Christopher Nolan Biography
Christopher Jonathon James Nolan (born 30.07.1970)
Christopher Nolan is an English born British-American film maker specialising in directing, screenwriting and producing. Nolan has been critically recognised for his work from acclaimed organisations such as the Academy Awards (Oscars), British Association of Film and Television (BAFTA's) and the Directors Guild of America for his unique visuals, complex narrative structures, ambiguous character development and his strong connection to the darker side of human nature inspired by film noir.
Nolan is recognised for his high budget, box office hits such as the Batman: Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception as well as his smaller psychological thrillers such as Insomnia, The Prestige and Memento.
Christopher Nolan: Childhood
Christopher Nolan was born in London to an English Father who worked as an Advertising copywriter and American mother who worked as a flight attendant. As a duel-citizen, Christopher Nolan grew up between Chicago and London.
At the young age of seven Christopher was taken to Leicester Square by his father to view 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nolan stated "I remember very clearly just the experience of being transported to another world. I was a huge Star Wars fan at the time. But this was a completely different way of experiencing science fiction. I was seven years old, so I couldn't claim to have understood the film. I still can't claim that. But as a seven-year old, I didn't care about understanding the film. I just felt this extraordinary experience of being taken to another world."
Whilst Nolan was living in Chicago he made short films with Academy Award nominated documentary director Roko Belic. They collaborated on an 8mm short film, Tarantella (1989) which was shown at an independent film and video showcase, (Image Union) on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). The pair were also associated with photo-journalists, Dan Eldon's African charity projects in the early 1990's.
Christopher was educated at British independent school Haileybury and Imperial Service College in Hertfordshire before going to read English Literature at University College London (UCL) which later became a landmark to be included in many of his film scenes. Christopher Nolan chose UCL due to its notable filmmaking facilities, as it supplied 16 mm cameras for students to work on and had its own Steenbeck editing suit. Nolan realised that reading literature also allowed him to manipulate and utilize author's narrative freedom for filmmaking.
Whilst Nolan stayed at the university he was appointed president of the Union's Film Society (one of the oldest and most prestigious film societies in England). He would screen 35mm feature films (along with his long time producer Emma Thomas) during the school year and would use any money he earned to film 16mm films during the summers. Upon graduating he was announced an Honorary Fellow of UCL for his contribution and distinction in the arts.
Nolan directed corporate videos and industry films before moving to Los Angeles and becoming a script reader.
Christopher Nolan: Directing Career
Nolan began his career in film making with a series of short films, which he, himself funded with equipment supplied by his film society. Larceny (1995) consisted of restricted cast, crew and equipment and was shot over a period of a single weekend and was displayed at Cambridge Film Festival in 1996. It has been considered one of the best shorts produced by UCL in recent generations.
Nolan wrote, directed, co-produced, edited and photographed Doodlebug, a short film about a single mans attempt to kill a 'bug' with a shoe. The film was based on a German writers style where real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical occur defined as: Kafkaesque after the author. Jeremy Theobald played the only actor in the short film.
Nolan directed his first feature film, Following in 1998 starring Jeremy Theobald who had previously been involved in Nolan's short, Doodlebug. The film was made on a small £3000 budget and shot over weekends as to not disrupt the cast and crews day jobs. Nolan was primarily working with friends whom he had met through the film society at UCL including film composer David Julyan who would later go on to work for Christopher Nolan on Memento, Insomnia and the Prestige. The film was shot in black and white in order to reduce costing of lighting. Nolan stated it also helped in creating the visual style producing harsh shadows.
The film was screened at the 1998 San Francisco film festival where it received notable recognition from Adrian Curry who obtained the US distribution rights for his company, Zeitgeist Films. Upon working the festival circuit, Nolan met future Academy Award winning cinematographer Wally Pfister who had shot The Highline which was in competition at Sundance Film Festival.
Following won several awards during its festival season including the prestigious Tiger award at the Rotterdam film festival.
