Chris Nolan Built Giant, Practical Spaceship Interiors For Interstellar

CinemaCon hosted a conversation with Chris Nolan and the exceptionally private director revealed a few details about his wormhole thriller Interstellar. Like the fact that he build practical spaceship interiors on his closed sets. And that sounds awesome.

At the moderated conversation, Nolan touched on a lot of different cinema-related ideas. He said that Star Wars was a "cinematically perfect" experience, and that he was hard at work trying to create that blockbuster family feel from the past on Interstellar. Here's a few highlights from the talk:

Can you describe the kind of role [Matthew McConaughey] plays in Interstellar?

I can't really say much, at all, with the film right now. We're in a fairly early stage because we're coming out in November. This is going to take a bit more to finish the visual effects [on Interstellar]. I can't say too much about the plot of the film. But the character that he's playing playing, I needed someone who is very much an everyman. Very much somebody who the audience could experience the story with, be right there beside him experiencing these very extraordinary events in the film and seeing it through his eyes. Somebody really relatable. And I think Matthew really has those qualities — he's just a phenomenal character and presence in the movie. The performance is shaping out to be something extraordinary.

I understand that on Interstellar you made a decision to use practical locations as much as possible. Rather than CG, what drove that decision?

Many of the films I've tried to do, whether it was the Dark Knight films or Inception that are both very fanciful environments, Interstellar is very much the same vein in regards to that. I always felt that shooting in the real location and trying to capture as much in camera as possible, it maximizes the tack top of the film.

Things really happening, things really being there, it really pays off in terms of the excitement of what you're. What it allows you to do, is then you can involve your visual effects team who come along with all kind of innovative approaches in terms of CG and miniatures, and whatever else you're using. But if you've given them something in camera, then [you receive something of a] much higher quality than if you just shoot a green screen stage, and just throw it to them make it beautiful. You get a lot more out of that with visual effects if you really put the work in.

Can you give an example from the film, that could have been shot CG and you wanted to do it practical?

Well I don't want to say too much about the film. But the one thing that I am happy to talk about briefly, we have spaceship interiors on the film. We wanted to have the real environments the actors were going to be seeing out the windows. We built closed sets of the scale that this ships would be at, we put the reality outside for the actors so we could shoot it like a documentary, like you were really there.

I think it paid huge dividends for the actors in terms of performance and being able to understand what we were doing. … It allowed our Director of Photography and myself to shoot like a documentary, putting the people in real environments. That was a tremendously exciting thing to be able to do. But that's the only thing I'm going to say.

About the discovery of a wormhole through which travelers can go and discover a new land, to make new discoveries. It sounds like time travel film…

It's about interstellar travel. Kip Throne is an executive producer on the project — he's a very brilliant scientist whose dealt with the modern science of wormholes, in particular. He was in from the beginning of the project and he's been an incredible ally. Really it's about wormhole travel to other places we can't reach through normal travel through space, because their time spans far beyond anything you can do. Without saying too much about the plot or the rest of the tone of the film. It's something I've been interested in getting to in my work. It's very different, for me it's been an interesting challenge, I'm really enjoying it.

I grew up in the era that was really a golden age of the blockbuster, when something being a family film didn't have any pejorative connotations. It could be broad-based and very universal in its appeal. I feel like that's something I want to see again, something I want to explore in the tone of this film. Something that really looks at where we are as people, where we might go and how the universe balances the human experience, and really try to not be a film, and try and be an experience people carry with them. And for me it's about harkening back to the films I grew up with and took me to places I'd never imagined.