angle you watch, whilst the player will also give you the option to pose questions to the cast before and during the event via social media.
Photos from the RED CARPET
Watch the latest trailer here
With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history: traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.
From acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight” films, “Inception”), “Interstellar” stars Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Oscar winner Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”), Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Bill Irwin (“Rachel Getting Married”), Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”), and Oscar winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”). The main cast also includes Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Mackenzie Foy and Topher Grace.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film is written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Lynda Obst produced “Interstellar,” with Jordan Goldberg, Jake Myers, Kip Thorne and Thomas Tull serving as executive producers.
Nolan’s behind-the-scenes creative team was led by director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema (“Her”), Oscar-nominated production designer Nathan Crowley (“The Dark Knight”), Oscar-nominated editor Lee Smith (“The Dark Knight”), and Oscar-nominated costume designer Mary Zophres (“True Grit”). The score was composed by Oscar winner Hans Zimmer (“The Dark Knight” trilogy, “The Lion King”).
Interstellar is released everywhere November 7
View the production notes from the movie below
Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight” films, “Inception”) directs an international cast in “Interstellar.” With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history: traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.
“Interstellar” stars Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Oscar winner Anne Hathaway (“Les Misérables”), Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Bill Irwin (“Rachel Getting Married”), Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”), Oscar nominee John Lithgow (“The World According to Garp,” “Terms of Endearment”) and Oscar winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”). The main cast also includes Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Bill Irwin, Mackenzie Foy, Topher Grace and David Gyasi.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film is written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Lynda Obst produced “Interstellar,” with Jordan Goldberg, Jake Myers, Kip Thorne and Thomas Tull serving as executive producers.
Nolan’s behind-the-scenes creative team was led by director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema (“Her”), Oscar-nominated production designer Nathan Crowley (“The Dark Knight”), Oscar-nominated editor Lee Smith (“The Dark Knight”), and Oscar-nominated costume designer Mary Zophres (“True Grit”). The score was composed by Oscar winner Hans Zimmer (“The Dark Knight” trilogy, “The Lion King”). Oscar winner Paul Franklin (“Inception”) served as visual effects supervisor and Scott Fisher (“The Dark Knight Rises”) as special effects supervisor.
Warner Bros. Pictures and Paramount Pictures present, in association with Legendary Pictures, a Syncopy/Lynda Obst Productions production, a film by Christopher Nolan, “Interstellar.”
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
“This world’s a treasure,
but it’s been telling us to leave for a while now.”
Humankind has always shaped its destiny by pushing its limits—from the first ships setting sail for the edge of the horizon to the first human steps on the surface of the moon—yet the ultimate frontier remains tantalizingly out of reach. From director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan, “Interstellar” hinges on the provocative question of humanity’s place in the stars.
“To me, space exploration represents the absolute extreme of what the human experience is,” Nolan says. “It’s all about trying, in some way, to define what our existence means in terms of the universe. For a filmmaker, the extraordinary nature of a few select individuals pushing the boundaries of where the human species has ever been or can possibly go opens up an infinite set of possibilities. I was excited by the prospect of making a film that would take the audience into that experience through the eyes of those first explorers moving outwards into the galaxy—indeed to a whole other galaxy. That’s as big a journey as you can imagine trying to tell.”
Set in a near-future in which an agricultural crisis has brought the world to its knees, “Interstellar” chronicles a daring mission to pierce the barriers of time and space in a desperate human gamble against extinction. “I’ve always been interested in what the next step in our evolution might be. If the Earth is a nest, how would we respond when the time comes to leave it?”
Against the limitless canvas of this high-stakes adventure into the stars, Nolan reveals that what ultimately drives the film is the intimate human story at its core. “I feel that the magnitude and grandeur of space is most interesting as a backdrop for exploring relationships, which are so strong and meaningful for us, and how that relates to our place in the universe.”
Central to the film are the relationships within a single family. “In broad terms, ‘Interstellar’ is a spectacular adventure about a journey into the universe,” producer Emma Thomas notes, “but at its heart is an emotional story of a father and his children. It speaks to the love that exists in families, the notions of duty and sacrifice, and our profound connections to other human beings.”
Matthew McConaughey was taken by the emotional threads that ground the spectacle in human dimensions. “What is amazing to me is that while the excitement of the story lies in its scope—the thrill of adventure and discovery of the unknown—one of my favorite things about Chris Nolan is the heartbeat of humanity he gives to his films,” the actor states. “No one handles the sheer mass and scale of a world like he does because it always comes off as something personal and intimate.”
Anne Hathaway ties this quality in Nolan’s films to his focus on the human stakes in even the most heroic endeavor. “From the beginning of time, the reach to expand our world or move our civilization forward has always involved great sacrifice by a handful of individuals, who put the greater good over any risk to themselves. This film really celebrates those who are brave enough to do that.”
Jessica Chastain adds that the film also celebrates the connections that sustain us. “This story is full of longing and heartbreak, but at its core is the beautiful idea that even if love is not something you can hold in your hands, it remains with you across vast distances in time and space.”
Longtime Nolan collaborator Michael Caine observes that the human pulse that runs through “Interstellar” reflects the character of the man at the helm. “In private life, Chris is a family man, and whether he’s making a thriller or a big space adventure, his films are always informed by his essential humanity.”
Nolan confirms that even as he imagined an ambitious leap of faith into the ultimate unknown, the notion of family remained his true north. “‘Interstellar’ is about all kinds of things—who we are, where we’re going—but, for me, it’s about being a father. Putting those ideas foremost in my process gives the story to the film, rather than just enjoying the space elements for space’s sake.”
Co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan admits that the nearly inconceivably dimensions of the universe led them down some fascinating narrative pathways. “The reality of the universe is that while it’s magnificent to look at and inspires a great sense of wonder, it’s cold, airless and vast—so vast that we have no idea how big it really is,” he says. “So, the effort was to try to take a big idea and ground it as much as possible to give you a real sense for what interstellar space travel would feel like, not only as a tactile experience, but in terms of the emotional toll such a treacherous and isolating journey would have on human beings.”
In their effort to bring space to life with as much truth as the story’s flesh and blood characters, the filmmakers had an invaluable asset in leading theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, whose work unraveling the most exotic mysteries of the universe formed the scientific backbone of the script. “Kip is an author, educator and one of the world’s most brilliant minds,” states producer Lynda Obst. “His work detecting gravitational waves has allowed him to peer into the clash of black holes and conceive the great possibilities of wormholes. These are fascinating concepts to explore in a narrative.”
For Thorne, who is also one of the film’s executive producers, the process was exhilarating. “The story emerged from the fertile minds of the screenwriters, but always within the boundaries of established science or what we can reasonably extrapolate about concepts that are just beyond the frontiers of our knowledge.”
Christopher Nolan relates that Thorne took time to test each narrative idea to ensure it would hold up to scientific scrutiny. “As a truly committed scientist, Kip is constantly aware that everything he’s telling me might be wrong. The science—particularly at the level that Kip is working—suggests unbelievably strange and fascinating possibilities from a narrative point of view because you’re dealing with a scientist for whom those possibilities are always expanding. I found that to be an extraordinary creative atmosphere to work in.”
The quest to transform the script into an immersive and vibrant moviegoing experience propelled everyone involved into a wide-ranging and rule-breaking filmmaking adventure that, albeit earthbound, at times mirrored the odyssey they were bringing to life onscreen. “The real focus for me in making this film is to try and put the audience into space,” Nolan affirms, “to put them into the shoes of the astronauts who are exploring these new worlds and new galaxies. That’s what I’m really excited for—that the audience will get a sense of the spectacle of a great interstellar journey.”
THE CAST AND CHARACTERS OF INTERSTELLAR
We used to look up at the sky and wonder about our place in the stars,
now we just look down and wonder about our place in the dirt.
In “Interstellar,” Matthew McConaughey plays the central role of Cooper, a former test pilot and engineer in the tradition of the adrenaline-fueled flyboys who continually challenged their own limitations to carve our path into the stars. For Christopher Nolan, there was only one actor who could effortlessly convey that archetypal figure. “He embodies everything we were looking for in casting Cooper—the spirit of adventure, a cowboy-like swagger, and the warmth of somebody who’s involved with his family first and foremost,” the director states. “He has all of those intangible qualities present in the character, paired with his incredible professionalism and humor. It was a wonderful experience to work with him on this film.”
McConaughey describes Cooper as “a dreamer and a man out of time. He’s not supposed to be a farmer. He’s supposed to be out there—that’s where he lives.” But in “Interstellar,” the world needs farmers, not pilots. After a blight has decimated the food supply, civilization has turned back to the earth and clings to the only viable crop left—corn. “Life has become about growing food and having clean water,” the actor continues. “We don’t need any explorers; we don’t need any astronauts; we don’t need any bright ideas. But Cooper is trying his best to live in this world, and to hold things together for his children.”
On a homestead surrounded by acres of corn, Cooper is raising his kids with the help of his father-in-law, Donald, played by John Lithgow. “This family has been on the farm for generations and Donald himself has seen the world go through extraordinary changes,” Lithgow says. “The blight has made the world grow quieter, more provincial, and he sees a kind of serenity in that. What I love about this story is that it unfolds against our darkest fears, but it has an optimistic soul. It’s about human beings trying to figure out not only how to survive but how to prevail.”
Like his grandfather, Cooper’s teenage son Tom, played by Timothée Chalamet, loves the farm and helping his dad to keep it running. Chalamet recalls that on the day before shooting began, McConaughey helped set the stage for their onscreen relationship. “Matthew asked me, ‘What do you know about combine greasing and the methods in which pesticides are sprayed over corn fields?’” Chalamet recalls. “That night, I looked everything up to make sure I could answer all those questions the next day, but that experience with Matthew told me so much about Tom’s relationship with his dad. Cooper wants to know he can rely on him to handle things, and Tom wants to prove to him that he can.”
Cooper’s daughter, Murph, played by Mackenzie Foy, takes after her father in ways Tom never could. “Murph is obsessed with rockets and space, even though no one talks about those things anymore,” Foy says. “She might have felt out of place in this world, but her dad encourages her to stay curious and that gives her the confidence to be brave.”
Emma Thomas reveals, “Cooper loves both of his children deeply, but shares a special bond with Murph over their shared passion for science and discovery. But, as with many parents and children, what binds them together can also pull them apart.”
Sealed off in an underground bunker, a small group of scientists and engineers is aiming higher than the dirt that no longer seems willing to sustain the human race and are gambling their lives on the prospect that somewhere in the universe lies a planet that might. The project was sparked by the mysterious appearance of a disturbance near Saturn—a wormhole that bores through a higher dimension of space and time to a galaxy that would take lifetimes to reach without it. And to endure such a journey, the group has salvaged the best available technology from the ruins of the space program to build the mission’s three ships: the Ranger shuttle, the Lander heavy-lift vehicle, and the Endurance mothership waiting in low Earth orbit.
The one thing the mission lacks is an experienced pilot. McConaughey offers, “Suddenly, the dream that Cooper’s been chasing all his life is knocking on his door. And it’s not just the chance to be a pilot again but to lead the most important mission of all time. The consequence of that opportunity, though, is having to leave his two kids behind, and what no one can tell him is how long he will be gone.”
“Even though they’re such young actors, I was blown away by the emotional layers Timothée and Mackenzie were able to bring to these performances,” Thomas praises. “The moment when Cooper has to say goodbye to Murph is heart-wrenching because she doesn’t believe him when he says he’s coming back, and Mackenzie just broke everyone’s heart.”
But Cooper isn’t the only father who will be making a sacrifice. The mission is the brainchild of Professor Brand, played by Michael Caine, whose daughter, Amelia, will be among its small crew. “Brand’s burden is heavy because he is sending his own daughter out into the unknown. That’s the point of it—no one knows what’s out there—and if anything goes wrong, it’s on him.”
Professor Brand represents Caine’s sixth role in a Nolan film, and perhaps the most emotionally complex. “Michael is one of the great movie stars of this generation,” Nolan attests. “He brings a level of gravitas and charisma that’s second to none. In the case of ‘Interstellar,’ it was very exciting to see him take this character to places I’ve never seen him go before as an actor. At this stage in such a phenomenal career, that was an astonishing thing to experience.”
Playing Dr. Amelia Brand is Anne Hathaway, reuniting with the director following their collaboration on “The Dark Knight Rises.” “Anne is an extraordinary talent who can really lose herself in a character,” Nolan observes. “She has cerebral qualities and an interest in science, so it was natural to see her as Brand, a character who views the world through a scientific lens. But, at the same time, Anne’s underlying warmth and the layered performance she brought to the role reveal this character to be a whole person beyond just being a scientist.”
Hathaway admits that she was “blown away” by the film’s evocation of space, but was primarily drawn in by the emotional journey the characters take. “The concepts behind this film can keep you awake at night, but the story is also a beautiful meditation on love,” she says. “If you look at the human race from an evolutionary standpoint, you have to factor in love as a key part of the equation, and how this idea is woven into Brand’s experience of this mission felt very moving and truthful to me. I think it’s a brave and extraordinary thing that Chris has done in weaving the persistence of love into the DNA of this big adventure in space.”
