We’ve been waiting for it for so damn long that it’s hard to believe that Interstellar is less than two weeks away. It’s been this big, mysterious thing looming off in the distance for such an extended period of time that I keep forgetting it’s almost here. Lest we forget that fact, however, Paramount Pictures is doing what they can to hype the movie. And the people involved are doing their part, including director Christopher Nolan and stars Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, and Anne Hathaway, who recently shared a bunch of intel about the film.
At a roundtable interview with The Hollywood Reporter, that included Nolan, and McConaughey, Hathaway, and Chastain, The Dark Knight director and the notable crew of actors divulged a bunch of information. Some pertains directly to the movie itself, others are more oblique, and a few are just interesting behind the scenes anecdotes from the set.
We’ve heard that Hathaway almost got hypothermia from sitting in cold water in a leaky space suit for hours, but McConaughey really got into his part. During production, he actually lived in a trailer in Calgary, Alberta near the home where his character and family live in the movie. And during their initial meeting McConaughey and Nolan never even talked about the story. The Academy Award-winner said, “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.”
And even when McConaughey did finally get a look at the screenplay, he still couldn’t keep it, that’s how secretive the whole project was. He says the script, “Comes delivered to my house when I was in New Orleans. Handed through the gate [by a] Mr. Jordan. And he said, ‘I’m not leaving,. And I [said], ‘I’m going to take my time reading this, and I’m also a slow reader.’ I stuck with it for five and a half hours, wrote a bunch of things down and had a whole lot of questions. I could not have had a perception of what it was beforehand.”
Though Nolan’s brother Jonah wrote the script, it wasn’t initially intended for his sibling to direct. Another filmmaker you may have heard of had his eye on it, Steven Spielberg. Nolan says, “I always thought it sounded like a very exciting project—certainly it’s a good sign if your brother’s working on something [with Spielberg]. When I saw the opportunity to get involved, I didn’t hesitate.”
Set in the near future, global climate change has progressed to a point where much of the planet resembles a giant, Great Depression-era Dust Bowl, which we’ve seen, but there’s even more to it. The dust storms aren’t just any old massive dust storms, there are apparently scenes it will, quite literally, be raining dirt and dust.
Because of the situation, Earth won’t be able to sustain life much longer, and a group of explorers, including McConaughey and Hathaway, must travel through a newly discovered wormhole in search of a new planet to call home. Always meticulous, Nolan went to great lengths to ensure that the science behind what you see in the film is, at least in theory, real. He says, “If a wormhole could be brought into existence, it would be possible. It’s really one of the only ways it would be possible because the distances involved are so vast. It’s one of the tremendous, limiting factors about whether we could ever find other inhabitable planets; the nearest star within our galaxy [involves] thousands of years of travel.”
Filming Interstellar, Nolan got an unexpected assist from Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, on which he served as a producer. Set in Middle America farm country, the story calls for cornfields, which, as you can imagine, take some time to grow and cultivate. Nolan says, “Luckily, [director] Zack [Snyder] had grown a bunch of corn, so I said, ‘How much can you really grow practically?’ ” Nolan recalls. “And they had done a couple hundred acres, so we looked into it; we found that where we wanted to build our farmhouse really close to the mountains [outside] Calgary. In the end, we got a pretty good crop, and we actually made money on this.” That’s an unusual way to offset some of your production costs.
Much has been made of the various influences on Interstellar. The one that gets thrown around a lot is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but there are many others. Never a big fan of CGI if he can help it, Nolan looked to movies like The Right Stuff that employed more practical effects. He points out “what older films about space were able to do. One of the things we did was, we screened a print of The Right Stuff, an amazing film. And we looked at what they had done technically in 1983 with reflections of visors and things like that.”
But don’t worry, he does invoke 2001, specifically when discussing ambiguity and open interpretation in film. When asked if every aspect of movie needs to be understood and explained, he says, “I don’t think it does. And I think that 2001 is one of those rare instances where it’s a purely cinematic narrative and it really tells you that it doesn’t need to be understood—it needs to be felt. But it also becomes one of the great inspirations and one of the great touchstones that you can talk to anyone about.”
Interstellar opens everywhere on November 7, but you can also catch it early on film formats on November 5.