Due to the success of Following, Nolan was offered the opportunity to make Memento: an original film based on Christopher Nolan's brothers (Jonathon) short story about an individual (played by Guy Pierce) who suffers from anterograde amnesia, and therefore must use notes and his body tattoos to find his wife's killer. Aaron Ryder an executive at Newmarket films stated it was: 'perhaps the most innovated script I have ever seen'. The film was given a budget of $4.5 million and Nolan collaborated with fellow filmmaker Wally Pfister who was the cinematographer/director of photography. Pre-production of the film lasted seven weeks and included multiple location changes in order to create a more realistic and nourish atmosphere to the film.
Memento was praised for its debatable narrative structure and realistic medical interpretation of amnesia.
Following the success of Memento, Nolan went onto direct Insomnia (recommended by Steven Soderbergh to Warner Brothers) a psychological thriller based on a Norwegian film of the same name, with major plot and character changes. The film starred Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. Nolan and Pfister worked carefully with light making the never setting sun of Alaska (where the film is set) a central reference point in the story. The film obtained $113 million worldwide and became Nolan's first commercial success for Warner Brothers.
In 2005 Nolan co-wrote and directed the fifth Batman reboot, Batman Begins starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman and co-starring Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Nolan and David S. Goyer convinced Warner Brothers to allow a commercially unknown director to direct the re-boot. The film relied on its realistic, human characteristics in the dark setting which Nolan understood and had previous success with. The film used stunt doubles and practical effects, aiming to avoid computer generated visual effects.
The film received commercial and critical recognition becoming the 9th highest grossing film of 2009 and praise from previous Batman directors, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Wally Pfister was nominated for an Academy Award for best Cinematography for whilst the film achieved five BAFTA nominations.
Between the Batman sequel, Nolan co-wrote, directed and co-produced The Prestige, starring Batman Begins stars Michael Caine and Christian Bale. The cast also included Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson and was based on a novel written by Christopher Priest about two rivalling magicians in the 19th century. Like Nolan's other films the narrative was carefully constructed into three stages to correspond with the film. The film achieved two Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
Nolan returned to his Batman franchise in 2008 with the release of The Dark Knight written by Christopher and his brother, based on a story devised by Christopher and Goyer. Heath Ledger co-starred along side Christian Bale as the new villain, The Joker and won an Academy Award for best supporting actor. Ledger died 6 months before the release of the film due to a toxic combination of prescribed drugs which affected Warner Brothers marketing scheme out of respect for the actor. The film was nominated for another seven Oscars, which it also won best sound. The film achieved an impressive worldwide gross of $1,004,558,444.
After the success of The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers signed Nolan on to direct Inception for a seven figure salary. Nolan co-wrote, directed and co-produced Inception which starred Leonardo DiCaprio alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page and Cillian Murphy (whom Nolan had previously worked with in both the Batman films). Both Nolan and Pfister experimented with cameras using a variety of different formats to create a dreamlike state to correspond to the films themes. The film grossed over $800 million worldwide and won four Oscars out of the eight it was nominated for including best cinematography for Pfister.
Nolan returned to the Batman franchise to direct the third and final Batman instalment. The Dark Knight Rises starred Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine as well as Inception stars Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon Levitt being added to the cast. Like the previous films in the series the film achieved notable, critical and public success becoming the thirteenth film to achieve over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Nolan teamed up with Goyer to Produce Man of Steel a Superman reboot to follow the same human approach to superheroes as the Batman franchise did. Zack Snyder was announced as director and was personally recommended by Nolan due to his visual and character style in 300 and Watchmen.
Christopher Nolan: Personal Life
In 1997 Nolan married long time girlfriend who he met at UCL and long time working producer who owns shares Syncopy productions with Christopher Nolan.
Nolan has acknowledged that he does not see the requirements with mobile phones or e-mail addresses nor the need for computer visually effects and therefore avoids them if possible in his films.
Nolan is often known for wearing a suit on set out of respect for his crew and stating he went to a boarding school where he grew up in one. It's just what he's comfortable in.