David Gyasi, who plays Romilly, the astrophysicist on the team, agrees, noting, “My character lives and breathes science, but in many ways he doesn’t feel like a complete man. When you’ve done your work and written your equations to try to understand the universe, what else is left? What was amazing to me was how this journey inspires in him a respect for the mystical side of things—for the intangible things that bind us together.”
The fourth member of the crew is Doyle, played by Wes Bentley. “Doyle trained to pilot the ship, but only on a simulator,” says Bentley. “He’s primarily a scientist, so he’s relieved when Cooper takes the helm, which allows him to focus on his real work. Nonetheless, beyond his scientific interest, he believes in the mission and took a leadership role fully aware of the risks. But with that comes the burden of knowing that every decision he makes affects not only the lives of the crew, but the lives of everyone back on Earth.”
Plunging through the wormhole in the massive wheel of the Endurance are the fifth and sixth members of the crew—two surplus military machines named CASE and TARS—who’ve been designed to emulate their human counterparts. “A huge part of what they’d be programmed for would be esprit de corps,” says Jonathan Nolan. “They’d be designed to boost morale among the ranks with a sense of humor or a burst of courage. There was something very poignant to me about the idea that we may have created this group of soldiers that embodied the best in us, and when they were no longer needed, broke them into pieces and recycled them into combine harvesters. TARS and CASE are sort of the last of their kind.”
Both machines were performed on set by Bill Irwin via a sophisticated hydraulic puppeteering rig, though the actor’s voice is only heard onscreen as TARS, with Josh Stewart voicing CASE in the finished film. Irwin saw CASE as more circumspect than TARS, whose voice the actor found in his interaction with McConaughey’s Cooper. “There’s some sparring, and Cooper says, ‘You sound like ex-military to me,’ which immediately told me how TARS sounds,” Irwin recalls. “So, he developed into a kind grizzled mid-level officer with an ex-Marine’s sense of humor.”
Their interaction was a joy for McConaughey. “Bill brought so much humor and personality to TARS, and I found it very intriguing to make something personal and real out of their relationship,” he says. “There are things about TARS that Cooper loves—he’s a smartass but he gets things done—and, in a way, he becomes Cooper’s best friend on the ship.”
Their target galaxy holds worlds that offer an excess of hope but no guarantees. “Our Earth is a very precious and unusual thing, and who knows if there are any others like it out there,” notes Thomas. “Obviously, with the scope of the universe, there could be other places that could sustain life, but no one knows if we could ever find one quite as perfect as this one. The possibility of finding nothing is one of the risks the people on this crew are facing.”
Another risk is time itself. “I’ve always been fascinated by time as a subjective experience,” Nolan states. “But in the case of ‘Interstellar,’ time is an external force that is very much a part of the story, rather than a character’s perception of it. It’s almost an antagonist to these characters, but not the only danger confronting them. When you venture into a story about man against the elements, the possibilities for visualizing threats against them become much more exotic.”
Jessica Chastain, who plays Professor Brand’s protégée, adds that the growing desperation of those trying to survive on Earth only intensifies the urgency of her character’s quest to find a solution. “She is aware, perhaps more than anyone, of how precious time is.”
Working with Christopher Nolan for the first time, Chastain found a surprising atmosphere on his set. “This is the biggest movie I’ve ever done, but at times it felt like we were making an independent film,” she observes. “Chris is fantastic at orchestrating a film on a grand scale, but he’s also fantastic on a human scale, and in the midst of this huge production, he managed to focus the whole of his attention on small moments with the actors. He’s so smart and precise with his direction that just a couple of words from him could elevate our performances.”
Casey Affleck agrees, adding that the filmmaker immediately put him at ease. “Chris creates a very relaxed environment on his set, and I think it’s a tone that he and Emma bring to all their films,” he says. “Whenever people make something look easy, it’s usually because they’re just incredibly good at what they’re doing.”
Kip Thorne also spent time with members of the cast to help them wrap their minds around the scientific concepts at play in the film. Notes Emma Thomas, “Kip is a great teacher and because he took so much time with our cast, they were able to do an incredible job of grounding the science in a relatable, human way, so that you’re carried along by the emotional arc of the movie.”
They also had the benefit of the real thing—U.S. astronaut Marsha Ivins—who visited the set during production. Thomas continues, “Marsha Ivins is a veteran astronaut, and has been up into space numerous times. She really is an inspiration and agreed to lend us her expertise. Chris and I had the chance to consult with her and she spoke at length with the actors. Her presence really was invaluable in helping us figure out the authenticity of a movie set in space.”
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
“We’ll find a way. We always have.”
Christopher Nolan’s preference for shooting on film rather than digital has become a trademark of his films. His close band of collaborators, many of whom have worked side by side with the director for nearly a decade, have come to anticipate realizing his vision through groundbreaking feats of engineering to capture as much of the action as possible in camera. The vast scope and immersive visual narrative he imagined for “Interstellar,” however, would inspire everyone involved to push the envelope to its limits.
“We’ve always been interested in what we could do with imagery, but what I wanted people involved with the film to take on board was that the power of the imagery needed to be a bigger part of this film than it has been in any of our previous films so that the audience would be directly affected by it, not just by the characters’ reactions to it,” Nolan explains. “From a technical point of view, that steered us in a much more adventurous direction.”
While cameras would not roll for months on the space sequences, the filmmaker initiated a unique collaboration between Kip Thorne and visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin to provide an unprecedented level of authenticity to the universe the characters penetrate in the film. Thorne traveled to London to meet with the visual effects team at Double Negative, and worked closely with the effects house’s designers and software developers to shape objects that would be as true as possible to scientific standards, as understood today. “Working with Kip was phenomenal because he’s obviously one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century, but he has a creative, artistic soul as well,” Franklin states. “He was very willing to engage with us to use these extraordinary theories and ideas to tell a story. We want people to go on that ride, and he was so generous with his time and his knowledge of the math involved in a wormhole and the black hole.”
Using Thorne’s equations on gravitational lensing—the effects of gravity on light around a black hole and traveling through a wormhole—Franklin and his team at Double Negative were able to shape these profoundly mysterious objects at a higher resolution and more scientific accuracy than had ever been previously attempted. For Thorne, observing their physical reality led to revelatory new discoveries. “All I can say is we’ve seen things that amazed me,” Thorne marvels. “We learned some weird things about the visual appearance of black holes and wormholes in the process of making this movie.”
“We thought we might have to depart from scientific accuracy to make these objects more comprehensible for the audience, but, as it turned out, what Kip’s calculations gave us was extremely spectacular,” says Nolan. “With the peculiar gravitational lens effect around a black hole, there are some very baffling anomalies in terms of how its appearance changes when you look at it from a slightly different angle or from a different distance.”
Double Negative further enhanced the reality of space by drawing inspiration from astrophotography sourced from the UK’s Royal Observatory’s archives and the high-def imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope. They also mined NASA’s database of 2.5 million stars to reflect the universe as it exists in the film’s starscapes.
While the reality of the universe was being realized through CGI, Nolan drew together his key department heads to begin laying the groundwork for the film’s expedition into it. “Some things you can only achieve with visual effects,” he says, “but there are all kinds of other tricks you have up your sleeve to convince an audience of the reality of what they’re seeing.”
For “Interstellar,” Nolan wanted to combine the intimacy and immediacy of documentary-style handheld filmmaking with the beauty and texture he felt was only possible with large-format IMAX film, which pushed the director and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema to explore revolutionary new ways to use the camera. “We’d always known that we wanted our big, exterior vistas—our first view of the black hole or wormhole—to be shot in IMAX,” the director states. “We didn’t think we could ever use the IMAX camera in smaller, more intimate environments because of its tremendous size and weight. But Hoyte was determined to carry it on his shoulder, never mind how heavy it was. How he did it, I have no idea, but that freed us up to shoot a lot more with the IMAX camera than we initially thought possible.”
For van Hoytema, this technique was a natural progression from the emotions he experienced in the script. “This is a very visual story, but it also has a lot of soul, and that’s something you need to preserve,” the cinematographer states. “We wanted to find a way to use the IMAX camera almost like the world’s heaviest Go-Pro camera, but it took some experimentation to tweak the technology. This way, we could be loose and improvisational with the close-ups and dialogue moments, but within the beautiful depth of the IMAX frame. Chris was so open and fearless when it came to letting those magical spontaneous elements stream in because it only adds life and reality to the image.”
While the script was still being shaped, Nolan and longtime production designer Nathan Crowley began the process of mapping out the near-future landscapes of “Interstellar” in the filmmaker’s garage/office/workshop, the birthplace of all the worlds in Nolan’s films. “Chris has a great passion for design,” Crowley says. “For us, it’s always a journey, and, on ‘Interstellar’ that journey was particularly intense.”
From the earliest designs to the final mix, the director and his team mined for innovative new ways to immerse the audience in the dust-swept heartland of this planet, the vast expanse of space, and the alien terrain of other worlds.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF “INTERSTELLAR”
“We must confront the reality that nothing in our solar system can help us.”
Before reaching out for the stars, “Interstellar” opens on solid ground—in the heartland of America, where small communities of farmers plant vast fields of corn. This notion was key in scouting for the homestead where Cooper lives with his children and father-in-law, a trail that led the filmmakers to the Okotoks region, just south of the city of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada.”
“We wanted to have a real visual cue that corn was being farmed somewhere that it probably shouldn’t be, and Calgary was perfect in that respect,” Nolan states. “It’s such a grand landscape, with gentle rolling hills leading up to the Canadian Rockies.”
Nolan’s desire for total reality in the visual texture of the film precluded shooting a separate farmhouse, corn field and mountain and compositing them together digitally. Rather, he wanted to establish a true sense of place, which meant starting with the blank canvas of the ideal landscape, then conjuring the rest from scratch.
This monumental effort jump-started one of the production’s many races against the clock: to piece together locations, then time the four-month shooting schedule to the camera-readiness of each set. “We shot this film virtually in sequence, so the months leading up to the shoot were very interesting, to say the least,” Emma Thomas recalls with a laugh. “The big challenge in Canada was that we would be growing corn in a place where corn isn’t usually grown—for very good reason, as it turns out. So, we had an enormous amount to do in a fairly short prep period. The good news for us was that the corn in the film doesn’t need to look like it’s thriving because the whole idea is that the Earth isn’t doing so well.”
Amid a flurry of internet research on weather and growth patterns and conversations with Canada’s Department of Agriculture, the filmmakers and production designer Nathan Crowley hopped on a plane to Calgary and drove to the town of Longview to meet a rancher named Rick Sears, whose sprawling property checked all the boxes. “We came to a rolling field where a stream rose up to a flat area, and beyond that were the mountains,” Crowley recalls, “It was truly stunning.”
And just like that, Nolan and company found themselves in the corn business, securing the rancher’s help to build a road to the location and seed 500 acres. The production had just under six months to grow it to its full height, during which time a front of cold weather and devastating floods moved through Calgary. In the final weeks, however, the sun came out, the corn shot up the final few feet, and by the time the main unit arrived to shoot, the entire tableau looked as if it had always been there.
Nolan envisioned Cooper’s family homestead as contemporary but not futuristic, with timeless architecture inspired by the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. “Cooper is a man out of time,” Crowley describes. “He’s from the past and is living in a gritty, visceral, post-technical world. So, doing any kind of futuristic architecture wasn’t a choice—it had to be grounded, like he is.”
Crowley designed the house to look like a family had lived within its walls for generations, then enlisted his art department to build it with all the aesthetic and structural integrity of a real home, save for the plumbing. Since it was the first location on the shooting schedule, the race was on to complete it in just 10 weeks, and, says Crowley, “The corn was already growing, so there was no Plan B.”
Because the farmhouse was conceived as an interior/exterior set, Crowley collaborated with van Hoytema on the layout, with an emphasis on real textures, natural light and real views. “For Cooper, the farmhouse is so much about memory, and for us, it’s the engine for understanding him,” van Hoytema observes. “So, we wanted to shoot it in a way that felt tactile and give it familiarity and texture. We weren’t there to take in the landscape; we were there to follow these people around, and what was so beautiful about Nathan’s designs is that you experience his set as a real place. Nathan’s design was so good at incorporating the beautiful natural Alberta light that one could often just pick up the camera and start shooting.”
“The farmhouse is such an important character in the film,” Nolan says. “It needed to feel like an authentic family home, very practical and utilitarian. There were certain aspects of the color, tone and texture woven into its design for aesthetic reasons, but it really felt like it had been laid out according to the demands of that landscape and the people that lived and farmed there. It had a good sense of history, and it was a nice place to be, actually.”
But the bucolic setting is layered over with a constant reminder of the times in which Cooper and his family are living. While the space travel in “Interstellar” reflects what might be possible in the future, the filmmakers looked back to the Depression era for inspiration on the human trauma that sparks the film’s journey—America’s Dust Bowl. Nolan had recently viewed documentarian Ken Burns’s PBS series on the worst man-made ecological disaster in North American history, when a mass “plough-up” of the topsoil across the nation’s farmland transformed its prairies into vast deserts, resulting in colossal “black blizzards” that choked the air and threw millions of people into diaspora and famine. Burns’s heartrending footage and interviews with Dust Bowl survivors and eye-witnesses had a profound effect on Nolan, and, ultimately, on the film itself.
