Christopher Nolan Writer | Producer | Director
Date of Birth 30 July 1970, London, England, UK
Birth Name Christopher Johnathan James Nolan
Height 5' 11¼" (1.81 m)
Best known for his cerebral, often nonlinear storytelling, acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. Over the course of 15 years of filmmaking, Nolan has gone from low-budget independent films to working on some of the biggest blockbusters ever made.
At 7 years old, Nolan began making short movies with his father's Super-8 camera. While studying English Literature at University College London, he shot 16-millimetre films at U.C.L.'s film society, where he learned the guerrilla techniques he would later use to make his first feature, Following (1998), on a budget of around $6,000. The noir thriller was recognized at a number of international film festivals prior to its theatrical release, and gained Nolan enough credibility that he was able to gather substantial financing for his next film.
Nolan's second film was Memento (2000), which he directed from his own screenplay based on a short story by his brother Jonathan. Starring Guy Pearce, the film brought Nolan numerous honors, including Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay. Nolan went on to direct the critically acclaimed psychological thriller, Insomnia (2002), starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank.
The turning point in Nolan's career occurred when he was awarded the chance to revive the Batman franchise in 2005. In Batman Begins (2005), Nolan brought a level of gravitas back to the iconic hero, and his gritty, modern interpretation was greeted with praise from fans and critics alike. Before moving on to a Batman sequel, Nolan directed, cowrote and produced the mystery thriller The Prestige (2006), starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as magicians whose obsessive rivalry leads to tragedy and murder.
In 2008, Nolan directed, cowrote and produced The Dark Knight (2008) which went on to gross more than a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Nolan was nominated for a Directors Guild of America (D.G.A.) Award, Writers Guild of America (W.G.A.) Award and Producers Guild of America (P.G.A.) Award, and the film also received eight Academy Award nominations.
In 2010, Nolan captivated audiences with the sci-fi thriller Inception (2010), which he directed and produced from his own original screenplay. The thought-provoking drama was a worldwide blockbuster, earning more than $800,000,000 dollars and becoming one of the most discussed and debated films of the year. Among its many honors, Inception received four Academy Awards and eight nominations, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Nolan was recognized by his peers with D.G.A. and P.G.A. Award nominations, as well as a W.G.A. Award for his work on the film.
One of the best-reviewed and highest-grossing movies of 2012, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) concluded Nolan's Batman trilogy. Due to his success rebooting the Batman character, Warner Bros. enlisted Nolan to produce their revamped Superman movie Man of Steel (2013), which opened in the summer of 2013. In 2014, Nolan directed, wrote and produced the science fiction epic Interstellar (2014), starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain. Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. released the film on November 5, 2014 to positive reviews and strong box-office results, grossing over $670 million dollars worldwide.
Nolan currently resides in Los Angeles, California with his wife, producer Emma Thomas, and their children. Nolan and Thomas also have their own production company, Syncopy.
Emma Thomas (1997 - present) (4 children)
Begins his movies and introduces his main characters with a close up of their hands performing an action.
Frequently casts Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.
Opening scenes are usually a flashback or a piece of a scene from the middle or ending of the movie.
Films conclude with the two central characters discussing the results which have stemmed from the events of the film.
Non-linear timelines (Following (1998), Memento (2000), Batman Begins (2005) and The Prestige (2006))
Crosscutting several scenes of parallel action to build to a climax (The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Interstellar (2014)).
His endings have a recurring theme of justified dishonesty. (Examples: Guy Pearce's "Do I lie to myself to be happy" monologue in Memento (2000), Michael Caine's closing remark that the audience "wants to be fooled" from The Prestige (2006) and Christian Bale's rationale of how the citizens of Gotham City "deserve to have their faith rewarded" in the ending of The Dark Knight (2008)).
