QUESTION: Once again, you have challenged the audience to stay with you. With such a complex story, how do you keep the production on track with your vision for how things will tie up in the end?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: Well, I think the real truth of that is as much as you'd like to believe that it's just you being on top of everything, you're actually relying massively on the people around you, and particularly the actors, to analyze the script in great detail from the point of view of their specific character so that they have a handle on exactly where the character is on the chronology of things and in the structure of things. And in that way, in that sense, the actor has become your best check on the logic of the piece and way in which it all fits together. So they become really essential collaborators. So the main thing is you have to work with very smart actors.
QUESTION: How important is it to you that all the clues be perceptible by the audience so that they can be found on second viewing?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: I think it's very important that a film that intends and has stated an intention to play tricks on the audience or to fool the audience has to play fair with the audience. And so, for me, anytime you're going to have a reveal in a film, it's essential that it had been shown to the audience as much as possible. What that means is some people are going to figure out very early on; other people not until the end. Everybody watches the film differently. I like films that don't have that unanimity of a response and don't have consensus in the audience. People watch the film in different ways. But what is essential -- and this is the rule of thumb for me in this kind of filming making - is if you go back and watch the film a second time, do you feel that you've been played fair with? Are all the clues in place? Indeed, sometimes these things are even overstated specifically for that reason. And that's very much the approach we took with 'The Prestige.'
QUESTION: Has there ever been a movie that obsessed you because you couldn't figure it out?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: The film that really struck me was Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner.' That was a film I watched many, many times and found endlessly fascinating in its density. But I think the density of that film is primarily visual density and atmospheric and sound density, more so than narrative density. But, yeah, I think for a lot of filmmakers particularly, there will be a film like that in their past that they've really become a little obsessed with and seen too many times, or more times than seems healthy.
QUESTION: In shooting period, you kept things eye-level and that made it seem more real.
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: Yeah. We tried to throw away the period. Period films, to me, are very often alienating to the audience. There is very often a formality, a starchy quality to them. It also comes from the performances and the actors, because they're acting Victorian, which really means that they're just acting the way they've seen previous actors act Victorian. We don't have any real records of the look and sound of the people in the period that aren't in some way performances and in some way formal, because it was a big deal to record any voice or put anybody on film back then. So, our assumption was the world doesn't change that much. Human behavior doesn't change that much. Let's approach this film as if it were a contemporary film.
QUESTION: Did you ever look at Nicolas Roeg's films because your films examine identity similarly to Roeg's.
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: Nicolas Roeg certainly has been a huge influence on the way I look at cinematic storytelling and the possibilities that editing afford in terms of really expressing information to the audience in unusual and surprising ways. I think he's a phenomenal filmmaker for that. So, I would cite him as a big influence.
QUESTION: What kind of support you were able to get in order to create illusions that look like they're really taking place on film but also to get them to reveal those secrets to you?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: The bulk of what we did was based on, particularly, my brother's research and based on what the novel provided. And then, a lot of it is invention on our part, rather than trying to batter down the doors of the Magic Castle and what have you. And then, late in the day, we got Ricky Jay and Michael Weber on as magic consultants, primarily for getting the actors comfortable with the hand movements and techniques that magicians use. Ricky is very careful about what he will reveal. He wouldn't teach me anything that I didn't need to know. He would just ask me, 'Which side will the camera be on?' I think he would literally teach Hugh and Christian half of the trick, because there was only half of it in the film, and so forth. So, he's somebody who is very respectful of the secrecy that needs to be applied to magic and performing.
QUESTION: You also cast him in the film.
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: Yes. He has a small part in the film. I convinced him to do a little cameo in the early part of the film.
QUESTION: How did he feel about that line where he is referred to as a good technician, but boring on stage?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: He had a good sense of humor about it. He knew what it was about.
QUESTION: How did David Bowie become involved here?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: I was looking for somebody to play Tesla who would have extraordinary and immediate charisma. It's a small part in the film, but it's so important for the audience when they see him to immediately invest in the possibilities of what this guy could do for Angier. I felt that any movie star would provide that charisma in the wrong way. It would be distracting, somehow. But Bowie's charisma is in his other-worldly qualities, and it comes from a different place. It's a bit of an odd choice in some ways. To me, it was essential to get him, and luckily, I managed to convince him by telling him that. It was a great privilege to work with him. I've been a fan of his for many, many years.
QUESTION: What do you say David Bowie to get him to take this role?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: You call his agent on the phone, and hopefully, he passes the request on. And then, I actually flew out to New York to convince him, because he doesn't do a lot of film work. He's very picky. And you know, I had to go there in person and really try and convince him, and, luckily, I did.
QUESTION: What was the deal-maker?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: I think probably for him, it was hearing from me and seeing that it was completely sincere that he really was the only guy to play the part. And that, I think, is usually the most compelling argument you could make to an actor.
QUESTION: There is an interesting dichotomy in terms of the duality of the characters in the film, and the fact that you wrote the movie with your brother.
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: It's always a fun collaboration with my brother. I'm very fortunate to be able to work with him. There's an honesty to collaboration. There's a lack of a gender or ego in our conversations. And so you can really throw anything around. It's a great fortunate thing for me that I have people around me - like my brother and my wife, Emma Thomas - who can give an honest opinion about everything, and you can have a really genuine collaboration with.
QUESTION: When did you approach Christian Bale and Michael Caine? Was it during 'Batman Begins'?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: When I'm writing a script, I tend to not think of actors at all, just think of the characters as real characters. So, for that reason, it wasn't until I was completely finished with the script that I even thought about who would play these parts. And then, of course, as soon as I started thinking about it, the two of them seemed very obvious. And indeed, the roles seem written for them. They weren't at all, and I never really talked about it with them until we were finished with the script.
QUESTION: Is there a certain comfort for you to work with actors with whom you've collaborated on other projects?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: There is a comfort factor, and there is a familiarity. But at the same time, there is also a big commitment there, too, spending a lot of intense time with the same people film after film. And they have to be willing to put up with me for a very long time, particularly, as we're talking about doing a sequel to 'Batman Begins.' And so, it will be years we've been working together. So, it's a substantial commitment, but when you work with extraordinary people, you're very keen to repeat the experiment, if possible.
QUESTION: Is 'The Killing Joke' going to be the basis for next project?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: As with 'Batman Begins,' we look at the entire history of the Batman comics. It's really the great asset you have, all this terrific work through the years with these terrific writers. So, we really make everything available to ourselves.
QUESTION: How natural is it to you to make films that are like puzzles, structurally?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: The structural notions, to me, all have to be worked out very carefully at script stage. Whatever a particular structure is, whether it's chronological or non-chronological, linear or non-linear, to me, that's always about what point of view we are trying to express in the film. Whose point of view in the film are we trying to express? So, for example, 'Memento' uses a non-linear structure to express one character's point of view very strongly. This film uses a non-linear structure to express multiple points of view as strongly as possible. That all has to be figured out at script stage. And then, in the edit suite, we try and finesse it; we try and make it the best version of that that it can be.
QUESTION: Do you think Christian Bale will participate in the DVD?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: Well, we'll have a go. I share his reservations to some regard in terms of: you don't want to completely demystify things for people when you go to such pains to create a piece of fiction. And the 'Memento' DVD is a good case in point because I think that the DVD itself, although packed with hopefully interesting things, it expanded the world of the film without undermining it, without exposing it too much.
QUESTION: Where are we exactly in the timeline of the next Batman?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: We're in early pre-production. And the film should be ready for summer of 2008. It takes a long time to make a film.
Read more about The Prestige
Read more about Batman Begins
Read a Q & A with Jonathan Nolan