“Over the six hours it took to watch the documentary, it struck me that the imagery Ken had uncovered was much more extraordinary than anything you’d see in a science fiction film,” the director observes. “Indeed, some of it was so hard to believe it seemed too fanciful for science fiction. We wound up actually incorporating some elements straight into the fabric of the film because I wanted to underscore the idea that this sort of thing really can happen. People lived through it, and their children lived through it, to tell these extraordinary stories in Ken’s film.”
In addition to incorporating true accounts from the original documentary, Nolan wove in original testimonies from those who are living through the events of “Interstellar.” In these, we see the legendary Ellen Burstyn. “The ideas that Chris is grappling with in the story are fascinating to me,” Burstyn reflects. “There’s a lot to think about in terms of our relationship with this planet. It’s a compelling portrayal of a planet that’s running out of food, and the people that are still trying to live normal lives in this atmosphere of constant dust.”
The dust storms of “Interstellar” rise full-bodied over the horizon, worm into every crack and blanket every surface of Cooper’s world. Nolan knew he could never achieve a great enough degree of grit and immersion through CGI, so he turned to special effects coordinator Scott Fisher for ideas. Fisher’s answer was C-90—a nontoxic, biodegradable material made from ground-up cardboard that is safe enough to be used as filler in certain processed foods and lightweight enough to achieve the hovering effect Nolan sought.
“With Chris, everything has to be practical and tangible,” says Jonathan Nolan. “So, if you find yourself standing in a massive, fake corn field, beside a beautiful but totally fake farmhouse in the middle of a completely fake dust storm, that’s when you know you’re on a Chris Nolan movie.”
The dust also had a dramatic effect on the quality and pitch of the light, which allowed the filmmakers to hew closely to the visions they’d witnessed in Burns’s documentary. “We really tried to capture how it must have felt to cope with these walls of darkness that fell upon the farms and the people,” van Hoytema notes.
With Fisher using colossal fans to cloud the air with C-90, the IMAX camera had to be protected with specially created plastic coverings, and the actors found themselves encased in a thick layer of the material after each day on set. Casey Affleck recalls, “You opened your mouth to speak and instantly the whole thing filled with dust. But there’s Chris, our fearless leader, walking around with no mask or goggles, with his hair looking great, so I didn’t want to complain too much about the dust,” he smiles.
The fields of corn had a more forceful presence than dust to contend with in sequences of Cooper’s pick-up truck cutting a swath through the rows in hot pursuit of a wayward Indian-made drone. The drone itself was designed by Crowley, then fabricated in the form of a full-size prop that couldn’t fly, and a 1/3-scale radio-controlled drone with a 15-foot wingspan that could, which was piloted by professional R.C. pilot Larry Jolly.
Giving chase on the ground is Cooper’s truck—a new 2014 Dodge aged by art department to look like he’d kept it going for years. The truck serves as the locus for the heart-pounding sequence, and Nolan wanted the IMAX camera close to the actors as the truck drives through the high corn at speeds up to 70 miles-per-hour.
Fisher, van Hoytema and stunt coordinator George Cottle got together to brainstorm ideas for how to both accomplish the chase safely and capture it all on camera with the energy Nolan sought. Cottle recalls, “Chris wanted the actors, not stunt performers, to be driving this speeding truck as it chases the drone, so we knew the chase sequence was going to be tricky because the visibility is so tough in this high corn.”
Rather than towing the truck from a camera car, the team leveraged a “pod rig” system—a roll cage mounted to the truck’s roof where a stunt driver operates the vehicle’s controls—that would keep McConaughey at the wheel, Chalamet and Foy beside him, and the cameras wherever Nolan wanted them. Cottle recalls, “With the pod rig, the actors inside the car were deep in the corn, but the driver operating the truck from the roof had great visibility, so it was 100% safe and a fantastic way to get the shots we needed for the chase.”
While Cooper is ostensibly chasing the drone to repurpose its engine for his farm combines, the moment he catches sight of it soaring through the air, the camera takes flight for the first time—a visual cue for the change that is coming to Cooper’s world.
The design for the space suits worn by Cooper and the team of astronauts traveling into space was rooted in the real thing. “We didn’t want to stray too far from established reality of what’s required for the environment of outer space,” Nolan says. “So, we tried to keep it recognizable as belonging to an astronaut of the 20th century because we wanted to tap into that history. We wanted to always be seeing a classic astronaut figure, not what they might look like in some undetermined future.”
“Chris has a great eye and was very precise about what he was looking for, but we only had 12 weeks to go from sketch to finished suit, so it was pedal to the metal the whole time,” recalls costume designer Mary Zophres. “We built all of our suits from scratch, and pretty much on a daily basis, we’d have new details for Chris to take a look at. I’ve done some specialty costumes, but this was a whole new avenue of design.”
Zophres plunged into research on the evolution of astronaut gear from the 1960s to today—from the silver suits of the Mercury program to the puffy set-up worn by the Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon—but ended up blending various elements of all of them. “The technology became more advanced, but the aesthetic didn’t really change,” she says. “I wanted to update it a little bit and make suits that were a little cooler while maintaining that classic silhouette.”
Zophres also drew inspiration from that world for certain hard props that had to be designed into the fabric of the suits, such as oxygen systems, specialized gloves, even elbow-based rockets. These were designed using 3D modeling, then created and fine-tuned in collaboration with the art department and special effects. Zophres and her team then integrated the props with the soft pieces of the suit in ways that would underscore their function. “Nothing on the suits was for decoration; everything had to serve a purpose,” she says.
This added another layer of difficulty because everything—especially the oxygen units—had to work. “The actors would be in space suits for more than half the movie, so if the helmet was on, it had to really work or they wouldn’t be able to breathe,” she explains. Because astronaut suits are not commonly made, Zophres located a company called SPCS that could manufacture the full complement of gear along with the fabric overlay.
Zophres worked closely with the director to base the team’s helmets on the foundation of the Gemini program’s ring and ball bearing design. In the four months it took to design, finish, then age the helmets, an operating sound system was developed that could be fitted within them to facilitate communication between the actors and director, and amongst each other while performing dialogue, which would ultimately be integrated into the film’s final sound mix.
For costumes that were already growing weighty, Zophres had to then add a cooling system of circulating tubes of cold water to keep actors from overheating. Costume supervisor Lynda Foote had researched the actual systems used by astronauts in space, which inspired the system used for the film. There would also be backpacks containing fans for both cooling and to keep the glass covers from fogging up. All told, the final weight came in between 30 and 35 pounds, not including the wetsuits they would wear underneath for water sequences.
Hathaway remembers her first time testing the suit in the water, “After trying to run about 10 feet in the pool, I immediately called an ex-Navy SEAL I know and said, ‘You need to get in the gym with me.’ When we were shooting the water scenes, Matthew and I kept saying to each other, ‘This may be tough, but we look cool,’” she laughs.
Operating the mechanical puppeteering rig created to give form to TARS and CASE, the film’s two mechanical astronauts, was even tougher. The machines were conceived as military hardware that has been decommissioned and repurposed for the space effort. “This film takes place in a resource-depleted future, so scientific communities are massively dependent on whatever military technology still exists,” Nolan explains. “In a design sense, we were thinking along the lines of an articulated machine that would be blast-resistant and impregnable, and built for strength and function, not style.”
While the machines think and speak, Nolan wanted to avoid any kind of anthropomorphic features common to movie robots. “In our absolute minimalist approach,” he says, “we arrived at what we termed the kind of robot that minimalist architect Mies van der Rohe would design.”
To find its form, Nolan and Crowley experimented first by gluing popsicle sticks together, then graduated to various combinations of earth magnets, before landing on a blocky, five-foot-tall plank system that unfolds magnetically from three central pivot points into up to 64 geometric divisions.
Scott Fisher was then recruited to the TARS team and embarked on an R&D journey to create a practical prototype that would look and feel completely authentic—from its pivots to the digital readout screen on its chest—and get it moving in just under eight weeks.
Beyond movement, however, the director wanted the mechanical astronauts to be as much of a presence in “Interstellar” as the human ones. John Papsidera, the film’s casting director, knew exactly the man for the job—actor, physical comedian, clown and stage performer Bill Irwin. Says Nolan, “Bill is the kind of performer who can take an object that’s inherently clunky and lacks any modes of expression and give it personality through its most basic movements, which was exactly our challenge with these machines.”
Irwin was intrigued with the idea of coaxing something akin to a soul from a solid piece of hardware. “Chris Nolan’s mind works at a great rate and at a lot of different levels,” the actor notes. “As I listened to all the unfolding layers of the story, I gradually caught on that these machines—by dint of artificial intelligence and some fluke of circuitry and emulation—are capable of being as emotional as anyone else in the narrative.”
Over multiple visits to the effects shop, Irwin plunged into the group effort to make TARS and CASE live onscreen, becoming fluent with the controller used to trigger various appendages via a compressed air and hydraulics system. “It felt like a video game, with buttons to control its lift and joint arrangements,” Irwin says. “Suddenly I had to become a kind of gamer in an effort to move these massive planks around. It was an exciting process to be a part of.”
On the set, Irwin would both puppeteer the rig and interact with the other members of the cast as either CASE or TARS, depending on which was called for in the scene. Thomas suggests that the actor had what amounted to the most challenging job in the film. “This giant monolith was so heavy, but he managed to give a brilliant performance while lugging it around.” For certain sequences, stuntman Mark Fichera handled the more physical moves as the rig evolved up to a hefty 200 pounds.
There was no getting around the need for CG augmentation, and soon Paul Franklin also joined the TARS team to enhance action sequences, as well as remove any trace of the performers. The end result was total harmony among the characters’ many moving parts, and Nolan’s concept for practical machines was transformed into a piece of hydraulic puppeteering unlike anything the filmmakers had ever attempted.
TARS leaves Earth along with the human crew as the rocket carrying the Ranger shuttle explodes into space—a visual effects sequence designed to emulate the time-honored imagery of NASA rocket launches. “We wanted people to recognize the language of the filmmaking in this sequence,” Paul Franklin allows. “So, Chris had us looking at all the old Apollo launch footage of the moon rockets going into space, which have a very specific look. It’s different from the modern boosters because the missions of the ‘60s were done with these colossal rockets, 360-feet-tall. That was the scale we were after, combined with those massive balls of orange fire pouring out of the engines.”
Like TARS, the Ranger and other ships would emerge from experiments in Nolan’s garage into large-scale innovations in practical filmmaking.
THE INTERSTELLAR VOYAGE
Nolan and Crowley began the process of designing the film’s trio of aircraft—the Ranger, the Lander, and the Endurance—by embarking on a research expedition through the past, present and future of aerospace, which took them through hours of IMAX documentaries on the International Space Station (ISS), a tour through entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX facility and Dragon spacecraft, and a walk in the shadow of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, now retired to the California Science Center. “We both grew up with NASA and know the excitement of a rocket launch, so we were after something that would feel new and somewhat advanced, but familiar and relatable,” says Crowley.
The Ranger—the fast-moving shuttle of the Endurance—was the first shape to emerge. To refine the model generated by the 3D printer, Crowley brought in a team of sculptors to carve out further detail in its undercarriage, landing gear, engine, airlocks and other necessities without compromising its sleek, curved silhouette.
Next came the Lander, a large, angular behemoth built for strength not speed. “If the Ranger is a German racecar that can zip down to a planet and back, the Lander is a heavy Russian airlift cargo chopper,” Crowley describes. “It’s a workhorse designed to carry cargo out of the Endurance and deposit it on a planet’s surface, which it does upside down. So the seats had to rotate 360 degrees for the astronauts, and the cockpit is cramped and front-heavy to make room for the cargo.”
The Ranger and Lander were both designed to fit snugly into the Endurance’s ring module mothership: a multi-faceted design challenge Crowley and Nolan cracked using low-tech methods. “I brought in some acrylic blocks, which we combined in different ways until ultimately laying out a geometric shape that formed a ring out of 12 pods,” Crowley says.
The Endurance ring module emerged as a great segmented wheel, with a central hub, that would spin at a rate of five times per minute to generate 1G gravity through centripetal force. Connected through a system of airlocks and a curved continuous floor, each of the ship’s 12 capsules serves a purpose in the overall mission—four engine pods, four permanent pods containing the living quarters, cockpit, cryogenics and medical lab, and four landing pods to be decamped on a planet’s surface.
Once the designs had been tested in 3D visualizations and their interlocking details were carefully engineered, the next step was fabrication. Crowley gathered a team of highly skilled artists to hand-sculpt from steel and polystyrene a 46-foot-long Ranger and a 50-foot-long Lander. Scott Fisher and his special effects crew then engineered hydraulic landing gear and airlock doors into the hulls of both ships. They were then waterproofed with an extra hard coat of fiberglass—a necessity given what Nolan had in mind for them. Fisher also rigged cryobeds in which the astronauts undergo long trips in stasis, as well as hydraulic seats that rotated 360 degrees.
When the ships eventually made their way to the soundstages at Sony Studios, Fisher mounted each to the Waldo—a six-axis gimbal attached to a motion control system that allows the operator to manipulate its movement with an unprecedented degree of stability and precision. “Whenever we had the gimbal out, Chris was the one flying it most of the time,” Fisher remembers. “I think he really enjoyed doing that.”
