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Christopher Nolan Reveals the ‘Dunkirk’ Pitch That Allowed Him to Make the British War Epic

"It’s virtual reality without the headset," the director told the studio about what he wanted to achieve with "Dunkirk."



Warner Bros.

Dunkirk” is officially less than three weeks away, and director Christopher Nolan has begun making the press rounds in advance of the release of his WWII drama. In a first-person essay penned for The Telegraph, Nolan gets into the difficulty that went into trying to get the movie made in the first place and the pitch that sealed the deal with Warner Brothers.

READ MORE: ‘Dunkirk’: 9 Things You Need to Know About Christopher Nolan’s WWII Blockbuster

The biggest obstacle facing “Dunkirk” right now here in the states is that most American audiences are probably not familiar with the real events of Operation Dynamo, in which the British Air Force and Navy had to come up with a plan to rescue thousands of Allied soldiers surrounded by German forces and stranded on the Dunkirk beach. The story is inherently British, but in order to make the movie it required the scale and the budget of an American epic.

“The studios are interested in films about Americans, and there were no Americans involved,” Nolan writes. “So I didn’t want to try and take on this subject until I had enough trust from a studio that they would let me make it as a British film, but with an American budget. That’s the opportunity that I’ve earned and the one I’ve taken.”

What ultimately convinced Warner Bros. to sign off on a British war movie with an American-sized budget was Nolan’s immersive pitch. He knew in order to get the budget needed he was going to have to make a new kind of war movie and not just a traditional drama. And so that’s exactly the kind of experience Nolan pitched:

My pitch to Warner Bros was: we’re going to put the audience into the cockpit of a Spitfire and have them dogfight the Messerschmitts. We’re going to put them on the beach, feeling the sand getting everywhere, confronting the waves. We’re going to put them on small civilian boats bouncing around on the waves on this huge journey heading into a terrifying war zone. It’s virtual reality without the headset.

A Christopher Nolan virtual reality war movie? It appears the trailers aren’t going to be able to properly sell the experience that “Dunkirk” will ultimately end up being. For more from Nolan’s essay, head over to The Telegraph.

Warner Bros. opens “Dunkirk” nationwide in theaters July 21.

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