His films usually revolve around characters that are afflicted with some kind of psychological disorder. (Examples: Guy Pearce's short-term memory "condition" in Memento (2000), Al Pacino's titular sleeping disorder in Insomnia (2002), Christian Bale's phobia of bats in Batman Begins (2005) and Aaron Eckhart's dual personality in The Dark Knight (2008) and Leonardo DiCaprio not being able to grasp onto reality in Inception (2010)).
The storyline in his films usually involves a determined character seeking vengeance over the death of a loved one. (Examples: Guy Pearce in Memento (2000), Christian Bale in Batman Begins (2005), Hugh Jackman in The Prestige (2006), Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight (2008), and Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)).
Often casts actors in roles contrary to their usual screen persona
Frequently uses hard cuts when transitioning to the next scenes. This is most prominent in his films from Batman Begins (2005) onward, especially in The Dark Knight (2008), where, in some instances, the hard cuts he uses will go so far as to nearly cut off character's lines in order to quickly and efficiently get to the next scene.
All of his films contain a major referential connection to his prior film (e.g. the Joker performs a deadly magic trick in The Dark Knight (2008); Nolan's previous film, The Prestige (2006), was about magicians performing magic tricks that turn deadly).
His protagonists will often resort to tactics of physical or psychological torture to gain information (e.g. (SPOILERS) in Batman Begins (2005), Batman uses the hallucinagenic fear compound on Jonathan Crane in order to gain information about his "boss"; in The Prestige (2006), Angier buries Borden's assistant alive in order to get Borden to talk; in The Dark Knight (2008), Batman throws Salvatore Maroni off a building, breaking his legs, in order to gain information about the Joker; in the same movie, Harvey Dent puts a gun to one of the Joker's henchman and flips a coin for his life every second he doesn't talk to scare him into talking. Also in this movie, Batman uses physical intimidation for the interrogation of the Joker; in Insomnia (2002), Dormer drives into oncoming traffic in order to scare the victim's best friend into talking; in Inception (2010), Cobb demands that Saito discloses information to him on gunpoint; in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Batman physically threatens Bane to accquire the location of the trigger).
His characters often gain a physical or psychological handicap in the course of the film (SPOILERS: in The Prestige (2006), Angier gets a crippled leg while Borden loses two fingers; in The Dark Knight (2008), Salvatore Maroni gets a crippled leg; in Insomnia (2002), Dormer gets insomnia; in Memento (2000), Leonard gains a memory handicap, the event of which is shown in flashback during the film)
His films often have obsessive protagonists with a troubled past, who are obsessed to gain justice by any means in life (e.g. Leonard in Memento (2000), Al Pacino's character in Insomnia (2002), Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005). Also the protagonist of Following (1998) and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige (2006) were obsessive)
Lonely troubled protagonists who are unwillingly forced to hide their true identity from the world.
Typically ends his films with a character giving a philosophical monologue
Frequently in his films, at some crucial moment, the protagonists feel let down or betrayed by their mentors whom they have been following blindly and with respect. (e.g. The protagonist being cheated by Cobb in Following (1998), Leonard "discovering" that Teddy is the culprit in Memento (2000), Hilary Swank's character respecting Al Pacino as a great detective in Insomnia (2002) only to find out that he is also flawed, Bruce Wayne and Liam Neeson's character's confrontation in Batman Begins (2005), Cutter not supporting Angier in The Prestige (2006), Ariadne feeling betrayed by her mentor Cobb when he does not tell her about Mal's domain over his dreams in Inception (2010), Blake feeling let down by Gordon when his lie about Dent's death is exposed in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Murph finding out the truth about Professor Brand's work in Interstellar (2014).
His films' protagonists have mostly lost their loved ones and/or failed in love, a circumstance that causes them turn into malevolent and/or apathetic forever. (e.g. Leonard in Memento (2000) has lost his wife in a brutal murder in the past, Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005) has lost Rachel Dawes' faith in him throughout the film, Borden in The Prestige (2006) does not get his wife's love because of his character's 'act' in the movie and Angier loses his beloved in a mishap during a magic trick, Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight (2008) loses Rachel as well as Bruce Wayne is not able to win her love back)
Often casts non-American actors in American roles. (e.g. Guy Pearce, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson)
Uses camera revolving around a character. (The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2005), Memento (2002) and Inception (2010))
Displays the title before the ending credits (Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2006), The Dark Knight Rises (2012))
The original scores of his films usually play over most of the film, or one piece of music will play over many small scenes, as if they are edited in a montage; there are few moments in his films when there is no music playing in the background.