Inspired by the IMAX footage of real space travel, Nolan and van Hoytema wanted to hard mount the IMAX camera to the ships themselves, a freedom the Waldo’s steadiness and actual ship sizes afforded. Notes the cinematographer, “You end up creating the strangest rigs in order to create the effect of the camera witnessing something in ways that feel familiar from real life, rather than hovering all-seeing in these situations. We even took the hard mount language further by putting cameras on helmets and on bodies.”
The hard mounts and Waldo itself were essential in Nolan’s quest to avoid green screens on “Interstellar.” Rather, Nolan wanted to move the large-scale ships across background plates of space to capture the true patterns, flares and artifacts that actually would be cast in that lighting environment. Nolan recounts. “It’s a lot of effort to go to, but since we already built the ships for other reasons, it seemed the best thing would be to maximize their use. So, what was going to be a very static plate shoot turned into one of the more important things that informed the visual language of the film.”
The filmmakers also used the hard mount technique to capture the intricate docking operation for each time the astronauts flew the Ranger or Lander back to the Endurance, with the Waldo synchronizing the couplings in perfect harmony. “There’s the type of science fiction film where docking is something you immediately leap over to go on to far more extraordinary things,” Nolan explains, “and then you have the kind of film—which ‘Interstellar’ needed to be—that sets its credentials early to show space travel as a very comprehensible and human scale endeavor. Docking would be difficult for this crew, and all kinds of things can go wrong. So, we took our time to shoot the entire routine the first time they dock the Ranger to the Endurance, even though it was just a little indication in the script. And, in the edits, it became quite an important pacing decision.”
While miniatures have given way to visual effects animation over the years, Nolan felt they offered the best way to give the ships a tangible presence in space. In this case, however, the miniatures created for “Interstellar” at L.A.’s New Deal Studios were built on such a large scale that they earned the nickname “maxatures.” Among them was a 1/15th scale miniature of the full Endurance ring module that spanned 25 feet, as well as a pyrotechnic model of a portion of the craft built at 1/5th scale, and various-scaled miniatures of the Ranger and Lander—all built in excruciating detail to retain their texture when shot mid-ground against the backdrop of Paul Franklin’s spacescapes.
The filmmakers enhanced this effect even further by using a smaller motion control rig and employing exposure ratios on large-format VistaVision cameras, which allowed the lens to capture all the spontaneous artifacts as the ships moved against the light source. “These are things you could try to calculate into CG if you had to, but the wonderful thing about miniature shooting is that it shows you things you never knew were there or couldn’t plan for,” Nolan says. “I refer to it as serendipity—this random quality that gives the image a feeling of life.”
The Endurance itself—specifically a 200-foot segment of its ring module structure—was built within Sony Studios’ cavernous stage 30. This immense arc was lowered by crane onto a 150-foot gimbal fitted at three pivot points with colossal hydraulics that would tilt the set up to 180 degrees for spaceflight sequences.
The rigorous utilitarian aesthetic that informed the exteriors of the ships was also funneled into the design of their interiors. “We wanted to incorporate as many existing aerospace parts as we could get, and keep everything grounded,” Nolan reveals. “When you’re dealing with space ships and outer space, the danger is that the human element gets lost, and Nathan and his guys showed a lot of restraint in putting together environments that felt practical and utilitarian.”
For Hathaway, walking onto the ship evoked an emotional response. “The story begins on an Earth that has limited resources, and you imagine that the best of what they had is on this ship,” she says. “There’s something wonderfully hopeful about that.”
The NASA influence is particularly felt in the storage systems, with an emphasis on compact size, interchangeability and efficiency. “The Endurance really reflects what we learned from the ISS and the Endeavor in that in space, there is no up or down, no floor or ceiling, everything is slotted and interchangeable, and every surface is used,” Crowley describes. “Chris wanted everything the actors touched to work, so the monitors and switches were all designed to serve a purpose within the ship.”
As with the farmhouse design, Crowley also had to incorporate the technical demands of the key crew. He and van Hoytema coordinated closely to integrate a base level of lighting into the fabric of the set itself, such that the cinematographer could adjust various diffusion plates on the fly to achieve whatever lighting environment he needed for a given scene. The cinematographer relates, “Nate’s designs are so meticulous that no matter where you step, you already believe in the reality of it, so it was important that the lighting felt like it belonged there.”
The lighting effects themselves took similar unexpected turns as the production progressed. Visual effects and projection technology have enhanced movies for nearly the whole of their existence. But the parallel evolution of these technologies suggested provocative new ways to use them to, in essence, integrate the staggering interstellar footage created by Paul Franklin and Double Negative into the shooting experience. Nolan states, “If you look at the techniques of the past, and try and use them to achieve a new trick, you are able to stand on the shoulders of giants and achieve something that nobody’s ever done before.”
With a floor-to-ceiling screen draped outside the windows of the set, Franklin devised a system of precisely aligning two projectors to create a single image that would have a high enough degree of brightness and clarity to hold up within the IMAX frame. The system ultimately evolved to incorporate more projectors, with forklifts positioning the 1,200-pound devices in an array that would project an image bright enough to penetrate the ship’s windows and illuminate the actors’ faces. “In an objective sense, having that imagery there was key in establishing the situation these astronauts are in and truly capture the claustrophobia of that environment,” the director adds. “We were able to move through the set with the handheld camera over long takes and capture sequences from multiple angles. It was extraordinary.”
Franklin and his visual effects team also had a program that allowed them to combine and manipulate the images spontaneously on the projectors’ computers, so that Nolan could orchestrate changes in the spacescapes in real time on set. Franklin describes the effect of seeing the black hole emerge for the first time as “mesmerizing, and a bit unnerving. It almost took a three-dimensional aspect, as if it was coming off the screen.”
The projections not only gave the actors a real look at the black hole, it also simulated the light of our own sun, which helped van Hoytema design shots that approximated the raw spectacle of unfettered sunlight in real space footage. The cinematographer recalls, “The content in the front projections pointed us towards where the sun would be when they’re flying past it or spinning to achieve zero G. Most of the time we were trying to replicate the sun or the light emitted from the black hole as truthfully and correctly as we could. I’ve never shot a film with as much hard light as this one, and it was fun to play with the patterns and contrasts of that singular light.”
These breakthrough techniques engaged the cast and crew and allowed them to fully invest in the reality of the journey. “There was a great feeling on board those ships of being sealed in a real moving vehicle,” Nolan describes. “It was as if the sequence was playing out for real, with the imagery outside the windows changing the way it should as the characters fly towards it.”
Without the Earth’s gravity to hold them, the characters in “Interstellar” also experience weightlessness in flight. Nolan had previously tackled the illusion of zero G on “Inception,” and worked with stunt coordinator George Cottle to advance the techniques they had learned even further. For “Interstellar,” Cottle developed a combination of rigs that would provide the director and cast with as much flexibility and comfort as possible for the film’s many scenes of weightlessness.
To get a better understanding of motion in zero G, Cottle viewed extensive footage of astronauts in weightless conditions in order to engineer rigs that would emulate the buoyancy and action/reaction patterns. From there, he and his stunt crew embarked on a months-long R&D period to push the boundaries of what was possible on the sets. “We tested various riggings with stunt guys and landed on a combination of different rigs, starting with vertical rigs that would lower the actors when everything on the set is upside down, and moving to smaller rigs where we could manipulate them on wires. But Chris also wanted to capture close-ups in tight, confined spaces,” he says.
For that, Cottle and special effects supervisor Scott Fisher utilized a complex rig called the parallelogram—a harness attached to hip picks or a belly pan that could be positioned on the actors to move them through small spaces in the set through a controller-operated crane. The most common operator at the wheel of the parallelogram was Nolan himself. “I think Chris’s theory is that if he wants something to look a certain way and he can do it himself, then it’s best for him just to do it,” Thomas smiles. “So, yes, the actors were on a crazy rig that makes them float through space, and Chris was the one pushing them.”
The monumental logistical effort to infuse these mammoth practical sets with detail, functionality and physical cohesion paid off for the director as Nolan had ambitious plans for at least two of them. “What we were looking for were locations that made you feel like you were on another planet,” he says. “And if you’re going to go half-way across the world to shoot a landscape, you’ve got to build the stuff to put on it.”
Nolan last visited Iceland a decade ago to shoot sequences for “Batman Begins,” and had a sense even before scouting its landscapes that he would find a rich terrain for the characters to explore in “Interstellar.” “We wanted the otherworldly environments to feel as real and tactile as this one,” he says. “So, to bring the audience along with the astronauts as they take their first steps onto other worlds, we knew we’d have to actually shoot on location, and the landscapes of Iceland are uniquely extreme.”
Nolan and Crowley hopped on a plane to Iceland to see if the glacier they remembered would work cinematically for the ice planet the characters explore. They found that the Vatnajökull glacier itself had fallen in the path of recent volcanic eruptions, which scored a surreal gray marbleized effect upon the ice. “It actually helped us discover the feel for the film as we envisioned a grittier, dirtier, more hostile environment,” Crowley describes. “It shouldn’t be magical; it should be grim. The characters are considering giving up Earth for a new home, but the feel on that glacier is quite harsh. And that fed back into this idea of going on this epic journey to hell and back to achieve this impossible task.”
As it turned out, the diverse Icelandic terrain provided the ideal location for two of the story’s planetary destinations, with the shallow yet seemingly endless Brunasandur lagoon a short distance away serving as the drop zone of the film’s water planet. While the setting was perfect—with no visible shoreline in many directions—production had to build a 15km road to set up base camp and source specially designed passenger vans with high enough clearance to transport cast, crew and equipment out onto the lagoon.
While the main unit was shooting in Canada, the Iceland locations were being prepped for a massive effort to coordinate two remote locations for not only cast and crew, but two of the space ships as well. “Both the Ranger and the Lander were built full size, so to be able to photograph them sitting in the water or on top of the ice was a huge benefit to the film,” Nolan states.
Fresh off the assembly line, the ships—weighing more than 10,000 pounds each—were disassembled, packed up in shipping containers and shipped in the bay of a 747 cargo jet to the airport in Reykjavik, then loaded onto trucks, driven to the locations, and reassembled in giant tents.
In the midst of filming on the glacier, the production had to batten down in their hotel when a powerful storm blew through the region, with wind so intense it ripped the asphalt from the streets. Anxious to check on their sets, Nolan and Crowley braved the roads to head up to the glacier. “But when we got out of the car, we literally couldn’t walk because the wind was still so strong,” Crowley remembers.
Even so, the filmmaker—who is known for always coming in on or before schedule—was loathe to lose the day. Thomas recalls, “Chris prides himself on shooting in all weathers, and this was the first time we actually had to stop because the wind was so dangerous. But Chris being Chris, he didn’t want us to be sitting around twiddling our thumbs back at the hotel, so he whisked us all out into the parking lot where we shot some inserts.”
THE FINAL MIX
Love is the one thing that transcends time and space.
In the annals of science fiction cinema, rocket engines roar and ships audibly clash in the vacuum of space, but with “Interstellar,” Nolan found himself grappling instead with the absence of sound. “Sound doesn’t travel in space, so using any sound effects to portray that environment would betray the reality of it,” he notes.
Working to conceive the film’s soundscapes with sound designer and supervising sound editor Richard King, Nolan soon found he could use the all-encompassing silence to enhance the human dimension of the journey. “Visually, we were able to emphasize the claustrophobia of the ships by contrasting that contained environment with the vastness of space outside the windows, and sound too can achieve that effect,” Nolan reveals. “Every time you cut to these silences, there is a feeling of all the air going out of the room. It’s a continual reminder that outside these metal walls is a hostile alien environment, and if anything goes wrong, it’s instant death. So, while it felt somewhat radical to cut to total silence during a movie, it turned out to be quite invigorating.”
This contrast also found its way into the music, composed by Hans Zimmer, making his fifth collaboration with Nolan. “There are times where Hans goes very small and intimate with the music when you would expect it to be big and bombastic, and vice versa,” Nolan affirms, “which is a very natural way to draw the audience’s attention to the scale of what they are looking at, and sometimes that comes with this simple contrast between the human scale and the interstellar scale.”
Among the human notes in the film’s alternately grand and intimate score is a short piece called “Day One,” which was inspired by Nolan’s highly unusual proposition to the acclaimed composer. “Hans is a very important part of my creative team, and in the case of this film, I asked him to write the music before I even started re-writing the script,” Nolan explains. “I kept him very much in the dark, even about what the genre of the film was.”
The director followed his proposal with an envelope containing a brief, typewritten scene. Zimmer remembers, “It was this beautiful fable about a father and his relationship with his son, which resonated with me because my own son doesn’t want to be a musician—he has big dreams to become a scientist—so Chris was pushing all the right buttons for me.”
The composer sat down at a piano and tried to evoke the emotions he experienced as a father. Not long after, Nolan came by to hear what he’d come up with. Zimmer recalls, “I asked him what he thought, and he said, ‘Well, I suppose I had better make the movie now.’ It was only then that he started describing this epic film, and I found it wasn’t a son but a daughter. But, to him, this tiny, intimate piece about my true experience with my son expressed the heart of the story. And, in shaping the score, we found that the further the story drifts away from the Earth, the more important it was to come back to that piece and stay connected to those emotions.”
Having spent nearly a decade plumbing the thematic depths of Nolan’s films, the composer wanted to steer clear of any musical expressions he’d explored in the past with the director, and invent a whole new palette for “Interstellar.” “Chris and I approached the entire scoring process as an adventure,” he says. “We were just going to go into it with an open mind and see what happened. So I would not be true to the story if I didn’t widen my gaze.”
