Wednesday, 05 November 2014 11:59 Written by  iamrogue
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With Interstellar, Christopher Nolan and his phenomenal cast are boldly taking audiences where no one has gone before.

As a writer-director, Nolan has already explored unusual places, from the labyrinth of an amnesiac's mind (Memento) to levels of dreams (Inception) to the urban battleground of Gotham City (the Dark Knight trilogy).

Interstellar presents a far bigger canvas than any of those films, as the blockbuster auteur uses trippy astrophysics to take mankind to the farthest reaches of space.

The film takes place in a near future in which Earth is on the brink of being unable to support human life.  In an effort to find a new home for our species, NASA mounts a mission sending a team of explorers through a wormhole, a cosmic shortcut allowing the intrepid crew to conquer seemingly insurmountable distances.

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club Oscar winner) stars as Cooper, a widowed pilot and engineer called upon to lead the mission, which includes Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables Oscar winner) as Amelia, a scientist with her own deeply personal reasons for exploring space.  Jessica Chastain (Oscar nominee for Zero Dark Thirty), meanwhile, stays Earthbound as Murph, Cooper's grown-up daughter.

Thanks to Managing Editor Jami Philbrick, IAR was on hand for the Interstellar Los Angeles press day, where Nolan, McConaughey, Hathaway, and Chastain enthusiastically discussed the origins of Interstellar, its aspirational qualities, the thematic focus on family, their own recollections of NASA, acting in spacesuits, and what, ultimately, Interstellar is all about.

Interstellar wasn't always a Christopher Nolan project.  In fact, the film started out with another A-list helmer, who enlisted Nolan's brother, The Dark Knight writer Jonathan (Jonah) Nolan to write the script.

"For me, the inception of it was talking to Jonah about the script he was working on. He was working on it for Steven Spielberg at the time, but we always bounce ideas off of each other. It just sounded incredibly exciting, and what it was that got me was the way Jonah originally explained it to me is it's really about an inevitability," said the director. "I mean, we're going to leave this planet at some point, further than we have. We're going to go to Mars, we all kind of know that on some level, actually. So there's an inevitability to human evolution of this being the next step, the idea that with this story you could view Earth as the nest and one day we leave the nest, or the Earth as the egg and one day the egg hatches and we go. That, to me, seemed like a massive thing that hadn't been addressed in movies. And that's the kind of opportunity you're looking for."

When I first looked at Jonah’s draft on Interstellar, it was very clear that at the heart of the story there was this great family relationship. We found the more you explore we explored the cosmic side of things, the further out the universe you went, the more the focus came down to who we are as people and what are the connections between us," he explained.

"To speak to the creative approach we are taking, when it came to Hans Zimmer’s involvement with the music, one of the things I did with Hans is I didn’t want him to know what genre was when he started working. It’s about a father who has to leave his children and I gave it to Hans and told him to start working. That was the seed to grow the score from," Nolan continued. "Indeed the finished score came from that particular creative act that is an illustrate we all tried to take on this. It’s about using the exploration of the universe as really a lens to which to view ourselves as human beings."

McConaughey saw this human component in the material as well, explaining, "Let me say this because I’m in a fortunate position because my family gets to come with me when. It’s something I’ve thought about because Cooper’s chasing a dream that was taken from him and he’s sitting there on a farm and a dream is re-introduced to him and the question of: if I did have to go off, and leave the family for a few months, that’s a much more minor situation than we have with Cooper and Interstellar."

"It was apparent to me early on that this is about family and about parents and children. That’s obviously where the aorta of the movie sits. Even if you’re not parents, you have parents and you’ve been in situations where there is a certain kind of goodbye, nothing as extreme as this," he said.  "I think that’s what everyone lynches into, that’s the common denominator that runs through this that everyone can understand."