Characters who are unreliable narrators (e.g. Borden, through his journal, in The Prestige (2006), the Joker through his conflicting monologues in The Dark Knight (2008), and Leonard through his memory problem and 'conditioning' from Memento (2000), Dom with his mind in Inception (2010)
Very frequently his films contain blackmail, attempted blackmail or a reference to blackmail.
Never uses non-diegetic soundtrack music - soundtrack music is always used diegetically (that is, it is always played from a source within the film that the characters themselves can hear, like a radio..."Non, je ne regrette rien" by Edith Piaf was used by the characters as a kick in Inception (2010))
His films almost always end with the character's fate open to interpretation
Enormous visual scope and heavy emphasis on location and architecture
Villains in his films often threaten to harm the hero's friends or family
His antagonists are often motivated by a philosophical belief rather than money
Often works with editor Lee Smith, composer Hans Zimmer, cinematographer Wally Pfister, production designer Nathan Crowley and wife-producer Emma Thomas.
Frequently uses symmetric image composition, possibly inspired by Stanley Kubrick.
Many of his films contain a scene where the dynamic of a conversation changes when one of the characters reveals that he owns the establishment or event the characters are currently attending/talking about (e.g. a restaurant in The Dark Knight (2008), a charity ball in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), an airline in Inception (2010), or is closely linked with the person who does (a bar in Following (1998)). This strangely specific trademark reaches its furthest extreme in Batman Begins (2005) when, at the end of a scene, Bruce Wayne actually buys the place he is in (a restaurant) to change the dynamic between him and an angry waiter.
His films almost always end with a sudden (and very effective) smash cut to black. (Memento (2002), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), and especially Inception (2010) are prime examples.)
Protagonists have a desire to return to their children (Cobb in Inception (2010) and Cooper in Interstellar (2014))
Gained major funding during the 1999 Hong Kong Film Festival by showing his film Following (1998) and then asking the audience to donate money to his next film Memento (2000).
Older brother of Jonathan Nolan.
Nephew of John Nolan and Kim Hartman.
Is red and green colorblind.
Received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from University College London.
Is a huge fan of James Bond, and said to David S. Goyer, that his favorite James Bond movie is On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).
His top ten favorite movies are: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Black Hole (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Chinatown (1974), The Hitcher (1986), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), The Man Who Would Be King (1975) and Topkapi (1964), as well as anything by Stanley Kubrick.
Does not like computer graphics in movies and purposely avoided them when he made Batman Begins (2005).
Following Insomnia (2002), his next project was going to be a Howard Hughes biopic starring Jim Carrey. Nolan had the screenplay written (calling it "one of the best things I've ever written"), but once it became apparent Martin Scorsese was making his own Hughes biopic, The Aviator (2004), Nolan reluctantly tabled his script and took up directing Batman Begins (2005).
Spent his childhood moving back and forth between United Kingdom and the United States. His accent is mostly English, but occasionally varies into an American accent. Nolan is comfortable with and knowledgeable of both cultures.
Has both American and British citizenship.
Is a huge fan of the rock band Radiohead.
Resides in Los Angeles, California with his wife Emma Thomas and their four children.
Always has both his American and British passports with him at all times, just in case of emergency.
As of 2014, 7 out of 9 films Nolan directed are on the IMDB's top 250: The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Begins (2005), Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Interstellar (2014). The two films missing are Insomnia (2002) and Following (1998).
Was doing camera and sound work on training videos before making his film debut.
His film, Interstellar (2014), is the sixth consecutive movie of his to have a role played by Michael Caine.
Considers Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott as his primary influences.