Zimmer found a backbone for the score in the earthy yet elevating notes of an organ, an instrument that he considers a triumph of human invention. “There’s also something very human about the organ because it needs to breathe,” he says. “On each note, you hear the breath of the exhale, and at its height, there’s so much air being pushed into the room that you feel it in your solar plexus and the windows start rattling. So, while it’s a complicated piece of technology, it creates sounds with a very primeval and dangerous quality.”
To ascend from its rich sounds, Zimmer conceived a chorus of handmade instruments—woodwinds, strings, piano and brass—that, like the organ, hark back to an age when things were built in an analog, mechanical way, rather than generated digitally. The idea was to enlist gifted musicians who could experiment with their instruments to emulate Earth sounds—a constant reminder of everything Cooper is trying to save but stands to lose.
The forum for these sounds would be the ultimate expression of humanity’s reach from the earthly to the celestial: Temple Church, a functioning 12th century church in the heart of London. “The whole point of its architecture is to take you to other worlds, and we wanted to use the quality of the space itself to take us on this journey.” From there, Zimmer assembled an orchestra of world-class artists, and encouraged them to personalize the music through their well-worn, often centuries-old instruments.
Following a staggering 45 scoring sessions with Nolan, the music then moved to the mixing stage, where the director worked with Zimmer, King and supervising music editor Alex Gibson to harmonize the sounds with the imagery. Nolan observes, “Hans started with the core emotions of the story and expanded out from there, and I consider the results to be among Hans’s finest work. It’s really an extraordinary score, and very different from anything we’ve ever done together.”
For the composer, too, writing the music in reverse and letting the film itself be the conductor was a revelation. “The music is forever looking beyond the cornfields,” he says. “It’s looking beyond the predicament of where the characters are, always within the context of love. At the heart of Cooper’s story is the idea that the farther he goes to try to save the world, the more his physical connection with his children is broken, but his heart—his spiritual connection—gets stronger.”
After a long journey to realize the cinematic potential of Kip Thorne’s scientific ideas, producer Lynda Obst confesses to bursting into tears when Nolan screened the film for the first time. “Chris managed to weave real science into the fabric of the storytelling, yet you understand all of it because it’s expressed through the emotions of the characters,” she marvels. “All of this while keeping you on the edge of your seat on this rollercoaster ride through space.”
“Everything Chris does—and motivates everyone involved in our films to do—is in service of making each film an entirely new experience for an audience, and I believe never more so than with ‘Interstellar,’” adds Emma Thomas. “For him, it’s a very personal story, but so many of its facets touch on universal themes, from the love of family to the thrill of exploration to what it means to be human.”
“There’s no one else out there who does things the way Christopher does,” says Matthew McConaughey. “He has an original take on everything and works by his instincts completely. I also believe that he’s constantly letting his reach exceed his grasp. And when you see this film, you’ll know it’s true because I think it’s by far the most ambitious film that he has ever directed.”
For Nolan, that driving ambition was focused on a single goal. “I want the audience to watch this story unfold on an enormous screen and be transported,” he says. “On ‘Interstellar,’ I was fortunate to work with an incredible cast and ingenious filmmaking partners. We were all united in an endeavor to make every moment feel real because the thrill of making a large-scale film about journeying through the stars is taking the audience with us.”
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ABOUT THE CAST
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY (Cooper) is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading men. A chance meeting in Austin with casting director and producer Don Phillips led him to director Richard Linklater, who launched the actor’s career in the cult classic “Dazed and Confused.” Since then, he has appeared in over 40 feature films that have grossed over $1 billion; and has become a producer, director, and philanthropist – all the while sticking to his Texas roots and “jk livin’” [“just keep living”] philosophy.
2014 has been a game changing year for McConaughey. He made the move to TV, starring alongside Woody Harrelson in the HBO dramatic series “True Detective.” The show has been met by rave reviews from critics and fans alike. He has also received numerous awards and accolades for the critically acclaimed “Dallas Buyers Club.” McConaughey dropped 47 pounds to play to role of AIDS-stricken Ron Woodruff. The film was directed by Jean Marc Valle and also stars Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. For his riveting portrayal, McConaughey received an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and Gotham Award for Best Actor, the Best Actor Award at the Rome Film Festival as well as the Desert Palm Achievement Actor Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival.
In 2012, McConaughey was spotlighted in four diverse career-changing performances. He won a Spirit Award for his portrayal of Dallas Rising in Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike,” and was named the year’s Best Supporting Actor by both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics for his work in “Magic Mike” and Richard Linklater’s “Bernie.” McConaughey also received acclaim for his performance in Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy,” and was a Spirit Award nominee for playing the title role in William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe.”
He followed this up in 2013 with the release of Jeff Nichols’ “Mud,” which received rave reviews and was a sleeper hit in the national box office top 10 for five weeks and Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which opened in December 2013.
His other films include Brad Furman’s “The Lincoln Lawyer,” Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder,” McG’s “We Are Marshall,” Jill and Karen Sprecher’s “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” Bill Paxton’s “Frailty,” Jonathan Mostow’s “U-571,” Ron Howard’s “EDtv,” Richard Linklater’s “The Newton Boys,” Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad,” Robert Zemeckis’ “Contact,” Joel Schumacher’s “A Time to Kill,” and John Sayles’ “Lone Star.”
In 2008, McConaughey started The just keep livin Foundation (www.jklivinfoundation.org), which is dedicated to helping boys and girls transform into men and women through programs that teach the importance of decision-making, health, education, and active living. The Foundation has partnered with Communities in Schools (CIS)—the nation’s largest non-profit dropout-prevention organization—in West Los Angeles to implement fitness and wellness programs in two large urban high schools. Through an afterschool program, they are able to give kids a healthy start in life and the promise of a healthy future.
Academy Award winner ANNE HATHAWAY (Brand) most recently reprised the voice of Jewel, an independent, high-flying blue macaw in Carlos Saldanha’s animated film “Rio 2,” which also features voices from Jamie Foxx and Jesse Eisenberg. The film was released on April 11, 2014 and is a sequel to the blockbuster “Rio,” which garnered over $486 million worldwide.
Hathaway completed production on writer/director Kate Barker-Froyland’s feature debut “Song One,” alongside Mary Steenburgen. Hathaway is also a producer on the film, which chronicles a young woman who strikes up a relationship with her ailing brother’s favorite musician. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2014.
In 2012, she starred as “Fantine” in Tom Hooper’s screen adaptation of musical phenomenon “Les Misérables,” opposite Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried. Hathaway’s performance garnered Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA awards for lead actress. Earlier that year, Hathaway starred as the ultimate femme fatale “Catwoman” alongside Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” The film was Nolan’s third and final chapter in the franchise and was both a critical triumph and a smash box office hit.
In 2008, Hathaway starred in Jonathan Demme’s critically acclaimed “Rachel Getting Married,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award, and a SAG Award in the “Best Actress” category. The National Board of Review, the Chicago Film Critics Association, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association all named Hathaway “Best Actress” for her performance in the film.
Her other recent film credits are Lone Scherfig’s “One Day,” based on the novel written by David Nicholls; Ed Zwick’s “Love and Other Drugs,” for which Hathaway received her second Golden Globe nomination; Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”; Garry Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day”; “Bride Wars”; “Get Smart”; “Becoming Jane”; Rodrigo Garcia’s “Passengers”; “The Devil Wears Prada,” opposite Meryl Streep; and Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.” Her early career credits include Garry Marshall’s “The Princess Diaries” and “The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement”; “Havoc”; “Ella Enchanted”; “Nicholas Nickelby”; and “The Other Side of Heaven.” Hathaway first gained Hollywood’s attention for her turn in the television series “Get Real.” She has also lent her vocal talents to animated films “Rio” and “Hoodwinked” in addition to her vocal cameos on television series, including “The Simpsons,” for which she received an Emmy Award.
Her theater credits include Shakespeare in the Park’s “Twelfth Night” (2009); Andrew Lloyd Webber’s workshop of “Woman in White”; and “Forever Your Child.” In 2004-2005, she also participated in the Encores Concert Gala as well as the Stephen Sondheim Birthday Gala. She also appeared in the Lincoln Center Encore series presentation of “Carnival,” for which she won the prestigious 57th Annual Clarence Derwent Award.
As an actress, Hathaway studied at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, the Barrow Group in New York City, and at NYU’s Collaborative Arts Projects “CAP 21” (where she focused on her musical theater training). In April 2005, the award-winning Barrow Group honored Hathaway for her achievements on behalf of the organization as the first and only teen ever admitted to their intensive acting program.
Hathaway serves on the advisory board for Lollipop Theater Network, which is an organization that screens movies in hospitals for pediatric patients suffering from chronic or life-threatening illness. She also recently began working with The Nike Foundation’s “Girl Effect.”
Hathaway currently resides in both Los Angeles and New York.
Academy Award-nominated actress JESSICA CHASTAIN has emerged as one of the most sought after actresses of her generation.
Following her whirlwind year in 2011, in which she received several nominations and accolades for her work from the LA Film Critics, British Academy of Film and TV, Broadcast Film Critics, HFPA, Screen Actors Guild and the Academy, Chastain’s success has proven to be limitless with her equally impressive career in 2012, where she was featured by TIME Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Her performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” garnered several awards, including the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama, and her second consecutive Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. In the film, Chastain stars as Maya, whose character was inspired by a real CIA analyst who was instrumental in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. “Zero Dark Thirty” earned several nominations, including Best Film (among many others) for the NYT Critic Awards and Independent Spirit awards.
Chastain also starred in the horror film “Mama,” directed by Andres Muschietti for Guillermo Del Toro’s production company, Toma 78. Additionally, she starred as Maggie Beauford in The Weinstein Company’s 2012 film “Lawless,” opposite Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy. Chastain also lent her voice to “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” as the character of Gia the Jaguar. Chastain’s talent goes beyond the screen, as she also made her Broadway debut in the stage classic “The Heiress.”
Chastain is currently in production on two films: A24’s “A Most Violent Year,” opposite Oscar Isaac, set in 1981 New York City, a year that saw one of the all-time highest rates of violent crime for the city, set for release in Fall 2014; and Legendary Pictures’ “Crimson Peak,” directed by Guillermo Del Toro, starring alongside Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam, set for release in 2015.
Due for release in the coming year, Chastain also plays the starring role in “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” opposite James McAvoy and Viola Davis, written and directed by Ned Benson. She will also be featured as the lead in the upcoming 2014 drama “Miss Julie,” a film adaptation of August Strindberg’s play, directed by Liv Ullman.
In 2011, Chastain starred opposite Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in the Academy Award nominated drama “Tree of Life,” written and directed by Terrence Malick for River Road Productions. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and the Chicago Film Critics award for Best Picture.
Also in 2011, she could be seen in Ami Mann’s feature film “Texas Killing Fields,” opposite Sam Worthington and Chloe Grace Moretz; Miramax’s “The Debt,” alongside Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington; as Virgilia in the on screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy “Coriolanus,” opposite Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler; and in Jeff Nichols’s “Take Shelter,” opposite Michael Shannon, which won a plethora of awards during the 2011 film festival circuit and received an Independent Spirit Award nomination.
Chastain is best known for her role as Celia Foote, an insecure Southern lady constantly trying to fit in with the high society women who reject her, in Dreamworks’ Academy Award-nominated adaptation of the best-selling Kathryn Stockett novel “The Help,” which won numerous awards in 2011 including Chastain’s Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Golden Globe nomination, Screen Actors Guild nomination and Critics’ Choice nomination.
Born and raised in Northern California, Chastain attended the Juilliard School in New York City. While there, she starred in “Romeo and Juliet” and went on to receive glowing reviews for her performances in “The Cherry Orchard,” opposite Michelle Williams at Williamstown, and Richard Nelson’s “Rodney’s Wife,” opposite David Strathairn, off-Broadway at Playwright’s Horizons.
Chastain returned to the stage in the Los Angeles Wadsworth Theatre production of “Salome,” where Academy Award winners Estelle Parsons (director) and Al Pacino handpicked Chastain to play the title role of Salome opposite Pacino. Continuing the collaboration, producer Barry Navidi commenced the film version of “Salome,” entitled “Wild Salome,” directed by Al Pacino, for which they filmed behind the scenes and portions of the play’s production.
This led to her landing the dynamic title role of “Jolene” in the Dan Ireland-directed production, opposite Rupert Friend, Frances Fisher and Dermot Mulroney. Chastain won the Best Actress Award at the 2008 Seattle Film Festival for this role. She stayed on stage in 2009, playing the role of Desdemona in the classic play “Othello,” opposite Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Directed by Peter Sellars, the project ran beginning in Vienna, then Germany and finished in New York.
BILL IRWIN (TARS) A Tony Award-winner for his role in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” Bill Irwin has starred in many Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional stage productions, including “Show Boat”; “Old Hats”; “The Goat or Who is Sylvia,” opposite Sally Field; “Waiting For Godot” with Nathan Lane, for which Irwin was nominated in 2009 for a Drama Desk Award; “The Tempest” opposite Patrick Stewart; “Texts for Nothing”;
Largely New York”; “The Regard of Flight”; “Garden of Earthly Delights”; “Accidental Death of An Anarchist,” and the Tony Award-winning “Fool Moon,” which he created with David Shiner. He was Playwright in Residence for the 2003 Signature Theatre season.