The connection between the personal and the galactic also resonated with Chastain. "I remember when I was a kid, my first confrontation with space travel when the Challenger exploded," she recalled. "I remember how traumatic it was because I remember watching it on the news and all of her children and her class were watching and I was very young. I had never, ever imagined that it was something that I wanted to do. As human beings, I think we need to conquer our fears and reach beyond our grasp. I think it’s very important that you don’t become complacent and stagnant. The wonderful thing about being an actress is that I get to act – not in this film – those explorations beyond what I myself am capable of."

"One of my first experiences with the Space Program was with the memorial that was built for the Challenger," agreed Hathaway. "When I was in seventh grade, my class spent the entire school year preparing to launch a space ship, all together, and we all had our different jobs that we all had to learn how to do, and we learned the math that you needed, we learned practical skills that you needed. And I thought that was really cool. I think that if you can take a tragedy and find the gold in it and turn it into something positive, that's great. And I'm hoping that the suspension of the Space Program is just that, a suspension, and that it's not the final say in the matter because I think we need it."

"One of the things that I got from this film is mankind’s expectations have to be greater than ourselves," said McConaughey. "And as Chris said earlier, the further out there we go, the more we find out that it’s about you and me -- right here. So, it’s much more of a attainable thought. I am in no way an expert on it. I can have conversations about it now that I couldn’t have done before getting on this film. But, it’s now a much more four dimensional outlook as far as where we’re going and which way to look where that new frontier is."

For both McConaughey and Hathaway, taking a cinematic trip to that new frontier involved acting whilst wearing cumbersome spacesuit costumes that weighed forty pounds.  McConaughey was characteristically laid back discussing the costume design, saying, "They did a lot of work as making it as light as possible and making it easy to maneuver in. You couldn’t break into a sprint, no. You couldn’t jump as high. No. Once you have the suit one, a lot of it was as far what you could express, yes, was from the neck up and sometimes through the mask. For me it was part of the story that made sense. It was physically more challenging in Iceland in a space suit on a glacier with the elements, absolutely. Couple of helicopters, 100 miles per hour winds.

"On a good day, I didn’t think it hindered it," said Hathaway. "The first time I put it on I made up my mind that it was my favorite costume that I’ve ever worn. Thanks to this man on the right (Nolan, who directed her as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises), I’ve gotten to wear some pretty spectacular ones. But, this one, it was the closest I’ve ever felt to feeling like a kid at Halloween, if you could stretch out Halloween for several months. I love that feeling. Forty pounds is a lot for me, so it helped that I had to make up my mind that I loved it because that was the only way forward."

Even before the film hits theaters this week, Interstellar has already prompted a lot of discussion on account of some topical elements in the story, from environmental devastation to drone surveillance.

"I don’t like to talk about messages so much with films, simply because it’s a little more didactic, and the reason I’m a filmmaker is to tell stories," Nolan explained. "And so you hope that it will have resonance for people, and for the kind of things you’re talking about. But what I really loved about Jonah’s original draft and was retained in this was the idea of blight – the idea of there being an agricultural crisis, which has happened historically with the potato famine and so forth. We combined this with ideas taken very much from Ken Burns’s documentary on the Dust Bowl, and then spoke to Ken at great length and availed ourselves of his resources. What struck me about the Dust Bowl is that it was a man-made environmental crisis."

While he remained reluctant to explicitly connect Interstellar to contemporary hot-button issues, Nolan did share his recollection of a recent NASA-related event and how it impacted the film, saying,"Really space exploration has always represented the most hopeful and optimistic endeavor that mankind has ever really engaged with. I was struck when they flew the Space Shuttle on the 747 when it came to the Science Center here in LA."

"It was a very moving moment and very melancholy as well because what you felt was that sense of that great endeavor, that hope and optimism that is something that feels we’re in need of again," he said. "I feel very strongly that we’re at a point now where we need to start looking up again and exploring our place in the universe more."

Interstellar opens Wednesday, November 5th in locations able to project on film, from traditional 35mm to jumbo-sized IMAX.  For every theater projecting digitally, Interstellar opens nationwide this Friday, November 7th.

To watch IAR's Managing Editor Jami Philbrick introduce our coverage of the Interstellar press conference, please click on the video player below. 

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