Adapted Ruth Rendell's novel, "The Keys to the Street", into a screenplay that he was set to direct for Fox Searchlight after Insomnia (2002). However, he instead went on to direct Batman Begins (2005). "Keys to the Street" remains unproduced.
First cousin of Miranda Nolan, whom he gave minor roles in Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Miranda's brother Tom had a minor role in Batman Begins (2005).
Is the first director to do three live-action film adaptations of the DC Comics character Batman. Is also the first non-American director to direct a Batman film.
He and Spider-Man (2002) director Sam Raimi are the only directors to do three live-action comic book adaptations of the same character.
Prefers shooting on film stock over digital, and has been outspoken against the threat by studios to phase out the use of film as a choice over digital.
Refuses to use Digital Intermediates for his films, instead opting to use the photochemical timing process.
Is one of the few people (also including his brother Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer) to work on films about DC Comics' two most famous characters and two of the most iconic heroes in Comics, "Batman" and "Superman".
Honored with a hand-print and foot-print ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California on July 7, 2012.
Father of Flora Nolan, Rory Nolan, Oliver Nolan and Magnus Nolan.
He initially directed his Batman films so he could get funding and support for his bigger films. The one he had planned for years was Inception (2010).
After James Cameron, Christopher Nolan is the second director make two films that have grossed more than $1 billion in the worldwide box office (The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)). However, Nolan is the first director to have released both of the billion dollar grossing films in 2D only (James Cameron's Avatar (2009) and Titanic (1997) have both been released in 3D at some point during their releases).
Always refuses to use a second unit in his movies, preferring instead to oversee every shot himself with the DP.
Was inspired to create the Dark Knight trilogy after viewing Richard Donner's Superman films.
Has directed one Oscar winning performance: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008).
Despite directing many acclaimed films, he has never been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.
His most recent films were filmed under fake titles named for his children: The Dark Knight (2008) was "Rory's First Kiss", Inception (2010) was "Oliver's Arrow", The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was "Magnus Rex", and Interstellar (2014) was "Flora's Letter".
Drinks Earl Grey Tea often on set.
Important inspirations for his editing style were the films of Nicolas Roeg and later Terrence Malick, especially his epic The Thin Red Line (1998).
He does not create a story outline before beginning the writing of a screenplay, although he does take copious notes regarding events, characters, and ideas.
Vast majority of Nolan's movies have an interesting common part of the plot - the main protagonist of each of the movies Nolan has directed experience some sort of mind problem, difficulty that significantly contributes to the storyline. In Memento (2000), Leonard suffers a short-term memory loss that has been caused by the murder of his wife. In Insomnia (2002), detective Will Dormer while on prosecution of the suspect accidentally shoots his partner. As a result of this mistake, detective suffers insomnia. Thoughtout the Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012), Bruce Wayne experiences a fear of bats, which inspires him to conquer fear and fight this mental suffering. In The Prestige (2006), magician Angier seeks vengeance on his partner, who he thinks to blame for his wife's death and who constantly experiences visions of the moment his wife dies. In Inception (2010), Cobb suffers the loss of his wife, whose suicide he thinks he provoked. As a result of this, he constantly sees and visualizes his wife, as if he believes that she is still alive.
His first film Following (1998) was made for only 6,000 pounds and was shot on weekends as the cast and crew all had full-time jobs.
Even though he made the Dark Knight Trilogy dark and serious, he admits to being a huge fan of Tim Burton's Batman (1989).
Due to their successful career, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan has developed a dedicated cult following. Many of whom identify themselves as 'Nolanists' who can be described as those who support the ideology of Nolanism.
His inadvertent cult following 'Nolanism' was officially founded in 2014 by Dvir and Orr Ben Asuli. Although it was ultimately inspired by Christopher and his brother: Jonathan Nolan's often "God-like" style of filmmaking. One common word that is associated with the brothers is the religious phrase "Hallelujah", commonly used by "Nolanists".
His British father was an advertising executive and his American mother was a flight attendant and English teacher.