On television, Irwin has recently appeared on “Law & Order SVU,” “Elementary,” “Blue Bloods,” “Monday Mornings,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” FX’s “Lights Out,” “The Good Wife” and “A Gifted Man.” He has also appeared on “Saturday Night Live”; “The Tonight Show”; “The Cosby Show”; “3rd Rock from the Sun”; HBO’s “Bette Midler Mondo Beyondo”; CBS’s “Northern Exposure”; PBS’s “Great Performances”; and, with great pride, on “Sesame Street,” as Mr. Noodle.
In addition to “Interstellar,” Irwin has appeared on screen in Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married”; Robert Altman’s “Popeye”; John Sayles’ “Eight Men Out”; Michael Hoffman’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Ron Howards’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”; Burr Steers’ “Igby Goes Down”; M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water”; “Dark Matter,” starring Meryl Streep; Julia Stiles’s “Raving” (short film), starring Zooey Deschanel; Julie Taymor’s “Across The Universe,” and Vera Farmiga’s “Higher Ground.”
Irwin was an original member of Kraken, a theatre company directed by Herbert Blau, and was also an original member of the Pickle Family Circus of San Francisco. He has won many awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowship, a Guggenheim, a Fulbright and a MacArthur Fellowship.
ELLEN BURSTYN’s illustrious 57-year acting career encompasses film, stage and television. In 1975 she became only the third woman in history to win both the Tony Award and the Academy Award in the same year, for her work in Bernard Slade’s “Same Time, Next Year” on Broadway and in Martin Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” for which she also received a Golden Globe nomination and a British Academy Award for Best Actress. Burstyn has been nominated for an Academy Award five other times, for “The Last Picture Show ” (1972), ”The Exorcist” (1974), “Same Time, Next Year” (1979), “Resurrection” (1981) and “Requiem for a Dream” (2000). She became a “triple crown winner” when she won her first Emmy for a guest appearance in “Law & Order: SVU” (2009), to add to her Oscar and Tony. She also recently won an Emmy for USA’s mini-series “Political Animals.”
Burstyn’s many theater credits include the Broadway production of ’84 Charing Cross Road” (1982), the acclaimed one-woman play “Shirley Valentine” (1989), as well as “Shimada” (1992), and “Sacrilege” (1995). She starred off-Broadway with Burgess Meredith in “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard” (1985). In the mid-‘90s, she starred in regional productions of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” and “Death of Papa,” and Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at Houston’s Alley Theatre and at Hartford Stage in Connecticut. In 2008, she received rave reviews in Stephen Adley Guirgis’s new play, “The Little Flower of East Orange,” directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman at The Public Theater in New York. She also performed in London’s West End in Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour,” directed by Ian Rickson and co-starring Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss.
Ellen Burstyn has worked with some of film’s most visionary directors, from Martin Scorsese to Darren Aronofsky. She has appeared in films such as “Goodbye, Charlie” (1964), ”Pit Stop” (1969), “Tropic of Cancer” (1970), “Alex in Wonderland” (1970), “The Last Picture Show ” (1971), “The King of Marvin Gardens” (1972), “The Exorcist” (1973), “Harry and Tonto” (1974), “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1974), “Providence” (1977), “A Dream of Passion” (1978), “Same Time, Next Year” (1978), “Resurrection” (1980), “Silence of the North” (1981),” “The Ambassador” (1984), “Twice in a Lifetime” (1985), “Hanna’s War” (1988), “Dying Young” (1991), “Grand Isle” (1991), “The Cemetery Club” (1993), “The Color of Evening” (1994), “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1994), “Roommates” (1995), “The Baby-Sitters Club” (1995), “How to Make an American Quilt” (1995), “The Spitfire Grill” (1996), “Deceiver” (1997), “You Can Thank Me Later” (1998), “Playing By Heart” (1998), “Walking Across Egypt” (1999), “The Yards” (2000), “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” (2002), “The Elephant King” (2006), “The Wicker Man” (2006), “The Fountain” (2006), “The Stone Angel” (2007) (for which she won the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in Canada), Oliver Stone’s “W” (2008), “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond” (2008), “According to Greta” (2008), “The Mighty Macs” (2008), “Lovely, Still” (2008), Horton Foote’s final screenplay, “Main Street” (2009), “Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You” (2010), Sam Levinson’s “Another Happy Day ” (2010) and Ivan Reitman’s “Draft Day ” (2014).
In television, Ellen won her first Emmy Award for her guest appearance in “Law & Order: SVU” (2009), and received Emmy nominations for her title role in “The People vs. Jean Harris” (1981), her starring role in “Pack of Lies” (1987), a Hallmark Hall of Fame television production, and for HBO’s “Big Love” (2008). She has appeared in many other television movies, including “Surviving ” (1985), “Into Thin Air ” (1985), “Something in Common” (1986), “When You Remember Me” (1990), “Getting Gotti” (1994), “My Brother’s Keeper” (1995), “Timepiece” (1996), “Within These Walls” (2001), “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” (2004), “Our Fathers” (2005), Mitch Albom’s “For One More Day” (2007), and “Flowers in the Attic” (2014). She has starred in three television series, “The Ellen Burstyn Show” (1986), “That’s Life” (2002-2003), and “The Book of Daniel” (2006).
In her early years known as Ellen McRae, she was cast in numerous television episodes including “Surfside 6” (1961), “The Dick Powell Show ” (1961), “Ben Casey” (1962), “Perry Mason” (1962), “Laramie” (1963), “Wagon Train” (1963), “Kraft Suspense Theater” (1964), “The Doctors” (1964-65), “The Iron Horse” (1967-68), “The Virginian” (1969), and “Gunsmoke” (1962-71), and was a regular as a Glee Girl on the “Jackie Gleason Show.”
Burstyn was the first woman elected president of Actors Equity Association (1982-85), and served as the Artistic Director of the famed Actors Studio where she studied with the late Lee Strasberg. She continues to be active there as co-president with Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel, and again is serving as the Artistic Director.
Academically, Burstyn holds four honorary doctorates, one in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Dowling College, a doctorate from The New School for Social Research, and a doctorate from Pace University. Burstyn lectures throughout the country on a wide range of topics, and became a national best-selling author with the publication of her memoir, Lessons in Becoming Myself (2006), published by Riverhead Press.
MACKENZIE FOY (Murph) is quickly emerging as one of Hollywood’s most exciting young actresses. With a breakout role in the one of the biggest movie franchises of all time, Mackenzie’s body of work continues to evolve with exciting and challenging projects.
Foy starred in Summit Entertainment’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” directed by Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” “Kinsey”). She plays Renesmee, the half-vampire daughter of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), whom they must protect from the evil Volturi.
Foy lends her voice talents to a variety of animated feature films. She voices in upcoming film Paramount film “The Little Prince” along with Rachael McAdams, James Franco and Marion Cotillard. She also voices Celestine in the English version of Oscar-nominated French film “Ernest & Celestine,” a sweet story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest (voiced by Forest Whitaker), and a young mouse named Celestine. She also voices a character in Boxcar Children.
Her other film credits include the upcoming indie “Wish You Well,” about a young girl and her brother who come of age at their great grandmother’s house in Virginia during the 1940s. Ellen Burstyn plays the grandmother. Foy’s additional film credits include the thriller “The Conjuring,” opposite Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, directed by James Wan, about real life Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse; and “Plastic Jesus,” written by Bryan Bertino and directed by Erica Dunton. Based on true events, this coming-of-age story is based on a young girl and her older brother, struggling to cope with their mother’s illness.
Foy made her television debut when she was eight-years-old on the Fox sitcom “Til Death” and has guest starred on “Hawaii Five-O” and the season finale of “R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour,” a fantasy-horror anthology series, similar to the TV series “Goosebumps.”
Foy began her career at the age of three in commercials and print, starring in national spots for Pantene, Mattel, Burger King, and fashion campaigns for Gap, Ralph Lauren, Guess, J.Crew, H&M, and Estee Lauder, among others. In addition to acting, Mackenzie enjoys drawing, is a black belt in tae kwon do, and roller-skating.
Foy currently resides with her family in Southern California.
JOHN LITHGOW’s (Donald) roots are in the theater. In 1973, he won a Tony Award three weeks after his Broadway debut, in David Storey’s “The Changing Room.” Since then, he has appeared on Broadway 20 more times, earning another Tony, four more Tony nominations, four Drama Desk Awards, and induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame. Ensuing stage performances have included major roles in “My Fat Friend,” “Trelawney of the “Wells,” “Comedians,” “Anna Christie,” “Bedroom Farce,” “Beyond Therapy,” “M. Butterfly,” “The Front Page,” “Retreat from Moscow,” “All My Sons,” the Off-Broadway premieres of “Mrs. Farnsworth” and “Mr. and Mrs. Fitch,” and the musicals “Sweet Smell of Success” (his second Tony), and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
In 2007 he was one of the very few American actors ever invited to join The Royal Shakespeare Company, playing Malvolio in “Twelfth Night” at Stratford-upon-Avon. In 2008, he devised his own one-man show “Stories by Heart” for The Lincoln Center Theater Company, and has been touring it around the country ever since, including a triumphant six-week run at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. He was most recently seen on Broadway in David Auburn’s new drama “The Columnist,” in which Lithgow portrayed famed Washington political columnist Joseph Alsop, a performance which earned Lithgow his sixth Tony nomination. Last year, he finished a wonderfully received four-month stint at London’s National Theatre playing the title role in Arthur Wing Pinero’s “The Magistrate.” Lithgow will return to the New York stage this summer as the title role in “King Lear” for The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park which reunites him with director Daniel Sullivan.
In the early 1980s Lithgow began to make a major mark in films. At that time, he was nominated for Oscars in back-to-back years, for “The World According to Garp” and “Terms of Endearment.” In the years before and after, he has appeared in over 30 films. Notable among them have been “All That Jazz,” “Blow Out,” “Twilight Zone: the Movie,” “Footloose,” “2010,” “Buckaroo Banzai,” “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Memphis Belle,” “Raising Cain,” “Ricochet,” “Cliffhanger,” “Orange County,” “Shrek,” “Kinsey,” and a flashy cameo in “Dreamgirls.” Lithgow’s most recent films include “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; the political comedy “The Campaign,” starring Will Ferrell; and Judd Apatow’s “This is 40.” Up next for Lithgow on the big screen are “The Homesman,” written and directed by Tommy Lee Jones; “The Good Dinosaur” for Disney’s Pixar; and, in August, Ira Sachs’s “Love is Strange,” alongside Alfred Molina, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews.
For his work on television, Lithgow has been nominated for eleven Emmy Awards. He has won five of them, one for an episode of “Amazing Stories,” and three for what is perhaps his most celebrated creation. This was the loopy character of the alien High Commander, Dick Solomon, on the hit NBC comedy series “3rd Rock from the Sun.” In that show’s six-year run, Lithgow also won the Golden Globe, two SAG Awards, The American Comedy Award, and, when it finally went off the air, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. More recently, his diabolical turn as The Trinity Killer in a twelve-episode arc on Showtime’s “Dexter” won him his second Golden Globe and his fifth Emmy.
His other major appearances on television have included roles in “The Day After,” “Resting Place,” “Baby Girl Scott,” “My Brother’s Keeper,” TNT’s “Don Quixote,” HBO’s “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” as the voice of The White Rabbit and “How I Met Your Mother,” making a long-awaited entrance as the father of Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).
And then there is Lithgow’s work for children. Since 1998, he has written nine New York Times best-selling children’s picture books, including The Remarkable Farkle McBride, Marsupial Sue, Micawber, I’m a Manatee, Mahalia Mouse Goes to College, I Got Two Dogs and his most recent book, Never Play Music Right Next To The Zoo. In addition, he has created two Lithgow Palooza family activity books and The Poets’ Corner for Warner Books, a compilation of 50 classic poems aimed at young people, to stir an early interest in poetry. He has performed concerts for children with the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Baltimore, and San Diego Symphonies, and at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. He has released three kids’ albums, “Singin’ in the Bathtub,” “Farkle & Friends,” and the Grammy-nominated “The Sunny Side of the Street.” These concerts and albums have included several his of own songs and rhyming narrations. Together, this prodigious work has won him two Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Awards, and four Grammy nominations.
Lithgow has even dipped his toe into the world of dance. In 2003, the noted choreographer Christopher Wheeldon invited him to collaborate on a new piece for the New York City Ballet. The result was “Carnival of the Animals,” a ballet for fifty dancers, with music by Camille Saint-Saens and with Lithgow’s verse narration. Lithgow himself spoke the narration from the stage. At a certain point he ducked into the wings, climbed into costume, and re-emerged to dance the role of The Elephant. He has performed this feat over twenty times.
In 2011, Harper Collins released Lithgow’s memoir Drama: An Actor’s Education. The book presents scenes of his early life and career that took place before he became a nationally known star. It vividly portrays the worlds of New York, London, and American regional theater, and relives his collaborations with renowned performers and directors including Mike Nichols, Bob Fosse, Liv Ullmann, Meryl Streep, and Brian De Palma. Lithgow’s ruminations on the nature of theatre, performance, and storytelling cut to the heart of why actors are driven to perform, and why people are driven to watch them do it.
Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York, but grew up in Ohio, graduated from high school in Princeton, New Jersey, attended Harvard College, and used a Fulbright Grant to study at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art. This year, Lithgow was honored as a Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal recipient and was inducted into The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2005, he was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Harvard and became the first actor in Harvard’s history to deliver the school’s Commencement Address.
Lithgow has three grown children, two grandchildren, and lives in Los Angeles and New York. He has been married for over thirty years to Mary Yeager, a Professor of Economic and Business History at UCLA.
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET (Tom) starred as Finn Walden in the acclaimed Showtime series “Homeland,” opposite Damian Lewis and Claire Danes.
On the big screen, he will next be seen in Jason Reitman’s upcoming feature “Men, Women and Children.”
Wes Bentley (Doyle) is an American actor who first became well known for his role in the Oscar-winning film “American Beauty,” in which he played the soulful, artistic next-door neighbor of Angela (Mena Suvari), Ricky Fitts. He also portrayed gamemaker Seneca Crane in “The Hunger Games,” and co-starred in “Lovelace” as photographer Thomas.
Born September 4, 1978, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Bentley participated in drama club and cultivated a specific interest in improvisational comedy while attending Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood, Arkansas, and founded an improv troupe with his brother, Patrick Bentley, and friends Damien Bunting and Josh Cowdery. At his mother’s urging, Bentley attended Juilliard School in New York after high school graduation, but only for a short period of time. Soon afterward, Bentley made his onscreen debut in Jonathan Demme’s “Beloved.” Bentley’s other film credits include “The Four Feathers,” “P2,” “Ghost Rider,” “Dolan’s Cadillac,” and “There Be Dragons,” by director Roland Joffe.
In 2010, Bentley made his professional stage debut with Nina Arianda in David Ives’s award-winning play “Venus In Fur.”
Bentley has recently wrapped the following independent features: Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups,” with Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale; “Welcome To Me,” opposite Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell; and “Unconscious,” with Kate Bosworth, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Bentley makes his home in Los Angeles with his son Charles and wife Jacqui Swedberg.
TOPHER GRACE (Getty) who was a weekly fixture in homes across America on the hit comedy series “That ‘70s Show,” seamlessly transitioned from the small screen to the big screen. In 2004, he was honored with Breakthrough Acting Awards by both the National Board of Review and the New York Online Film Critics for his roles in Paul Weitz’s “In Good Company,” starring opposite Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johansson, and Dylan Kidd’s “P.S.,” with Laura Linney.
Grace’s major breakthrough in film came with his debut role in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar nominated “Traffic,” which he followed up with memorable cameos in Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve.” Grace’s additional films include “Spiderman 3,” “Valentine’s Day,” “Predators,” “Mona Lisa’s Smile,” and “Win a Date with Ted Hamilton.”
Grace went on to work with Curtis Hanson on his Emmy-nominated HBO feature “Too Big to Fail”; in the independent romantic comedy “The Giant Mechanical Man,” opposite Jenna Fischer and Malin Akerman; “The Double,” opposite Richard Gere; and “The Big Wedding,” opposite, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, and Amanda Seyfried.
Grace made his producorial debut along with Imagine Entertainment on the feature “Take Me Home Tonight,” in which he starred opposite Anna Faris and Teresa Palmer. He then worked with director Drake Doremus on the experimental film, “The Beauty Inside,” opposite Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Grace recently made his off-Broadway debut starring in Paul Weitz’s “Lonely I’m Not,” opposite Olivia Thirlby, receiving great acclaim. He will next be seen in “A Many Splintered Thing,” an offbeat romantic comedy in which he stars opposite Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan and Aubrey Plaza.
Next year, Grace will be seen starring in the supernatural thriller “Home” for producer Leonardo DiCaprio. Grace is currently in production on Lionsgate’s “American Ultra,” opposite Jessie Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart.
MICHAEL CAINE (Professor Brand) is a two-time Academy Award winner, who won his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters,” for which he also received Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations. He took home his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Lasse Hallström’s “The Cider House Rules,” also winning a Screen Actors Guild Award and earning Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations.
Caine has garnered four Oscar nominations for Best Actor, the first coming in 1966 for the title role in “Alfie,” for which he also received a Golden Globe nomination and a New York Film Critics Award. He earned his second Oscar nod, as well as a Golden Globe nomination and an Evening Standard Award, for the part of Milo Tindle in 1972’s “Sleuth,” opposite Laurence Olivier. His role in “Educating Rita” brought him his third Oscar nomination, as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards. He gained his latest Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations for his work in 2002’s “The Quiet American,” for which he also won a London Film Critics Circle Award.
Caine previously won Golden Globe and London Film Critics Circle Awards and received a BAFTA Award nomination, all for Best Supporting Actor, for “Little Voice.” He won his latest London Film Critics Circle Award for his performance in Christopher Nolan’s period drama “The Prestige.” It was his second film for the director following their collaboration on the 2005 hit “Batman Begins,” in which Caine played Bruce Wayne’s butler and confidant, Alfred. In 2008 and 2012, he reprised the role of Alfred in Nolan’s blockbusters “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
In 2012, he also completed working with director Sandra Nettleback on “Mr. Morgan’s Last Love,” based on the novel “La Douceur Assassine” by Francoise Dorner. He most recently completed working on Louis Leterrier’s “Now You See Me,” with Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, and Woody Harrelson.
Caine was born Maurice Micklewhite in South London in 1933 and developed an interest in acting at an early age. Upon his discharge from the Queen’s Royal Regiment and Royal Fusiliers in 1953, he began pursuing his career. Taking his stage name from the title “The Caine Mutiny,” he toured Britain in a variety of plays and began appearing in British films and television shows.
In 1964, Caine landed his first major film role as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in “Zulu.” The following year, he starred in the hit thriller “The Ipcress File,” earning his first of 37 BAFTA Award nominations for his portrayal of secret agent Harry Palmer. However, it was his Oscar-nominated performance in the seminal sixties film “Alfie” that catapulted Caine to international stardom. During the late 1960s, he went on to star in 11 films, including “The Ipcress File” sequels, “Funeral in Berlin” and “Billion Dollar Brain”; “Gambit,” earning a Golden Globe nomination; “Hurry Sundown”; “Woman Times Seven”; “Deadfall”; “The Magus”; “The Italian Job”; and “Battle of Britain.”
Over the next two decades, Caine starred in more than 40 films, including Robert Aldrich’s “Too Late the Hero”; “X, Y and Zee,” opposite Elizabeth Taylor; John Huston’s “The Man Who Would Be King”; “Harry and Walter Go to New York”; Richard Attenborough’s “A Bridge Too Far”; the Neil Simon comedy “California Suite”; Brian De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill”; John Huston’s “Victory”; Sidney Lumet’s “Deathtrap”; Stanley Donen’s “Blame It on Rio”; John Frankenheimer’s “The Holcroft Covenant”; Neil Jordan’s “Mona Lisa”; and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” for which he received a Golden Globe nomination.
Since then, Caine has starred in such films as “Blood and Wine,” “Quills,” “Miss Congeniality,” and “Austin Powers: Goldmember,” Gore Verbinski’s “The Weather Man,” Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men,” the title role in the independent film “Harry Brown,” and reuniting with Christopher Nolan in 2010’s smash hit “Inception.” He lent his voice to Lord Redbrick in “Gnomeo & Juliet” and also appears in “Journey 2: Mysterious Island” for New Line/Warner Bros.
Also an author, Caine wrote an autobiography entitled “What’s It All About?” as well as “Acting on Film,” a book based on a series of lectures he gave on BBC Television. His latest memoir, “The Elephant to Hollywood,” was published to much acclaim in 2010 by Henry Holt and Co. in the United States.
In the 1992 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Caine was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.), and eight years later he received a knighthood.
Caine’s upcoming film work includes Matthew Vaughn’s “Secret Service,” and the American Thriller “Eliza Graves,” based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Caine is currently filming Oscar-winning filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Youth.”
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (Director/Writer/Producer) is an award-winning filmmaker who has been honored for his work as a director, writer and producer. Nolan and his wife and producing partner, Emma Thomas, also helm their own production company, Syncopy.
Nolan wrote, directed and produced “The Dark Knight Rises,” the conclusion to his blockbuster trilogy, which began in 2005 with “Batman Begins,” starring Christian Bale in the title role. Three years later, Nolan directed, co-wrote, and produced “The Dark Knight,” which went on to gross more than a billion dollars at the global box office and received worldwide critical acclaim. In addition, Nolan was nominated for a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award, Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award and Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award for his work on the film, which also received eight Oscar® nominations. In bringing the story to a close, 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” earned more than one billion dollars worldwide. Nolan also served as a producer on the Superman film series reboot “Man of Steel,” directed by Zack Snyder, released in June 2013.
In 2010, Nolan captivated critics and audiences with the acclaimed sci-fi thriller “Inception,” which he directed and produced from his own original screenplay. The thought-provoking drama was a worldwide hit, earning more than $800 million dollars and becoming one of the most talked-about films of the year. Among its many honors, “Inception” won four Academy Awards® and received four more Oscar® nominations, including two for Nolan, for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Nolan was also recognized by his peers with DGA and PGA Award nominations, and won a WGA Award for best original screenplay.
Born in London, Nolan began making movies at an early age with his father’s Super-8mm camera. While studying English Literature at University College London (UCL), he shot 16mm films at UCL’s film society, where he learned the guerrilla film techniques he would later use to make his first feature, “Following.” The noir thriller was recognized at a number of international film festivals prior to its theatrical release.
Nolan’s second film was the independent feature “Memento,” which he directed from his own screenplay, based on a short story by Jonathan Nolan. Starring Guy Pearce, the film brought Nolan numerous honors, including Academy Award® and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay; Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay; and a DGA Award nomination. Nolan went on to direct the critically acclaimed psychological thriller “Insomnia,” starring Oscar® winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank; and directed, co-wrote and produced the mystery thriller “The Prestige,” starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman.
EMMA THOMAS (Producer) has produced a wide range of successful and critically acclaimed films. Together with her husband, Christopher Nolan, she also heads up their own production company, Syncopy.
Thomas recently concluded her producing work on Nolan’s Dark Knight film franchise with “The Dark Knight Rises,” which took in more than a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. She had earlier produced the 2005 hit “Batman Begins,” followed by 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” which shattered box-office records on its way to grossing more than one billion dollars worldwide. Thomas was honored with her first Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award nomination for her work on the film. “The Dark Knight” also received eight Academy Award® nominations, winning four, and nine BAFTA Award nominations, among its honors.
In 2010, Thomas received an Oscar® nomination as a producer on the widely acclaimed sci-fi thriller “Inception,” which was written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Earning more than $800 million dollars at the worldwide box office, the film garnered numerous honors, receiving four Academy Awards® and four more Oscar® nominations, as well as four Golden Globe nominations and nine BAFTA Award nominations, all including Best Picture. Thomas also received a PGA Award nomination.
Thomas studied at the prestigious University College London before beginning her career at Working Title Films in physical production.. In 1996, she produced the independent feature “Following”; shot on a shoestring budget and on weekends over the course of a year, the noir thriller captured the art of guerilla filmmaking at its best. Prior to its release, the film went on to gain recognition at film festivals around the world and received international distribution.
Thomas then served as an associate producer on the internationally acclaimed independent film “Memento.” The film went on to win a number of awards, including an Independent Spirit Award, a British Independent Film Award, and several critics groups’ awards for Best Film. On the heels of this success, Thomas co-produced her first major studio release, the hit psychological thriller “Insomnia,” starring Oscar® winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.
Thomas also produced “The Prestige,” starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as two magicians whose jealous obsessions lead to tragedy and murder. The Christopher Nolan-directed film earned two Academy Award® nominations, for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography.
LYNDA OBST (Producer) is a film & television producer who has made such films as: “Adventures in Babysitting,” “The Fisher King,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The Siege,” “One Fine Day,” “Hope Floats,” “Contact” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” among others. Obst executive produced NBC’s Emmy nominated miniseries “The 60’s,” and is currently an executive producer on TVLAND’s “Hot in Cleveland” and SyFy’s “Helix.”
As an author, Obst wrote the best-selling book “Hello He Lied: And Other Truths from the Hollywood Trenches,” and recently released her second book about the entertainment industry, “Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business,” an LA Times bestseller, published by Simon & Schuster. She has written on industry issues, gender issues and politics for Atlantic.com, Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, Harpers, L.A. Times, and New York Magazine, among others.
Obst grew up in suburban New York, received her Bachelor’s degree from Pomona College, and studied Philosophy in the graduate program at Columbia University. After Columbia, she began her film and journalism career as the editor/author of The Rolling Stone History of the Sixties. After that, she became an editor at New York Times Magazine, where she covered such diverse topics as science, philosophy, and publishing.
Obst was recruited to Hollywood by Peter Guber, for whom she developed “Flashdance,” “Clue” and “Contact.” In 1982, she joined The Geffen Company, where she was mentored by David Geffen and worked on “Risky Business” and “After Hours.” Thereafter, she left to partner with producer Debra Hill, forming Hill/Obst Productions at Paramount Pictures. They soon made the iconic teen pic “Adventures in Babysitting,” and went on to produce Terry Gilliam’s Oscar-nominated “The Fisher King,” starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.
