If you read my review of Inception not long ago, you know that I sung the praises of Christopher Nolan and his cast. Inception was an incredible film, almost flawless in its execution, and just plain fun in every conceivable way. After the film, I had the opportunity to participate in the Inception Press Junket — almost the entire cast on stage, and hear all about the development of the film — from concept, to production, and music — I’ve got some behind the scenes goodness to share with you today.
On the secrecy of Christopher Nolan and movie hype:
Christopher Nolan: It’s certainly difficult to balance marketing a film and putting it out there to everybody to wanting to keep it fresh for the audience. My most enjoyable movie-going experiences have always been going to a movie theater, sitting there, the lights go down, and a film comes on the screen that you don’t know everything about. You don’t know every plot turn and every character movement that’s going to happen. I want to be surprised and entertained by a movie. So, that’s what we tried to do for the audience.
Obviously we also have to sell the film and that’s a balance that I believe Warner Bros is striking very well. I suppose, yes, at a point keeping something secret does lend itself to its own degree of hype, but I don’t really think of it as secrecy. I just think of it as an appropriate — you know, we invite the audience to come and see it based on some of the imagery and some of the plot ideas and premise, but we don’t want to give everything away. I think too much is given away too often in movie marketing these days.
Leonardo DiCaprio on reading the screenplay for Inception and seeing the product on film:
Leonardo DiCaprio: What was very interesting for me was reading the original screenplay. Obviously, his (Nolan) story structure was very ambitious in the fact that it was simultaneously four states of the human subconscious that represented different dream states, and each one affected the other. What Chris talked about, very early on with us was being able to go to these six different locations around the world; what was startling to me in how sort of complicated the screenplay was was seeing it in a visual format — that’s the sort of magic of movie making. You clearly identify one scenario with the other, and it’s a completely different experience. You know, when you’re at the snow-capped mountains of Canada, or whether you’re in a van or an elevator shaft, or Paris, or London — you experience it and have a visual reference. It was a lot easier to understand than what I ever thought it would be. That’s a testament to how engaging movies are, and the visual medium is.
Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception:
Christopher Nolan: Well, I like films where the music and the sound design at times are almost indistinguishable. One of the interesting things that happened early on is the Edith Piaf song that’s in the film was always indicated in the script. It had always been that choice of song, and right at the beginning in our post production process I had to make the decision of, “Do I get the sound department, or do I get the music guys.” You know, do I get Hans to manipulate that track to where it sort of sounds as if you’re hearing through the dream and slows down and gets massive and all the rest.
It was an interesting way to go, and what I decided to do was give it to Hans and let him run with it and see if in some way it might inform elements of the score, becase we always knew and we talked in early conversations about — towards the action climax of the film, there was going to be a need for the score to interweave seemlessly with this source cue, which is this extremely difficult technical thing to do.
Hans Zimmer: Well, it was sort of a fun thing to do as well because the ambition was at one point — Chris and I, we like having a chat about these things. We talked forever about it. The ambition you have at one point the Edith Piaf song going against another piece of music which is cuts across with a different time — and all of these sorts of puzzles. I think both Chris and I were both very pleased that at one point you have three different times going on and three different things going on. Chris and I have a strange way of working from the normal movie process.
After all of those conversations and after reading the script, and some more conversations, Chris went out and shot the film and the first thing he did — he wouldn’t show it to me until I’d written the music. I think it forced us — not out of meanness or anything, it just seemed like an interesting idea to see if there was some sort of synchronicity, and letting me use my imagination to its fullest as opposed to being constricted by cuts or images. So, in a funny way I think what happened to us, we did do some of this sort of shared dreaming thing and proved that it’s possible, because when I finally saw the film, and Chris had laid in all my music, I was actually quite surprised how well these two worlds existed together. That was a very unusual of going about it.
See what Christopher Nolan had to say about working with Ken Watanabe and the zero gravity fight scenes on Page 2.
On Working with Ken Watanabe
Leonardo DiCaprio: I’ll just be the first to say, Ken should be a national treasure in Japan. He’s an unbelievably talented actor, and you couldn’t find more of a gentleman. He’s sweet and kind, and he’s extremely thoughtful in the work that he does — and, you know…one of the best actors around. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this guy.
Christopher Nolan: I had worked with Ken on Batman Begins, and I had such a good time on the days we worked together; I really wanted to find something else to do where we could work longer together and give him a bigger thing to do. It’s just been a complete pleasure. He’s just been a wonderful actor to work with, and I think his performance in the film is extraordinary. He really adds immeasurably to what Inception is.
On training for the hallways fight sequences and the zero gravity stunts
Christopher Nolan: Well, I’ll leave Joe to tell you the bad stuff, but really — the thing I’d just like to point out that people might not be aware of watching it is that we had a stunt guy that looked exactly like Joe, made up perfectly, and he stood there on set everyday for three weeks and didn’t do a thing because Joe insisted on doing absolutely everything himself apart from one shot. There is one shot where the stunt guy performed. Everything he did himself, and he did just the most incredible job with these bizarre rigs and bizarre torture devices.
Joseph Gordon Levitt: It was just about the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set. It’s also probably the most pain I’ve ever been in on a movie set, physically — but you know, pain in a good way like athletes must get when they have to put on their pads and wrap their ankles and they have to get a little beat up throughout the day, but that’s just, you know — part of slamming yourself into walls and jumping around all day. I was really grateful to the whole stunt team. Stunt teams can be a little, uh…exclusionary toward actors, and that wasn’t the case here.
Tom Hardy on his action scenes
Tom Hardy: There wasn’t a lot of action, actually. I’d just come off a cage fighting film, and I had been pretty badly beaten up on that. I was a bit broken; I had broken toes, ribs, a wrist and uh — it was nice to wear nice suits, and have a tan, and do slippers and cardigans. It wasn’t until the end of the shoot when we went to Calgary that they wrote in a couple of extra Skidoo (snowmobile) scenes, and introduced me to a pair of skis for the first time in my life, tied me to the back of a skidoo and in desperation to get the shot as quickly as possible, sent me to the top of the mountain and down it a few times. They gave me some claymores and hand grenades, and a rifle and I went back to business, which I enjoy — thoroughly.
Stay tuned for the second part of the Inception press junket Thursday.