Why Christopher Nolan doesn't allow chairs or water bottles on set

Exclusive: Mark Rylance discusses the director's idiosyncrasies

Christopher Hooton
Friday 28 July 2017 11:26 BST
Future direction: Christopher Nolan on set and on location during the making of ‘Interstellar’
Future direction: Christopher Nolan on set and on location during the making of ‘Interstellar’

Making Dunkirk as intense as it is regarded a great deal of professional intensity on set.

Christopher Nolan is a very serious and deliberate filmmaker, and his latest cast was only too happy to help create the environment and atmosphere on set he felt would make for the best possible finished film.

I asked Dunkirk actor Mark Rylance if Nolan has any directorial idiosyncrasies (listen to the podcast interview in full below), to which he replied: "Very much so; he's very particular about using film and everything being real in front of the camera, so there were a lot of old techniques used in this film to make it look real. The flames on the water and men swimming in them; he really wants to minimise the amount of post-production and CGI stuff.

"He does things like he doesn't like having chairs on set for actors or bottles of water, he's very particular."

Asked why these items, in particular, were banned, Rylance's co-star Barry Keoghan chimed in: "They're distractions - the noise of [the bottles], they're like toys almost, playing around with toys. [The lack of chairs, meanwhile] keeps you on your toes, literally."

Nolan is far from the first director to ask certain items not to be brought to set. Martin Scorsese, for instance, prefers that cast and crew don't wear their wristwatches.

Is 'craftsman' a fair characterisation of Nolan?

"He's definitely into the craft of it, and serious," Rylance said, "he considers everything about it, he has his eye on every aspect of the creation of the film.

"And of course it's also very unusual and very pleasant that it's a husband and wife team, so there isn't a team of suited producers all fretting in the background, there's just Emma, his wife.

"It feels more like when you're involved in a student film and there's a couple. So even though they've become very successful and are able to harness all this resource, you still feel like you with a pair of film graduates who are making something that's personal, that they're enthusiastic about."

Dunkirk is in cinemas now.

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