Obst began her solo-producing career in 1989, with a deal at Columbia Pictures where she produced Nora Ephron’s directing debut, “This Is My Life,” and executive produced Ephron’s second film, “Sleepless in Seattle.” Obst then moved to Fox, where she produced “The Siege,” starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis and Annette Bening; “Hope Floats,” starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr.; “One Fine Day,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney; and “Someone Like You,” starring Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman.
One of the projects that Obst first developed came to fruition in 1997, when she executive produced “Contact,” directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodie Foster. Obst then moved back to Paramount Pictures, where she produced such films as “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, and “Abandon” the directing debut of Academy-Award® winner Stephen Gaghan. She didn’t limit herself to the big screen. She also executive produced NBC’s Emmy nominated, two-part miniseries “The 60s,” which broke ratings records and featured a best-selling soundtrack. Her latest feature was the release of Ricky Gervais/Matthew Robinson’s directorial debut “The Invention of Lying,” starring Gervais and Jennifer Garner. Obst has since added a television division to her company.
Obst is currently producing both film and television projects out of her office at Sony Pictures.
JONATHAN NOLAN (Writer) earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for the acclaimed noir drama “Memento,” which was based on his intriguing short story “Memento Mori” and also marked his first feature film writing credit. The Oscar nomination was shared with his brother, Christopher Nolan, who also directed the feature.
The brothers subsequently teamed on the screenplay for the mystery thriller “The Prestige,” about a bitter rivalry between two magicians with tragic consequences. Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Scarlett Johansson starred in the film, under Christopher Nolan’s direction.
In 2008, Jonathan Nolan collaborated with Christopher Nolan on the screenplay for the blockbuster “The Dark Knight,” for which they received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination. He then teamed with Christopher Nolan on the screenplay for “The Dark Knight Rises.” “Interstellar” marks their fifth collaboration.
For television, Nolan created the hit drama “Person of Interest,” starring Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson. The show is in its fourth season on CBS.
Most recently, Nolan directed the pilot “Westworld” for HBO. Based on the film by Michael Crichton and co-written with his wife, Lisa Joy, the project stars Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Ed Harris. Nolan and Joy also serve as executive producers alongside J.J. Abrams.
Nolan was born in London and grew up in the Chicago area. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his family.
JORDAN GOLDBERG (Executive Producer) had the good fortune of being introduced to Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas after attending Georgetown University with writer Jonathan Nolan.
Goldberg earned his first production credit as Christopher Nolan’s assistant on “Batman Begins” and was eventually promoted to associate producer on “The Prestige” and “The Dark Knight.” Prior to “Interstellar,” Goldberg served as co-producer on “The Dark Knight Rises” and the Oscar-nominated “Inception.”
JAKE MYERS (Executive Producer) is currently an executive producer on “Mission: Impossible 5,” starring Tom Cruise and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. He previously was an executive producer on McQuarrie’s “Jack Reacher,” also starring Cruise.
Myers’s prior films as an executive producer include “Red” and “Red 2,” “Man on a Ledge,” “Hollywoodland,” and Mikael Hafstrom’s “1408.” He also produced Hafstrom’s “Shanghai.” In addition, Myers was a co-producer on Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm,” “Brooklyn Babylon” and “Jump Tomorrow.”
His credits as a production executive at Miramax Films and Dimension Films include “The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lave Girl in 3-D,” “Derailed,” “The Prophecy: Uprising,” “Dracula II: Ascension” and “Dracula III: Legacy,” “Ella Enchanted,” “Mimic: Sentinel,” “Chicago,” “Darkness,” “Halloween: Resurrection,” and “Dirty Pretty Things.”
KIP THORNE (Executive Producer) is a theoretical physicist who advised the filmmakers of “Interstellar” on the dazzling science that underpins the film. His collaboration with Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, Lynda Obst and visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin to create a cinematic adventure on a foundation of solid science inspired Thorne to author a companion book, titled The Science of Interstellar, which will be released by W. W. Norton & Company on November 7, 2014, simultaneous with the film.
Born in Logan Utah in 1940, Thorne received his B.S. degree from Caltech in 1962 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1965. He returned to Caltech as an Associate professor in 1967 and became Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1970, The William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor in 1981, The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1991, and The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, in 2009. Thorne’s research has focused on Einstein’s general theory of relativity and on astrophysics, with emphasis on relativistic stars, black holes and especially gravitational waves. He was cofounder (with R. Weiss and R.W.P. Drever) of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) Project, with which he is still associated.
Thorne was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972, the National Academy of Sciences in 1973, and the Russian Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society in 1999. He has been awarded the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the Karl Schwarzschild Medal of the German Astronomical Society, the Albert Einstein Medal of the Albert Einstein Society in Berne, Switzerland, the UNESCO Niels Bohr Gold Medal from UNESCO, and the Common Wealth Award for Science, and was named California Scientist of the Year in 2004.
For his book for nonscientists, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy (Norton Publishers 1994), Thorne was awarded the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, the Phi Beta Kappa Science Writing Award, and the (Russian) Priroda Readers’ Choice Award. In 1973 Thorne coauthored the textbook Gravitation, from which most of the present generation of scientists have learned general relativity theory. Fifty-two physicists have received the PhD at Caltech under Thorne’s personal mentorship.
In 2009, Thorne stepped down from his Feynman Professorship at Caltech in order to ramp up a new career in writing, movies and continued scientific research. His current writing focus is a textbook on classical physics coauthored with Roger Blandford. His current research is on the nonlinear dynamics of curved spacetime.
THOMAS TULL (Executive Producer), chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, has achieved great success in the co-production and co-financing of event movies. Since its inception in 2004, Legendary Pictures, the film division of leading media company Legendary Entertainment that also has television and digital and comics divisions, has teamed with Warner Bros. Pictures on a wide range of theatrical features.
The many recent hits released under their joint banner include Zack Snyder’s worldwide hit “Man of Steel” and Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster “Dark Knight” trilogy, which kicked off with “Batman Begins,” followed by the blockbusters “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” The trilogy earned more than $1 billion at the global box office.
This highly successful partnership also produced such films as Snyder’s “300” and “Watchmen” and “300: Rise of an Empire,” which Snyder produced; Ben Affleck’s “The Town”; Nolan’s award-winning action-drama “Inception”; the worldwide hit “Clash of the Titans” and its sequel, “Wrath of the Titans”; and Todd Phillips’ “The Hangover,” “The Hangover Part II,” which is the highest-grossing “R”-rated comedy of all time, and “The Hangover Part III.”
Legendary recently released “As Above/So Below,” “Godzilla,” Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” and Brian Helgeland’s hit drama “42,” the story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Legendary is in postproduction on “Warcraft,” based on Blizzard Entertainment’s award-winning gaming universe.
Tull serves on the board of directors of Hamilton College, his alma mater, and Carnegie Mellon University. He also serves on the boards of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the San Diego Zoo, and is part of the ownership group of the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, for which he also holds a board seat. Tull invests in digital, media and lifestyle businesses through his Tull Media Ventures, a privately held venture fund.
HOYTE VAN HOYTEMA (Director of Photography) is an award-winning cinematographer. A native of The Netherlands, van Hoytema began his career studying at the esteemed Polish National Filmschool in Lodz, where he then went on to shoot several films, commercials, documentaries and TV series in Sweden, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom.
In 2008, van Hoytema’s cinematography of Tomas Alfredson’s critical masterpiece “Let the Right One In” earned him several awards and the attention of world-renowned filmmakers. David O. Russell hired van Hoytema to shoot his 2010 film “The Fighter.” The following year, van Hoytema re-teamed with Alfredson on “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” for which he was nominated for both the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and BAFTA awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography. He then shot Spike Jonze’s futuristic love story “Her” in 2013.
Van Hoytema is currently in prep on “Bond 24” for Sam Mendes.
NATHAN CROWLEY (Production Designer) earned Academy Award nominations for his design work on the period drama “The Prestige” and the blockbuster “The Dark Knight,” for which he also received a BAFTA Award nomination. He previously received a BAFTA Award nomination for “Batman Begins.” In addition, Crowley garnered an Art Directors Guild (ADG) Award for “The Dark Knight,” as well as nominations for “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Batman Begins” and “The Prestige.” He first teamed with Nolan on the director’s crime thriller “Insomnia,” starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.
Crowley received another ADG Award nomination for his design work on Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” His additional film credits include the sci-fi adventure “John Carter”; the romantic drama “The Lake House”; the biopic “Veronica Guerin,” directed by Joel Schumacher; the war drama “Behind Enemy Lines”; and Barry Levinson’s Ireland-set comedy “An Everlasting Piece.”
He previously served as an art director on such films as “Mission: Impossible II,” directed by John Woo; Richard Donner’s “Assassins”; Alan J. Pakula’s “The Devil’s Own”; and “Braveheart,” directed by and starring Mel Gibson.
In addition to his film work, Crowley was the production designer on the BBC television series “The Ambassador.”
LEE SMITH (Editor) earned Academy Award, BAFTA Award and Eddie Award nominations for his work on Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” and, more recently, a BAFTA Award nomination for his work on Nolan’s “Inception.” He and Nolan also collaborated on “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” as well as “The Prestige.”
Smith has also enjoyed a long association with director Peter Weir, earning an Academy Award nomination for his editing work on Weir’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” for which he also received an Eddie Award nomination. Smith most recently reunited with Weir for the fact-based drama “The Way Back.” Smith had earlier served as editor and sound designer on Weir’s “The Truman Show,” “Fearless” and “Green Card”; an additional editor on “Dead Poets Society”; and an associate editor and sound designer on “The Year of Living Dangerously,” which began their collaboration.
Hailing from Australia, Smith won an Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award for Best Editing on Gregor Jordan’s “Two Hands,” on which he was also the sound designer. As a sound designer, he also won an AFI Award and earned a BAFTA Award nomination for his work on Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” and won an AFI Award for Phillip Noyce’s “Dead Calm.”
Smith’s credits as an editor also include “Ender’s Game,” “Elysium,” “X-Men: First Class,” “The Rage in Placid Lake,” “Black and White,” “Buffalo Soldiers,” “Risk,” “Joey,” “RoboCop 2,” “Communion” and “Howling III.”
Mary Zophres (Costume Designer) received an Academy Award nomination for her work on “True Grit,” her tenth consecutive collaboration with the Coen Brothers as costume designer, following “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “Intolerable Cruelty,” “The Ladykillers,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Burn After Reading” and “A Serious Man.” Earlier in her career, she was assistant costume designer for the Coens on “The Hudsucker Proxy.” In 2013, she completed work on their latest film, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Also in 2013, she designed the costumes for the period film “Gangster Squad.”
She has also been the costume designer on several movies for Steven Spielberg, including “The Terminal”; “Catch Me If You Can,” which brought her a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Costume Design; and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Zophres has also worked for director Jon Favreau on “Cowboys & Aliens,” starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, and on “Iron Man 2,” starring Robert Downey Jr.
The costume designer’s other films include the Farrelly Brothers’ first three movies, “Dumb and Dumber,” “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary”; Timothy Hutton’s “Digging to China”; Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday”; Terry Zwigoff’s “Ghost World”; Brad Silberling’s “Moonlight Mile”; Bruno Barreto’s “View from the Top”; Nora Ephron’s “Bewitched”; Joe Carnahan’s “Smokin’ Aces”; and Robert Redford’s “Lions for Lambs.”
Zophres earned a degree in art history and studio art from Vassar College before beginning her professional career working in the fashion industry for Norma Kamali and Esprit. She began working in the film industry as the extras wardrobe supervisor on Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July.”
Her latest work was seen in last summer’s “People Like Us,” screenwriter Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut.
PAUL FRANKLIN (Visual Effects Supervisor) won both Oscar and BAFTA Awards for Best Achievement in Visual Effects as the visual effects supervisor on Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” He previously garnered both Oscar and BAFTA Award nominations for Best Achievement in Visual Effects as the visual effects supervisor on Nolan’s blockbuster “The Dark Knight,” followed in 2013 by a BAFTA Award nomination in the same category for “The Dark Knight Rises.” He earlier received a BAFTA Award nomination for his visual effects work on “Batman Begins.”
He has also served as a visual effects supervisor on two Harry Potter films: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
Franklin graduated from Oxford University, where he studied Fine Art, specializing in sculpture and experimenting with film and video. The graphics and effects he created for a series of short films caught the attention of the London visual effects community, leading to work in television advertising and feature films.
In 1998, Franklin joined with a group of equally experienced visual effects artists to form Double Negative Visual Effects. Starting with an initial core team of ten, the company has grown to be one of the world’s leading visual effects studios, employing more than a thousand people worldwide.
HANS ZIMMER (Composer) has scored more than 100 films, which have, combined, grossed over 22 billion dollars at the worldwide box office. He has been honored with an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, three Grammys, an American Music Award, and a Tony Award. In 2003, ASCAP presented him with the prestigious Henry Mancini award for Lifetime Achievement for his impressive and influential body of work. He also received his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December 2010.
Some of his most recent works include “Son of God”; “Winter’s Tale”; “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” ;”Transformers: Age of Extinction”; Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave”; Ron Howard’s “Rush”; Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel”; History Channel’s miniseries “The Bible”; the Christopher Nolan-directed films “Inception,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises”; and Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.”