Film Critics Sound Off on Christopher Nolan’s ‘No Chairs’ Rule, Which Isn’t Entirely True

An extra on "The Dark Knight Rises" says there were plenty of chairs available for sitting. Outrage, be damned.
Christopher Nolan filming “Dunkirk”
Christopher Nolan filming “Dunkirk”
M S Gordon/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

Christopher Nolan’s “no chairs on set” rule has gone viral after the director’s “Interstellar” and “The Dark Knight Rises” actress Anne Hathaway brought it up during a recent interview with Hugh Jackman on Variety’s “Actors on Actors” video series. Nolan fans have known about the rule for quite some time, as “Dunkirk” actors Mark Rylance and Barry Keoghan told The Independent in 2017 that Nolan bans chairs and water bottles on set. Hathaway appeared complimentary about Nolan’s decision.

“He doesn’t allow chairs, and his reasoning is, if you have chairs, people will sit, and if they’re sitting, they’re not working,” the Oscar-winning actress said “I mean, he has these incredible movies in terms of scope and ambition and technical prowess and emotion. It always arrives at the end under schedule and under budget. I think he’s onto something with the chair thing.”

Hathaway’s interview prompted several film critics and journalists to speak out on Twitter against an alleged “no chairs on set” rule. Former A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky called the idea of a “no sitting” rule “dumb and pretentious.”

“If Christopher Nolan has a rule forbidding the hundreds of people who work on his very expensive films from sitting down, he should be sued to the end of the known universe and back,” wrote Vulture critic Matt Zoller Seitz on Twitter. “I’m just saying this is an odd story that feels incomplete.”

While Nolan does seem to have a “no chairs” rule, it does not seem to apply to the entire set. Vishnevetsky later shared photos from Nolan’s sets in which crew members could be seen sitting down in chairs. The “no sitting” rule appears only to apply to principal actors during their scenes and not to every working member in the cast and crew. As Walsh noted, that would be ableist.

“Mandy” co-writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn was an extra on “The Dark Knight Rises” and shared on Twitter that “we had plenty of chairs and tables in our staging area.” Journalist Jeff Jensen also said there were plenty of chairs when he visited the sets of “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Interstellar.” The Playlist’s Oscar pundit Gregory Ellwood also visited “The Dark Knight Rises” set and confirmed there were chairs for press.

Considering the only people who have spoken about Nolan’s “no chairs” rule are his main actors, it doesn’t appear that chairs are outright banned from his sets as social media is making it seem in the aftermath of Hathaway’s interview. Check out reactions to the “rule” below.

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