Circuit 3: Christopher Nolan

It is probably way too early in his career to do a Circuit 3 on Christopher Nolan, but with The Dark Knight Rises in theatres (and #1 at the box office for the second week in a row) it seemed like a fine time to recognize the director and help him celebrate his 42nd birthday. Born July 30th, 1970 in London, England, Christopher Jonathan James Nolan has come to be known as one of the finest directors working today, and has put together a resume over the last dozen years as equally impressive, or perhaps greater, than anyone else in that span. He is a dual citizen of both the United Kingdom and the United States, having split his childhood between London and Chicago, Illinois. His filmmaking career began at the crisp, young age of seven, when he would use his father’s Super 8 camera to make short films using his action figures. After studying at Haileybury and Imperial Service College, he continued his studies at University College London, becoming the president of the college film society from 1992 to 1994. Like many directors, Nolan started with short films before taking on his first feature film in 1998.

Nolan’s first feature film was Following (1998), which tells the story of a writer that randomly follows people, and was shown out of chronological order. Aside from directing, Nolan wrote, shot, and edited the film on a small budget. The film’s success in the festival circuit allowed for Nolan to make his next film, Memento (2000), based on the short story Memento Mori by Christopher’s brother, Jonathan Nolan (the two co-wrote the screenplay), and centered around a man who was unable to form new memories due to a head injury that he suffered. Like Following, Memento is told out of order, running in reverse to give us the feeling the main character has of not knowing what came before. Memento brought Nolan a nomination from the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and his first Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, though he failed to be recognized for Best Director by Oscar. Nolan would then go on to remake a Norwegian film called Insomnia (2002), putting his own twist on a story about a Los Angeles homicide detective investigating a murder in Alaska who must also battle the fact that it is always day, and as a result is unable to sleep.

In 2005, Nolan famously rebooted the Batman franchise for Warner Brothers after the series took an eight year hiatus. The first in the series was Batman Begins (2005), which received outstanding critical acclaim along with doing exceptionally well at the box office, and the movie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. The second film in the series, The Dark Knight (2008), exceeded all expectations for the comic book genre, and not only received extraordinary critical praise but also shot up to second all time on the domestic box office list (at that time). And while Nolan would receive his second DGA nomination along with The Dark Knight receiving eight total Oscar nominations, the Academy once again failed to nominate him for Best Director. Two weeks ago, the third and final installment in the Nolan/Dark Knight trilogy debuted. The final box office and awards tally for The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is yet to be determined, but the critical accolades and early financial success is once again attached to the film. It will be interesting to see which of the three films is looked back on as the greatest of the series, being that the trilogy is already being discussed as one of the greatest of all time.

In between the three Batman films Nolan made two other movies. The Prestige (2006) – which was released between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – tells the intense story of two rival magicians, and was co-written between Christopher and his brother Jonathan. Inception (2010) – which was released after The Dark Knight – is a science fiction mind blower that appealed to both critics and audiences alike, and left its viewers debating over its meaning and theorizing over its open ending. Inception would bring Nolan another DGA nom, and yet another Oscar snub for director, though the film would be nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Original Screenplay noms for Nolan.

Christopher Nolan is now working on/tied to several pictures, including Mr. Hughes, a film about Howard Hughes that has been in the works for over eight years. Nolan describes the script as the best thing he has ever written, focusing more on Hughes’ later life, something left unexplored in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004). He has also adapted Ruth Rendell’s novel, The Keys to the Street, but it was moved aside at the time Batman Begins was made. It has yet to be decided if Nolan will direct his adaptation or whether it will be helmed by someone else. It is also rumored that he is interested in making a James Bond film, though there is no confirmation on that just yet.

My Circuit 3 for Christopher Nolan:

  1. Inception (2010)
  2. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  3. The Dark Knight (2008)

What are your three favorite/best Nolan films? View his entire filmography here.