“Interstellar” will feature the most scientifically accurate (as far as we now know) depiction of a black hole on screen.
Astrophysicist Kip Thorne became a crucial element in the development of “Interstellar.” “Nolan’s story relied on time dilation: time passing at different rates for different characters. To make this scientifically plausible, Thorne told him, he’d need a massive black hole—in the movie it’s called Gargantua—spinning at nearly the speed of light. As a filmmaker, Nolan had no idea how to make something like that look realistic. But he had an idea how to make it happen.” (Wired)
In fact, Nolan wanted the film to be as scientifically accurate as possible.
“While Chris Nolan was rewriting his brother’s script, he wanted to get a handle on the science at the heart of his story. So he started meeting with Thorne. Over the course of a couple months in early 2013, Thorne and Nolan delved into what the physicist calls ‘the warped side of the universe’—curved spacetime, holes in the fabric of reality, how gravity bends light. “The story is now essentially all Chris and Jonah’s,” Thorne says. “But the spirit of it, the goal of having a movie in which science is embedded in the fabric from the beginning—and it’s great science—that was preserved.'” (Wired)
The special effects are so extensive, the team had to develop new technology.
“Some individual frames took up to 100 hours to render, the computation overtaxed by the bendy bits of distortion caused by an Einsteinian effect called gravitational lensing. In the end the movie brushed up against 800 terabytes of data. ‘I thought we might cross the petabyte threshold on this one,'” said Double Negative CG Supervisor Eugénie von Tunzelmann. “We had to write a completely new renderer.” (Wired)
Nolan did tons and tons of research on his own as well, going to NASA, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX base.
“You hear about these things as abstractions, and then you go to SpaceX, and they’re building rockets. They’re getting out there. [Our] generation has grown up with far too little interaction with the idea of leaving this planet, with the idea of getting out and exploring our place in the solar system and then the galaxy and then the universe. In making it seem attainable, you think about it very differently. Your perspective immediately starts to change. You have to start wrestling with the idea of scale, with the idea of these vast distances, these enormous planets, what a wormhole would look like, what a black hole would be like. You have to start examining these things as practical possibilities. It all becomes much more tactile. Which is incredibly exciting. Learning about the Apollo missions, they tended to use not the cutting-edge technology but step back a little bit, use basics that were a bit more tried and tested. Look at the design of space suits: They found these women who knew how to make incredibly tight stitching that no one else could do, and that’s what went into the suits. It’s that kind of tactile sense [that makes you deal] with reality. For the last 35 years, that really hasn’t been a massive part of our culture. And I think now we’re ready to get back to the bigger question of getting out there.” (THR)
The first time Nolan and McConaughey met, they didn’t talk about the film.
McConaughey: “I was in New Orleans working at the time. [I heard] they’d like to meet me. I don’t know the title, I don’t know what it’s about or anything. I fly in. (To Nolan) You and I meet on a Saturday morning. We go in his office and we talk for three hours. Not one word about the film, not what it was about. I came away knowing nothing else about the film. We talked about who we are as 43-year-old men, talked about who we are as [fathers], talked about our kids. We talked about some other films and work and just got really a sense of each other. And so when I walked out, I had a little bit of, ‘OK, what was that?’ I think he wanted to see who I was.”
Nolan: “The only reason I didn’t talk about the project specifically is, it’s important to just get a sense of how you’re going to get along as people before you worry about specifics. I was interested in figuring out how we would get along. I mean, these are people at the top of their game. So really it’s about trying to put together an ensemble.” (THR)
McConaughey actually isn’t that into sci-fi.
“My views of what’s out there expanded for me after doing this film called ‘Contact’ . Carl Sagan: to hear him speak for four hours. I’ve always been someone who didn’t go to see sci-fi films; I didn’t read sci-fi books as a child. And my thoughts were always [about] what’s tangible, what we have right here, maybe what’s beneath the sea, but I was never looking out there. That always was sort of an unknown. ‘Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s not attainable.'” (THR)
Anne Hathaway got hypothermia.
“Everybody was cold at that point. We’d been shooting in the elements, and it’s not like I was the only one in pain. I was just the only one in specific pain, and I didn’t want to hold up shooting. But at some point, I wasn’t sure if I could feel my toes, or they started to tingle, and then I was feeling all sorts of weird flashes and things were getting a little hazy around the edges, and that’s when I turned to our first [assistant director], and I said, ‘Hey, I don’t know that much about hypothermia, but what are the symptoms?’ And I explained what was going on, and he said, ‘Oh! Like, right now?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ And so then he went over to Chris, and Chris was like, ‘OK — let’s roll, let’s roll, let’s roll right now!’ And we were done shortly thereafter.” (THR)
Jessica Chastain cracked the film’s code.
“Chris is surrounded by his family. It really opened up my character in an unexpected way, when I saw Chris’s daughter on set. I had my own personal issues with father-daughter relationships that I could easily draw towards, but the production — the [code] name of it was ‘Flora’s Letter.’ And when I was on set and I asked this sweet little girl, who was kind of shy, what her name was, she said, ‘Flora.’ I realized, it was a letter to his daughter. (NYT)
Would all hop aboard a space ship tomorrow for a one-way adventure to save humanity?
THR asked if the three stars if they would take part in such a mission as the one at the center of “Interstellar.” Hathaway agreed if she could bring her husband. Chastain chose to stay behind. McConaughey might, but he’s too attached to the tangible. “I like the obstacles here on the ground. They’re tangible. I have a conception of them. I have a sense of the mortality here. I don’t know where that period or that comma is down the line, but I have a sense [of] the way to navigate this place. And it still gives me great wonder. It’s still an incredible mystery, and the path gives me a different buzz each time. I’m still very turned on daily about what happens here.” (THR)
The hardest part for Nolan is presenting a film to an audience.
“I’m not being glib. I actually find the process of bringing the film out to the audience the most difficult, definitely. All of the other challenges — you have time, you have various resources. You have things you can throw yourself into. As you come to the end of the project, you run out of things you can tweak and change.” (THR)
Nolan absolutely loves sound mixing.
One scene featured, “McConaughey in space, pushing buttons and bantering with his fellow astronauts and TARS about just how much sharing and joking around should be allowed on the trip. It’s the buttons that command Nolan’s attention. He’s looking for the correct sound that might be made if a man wearing thick astronaut-suit gloves were pushing buttons. ‘The sound mix is my favorite part of the process,’ says Nolan. ‘Your biggest creative decisions have been made—the shoot, the cut of the film—and you’re really in there putting the finishing touches on things or exploring different possibilities. It’s a time of pure imagination, where you can just play.'” (EW)
Nolan got Hans Zimmer to write the score the film without telling him a thing about it.
“Before (re)writing a word of ‘Interstellar,’ Nolan did something he had never done before, something that speaks to his desire for more emotionally potent work. He asked composer Hans Zimmer to write some music for the film, but without telling him about the genre, title, characters, or plot: ‘I said, “I am going to give you an envelope with a letter in it. One page. It’s going to tell you the fable at the center of the story. You work for one day, then play me what you have written.” He was up for it. And it was perfect. He gave me the heart of the movie.’ He and composer Zimmer conducted 45 scoring sessions for ‘Interstellar’—triple their number on’ Inception.’ Most of those were just for experimentation. Old habits were abandoned (goodbye, action-scene jungle drums), new sounds were sought. ‘The core of the movie is about the quest for adventure,’ says Zimmer. ‘It seemed only right to throw everything out and make it all about invention.’ When they had finished, Nolan presented Zimmer with a watch. On the back he had inscribed, ‘This is not the time for caution.'” (EW)