Christopher Nolan intends to keep making “large scale” movies

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Christopher Nolan reveals that he feels a sense of ‘responsibility’ to create films on the vastest scale that he possibly can.


When Christopher Nolan decided to make Oppenheimer his next project, he was coming of the back of Tenet, the latest in a line of projects that cost north of $100m. His decision to make blockbusters of that size stretches all the way back to 2008’s The Dark Knight.

In fact, several of his films in that time have cost double that to produce, unsurprising given the filmmaker’s affinity for huge set-pieces, practical effects, IMAX cameras and starry ensembles.

You have to go all the way back to 2006’s The Prestige to find Nolan making a movie for a more modest sum: that film cost $40m to make and was no less enjoyable for it, we might add.

Given the fact that Nolan’s departure from long-time partners Warner Bros saw him looking for a new studio to work with on Oppenheimer, the filmmaker could have scaled back his ambitions somewhat to make his biopic project a more attractive proposition. Nolan though, clearly understands his own value and held out for a sizeable $100m budget, despite the project not possessing the same crowd-pleasing action sequences of his last movie to sport a $100m price tag, 2017’s Dunkirk.

As you’ll know by now, the gambit paid off handsomely: Oppenheimer would go on to earn almost $1bn from that $100m price tag, giving the filmmaker the pick of Hollywood’s studios for his next project, whatever that might be.

As for what comes next, Nolan isn’t telling, but he’s revealed to Time that he has no plans to step away from large-scale filmmaking, saying, “I’m drawn to working at a large scale because I know how fragile the opportunity to marshal those resources is, I know that there are so many filmmakers out there in the world who would give their eye teeth to have the resources I put together, and I feel I have the responsibility to use them in the most productive and interesting way.”

It’s not like Nolan isn’t a fan of small films either. He recently revealed that his favourite two films of the last couple of years are Past Lives and Aftersun, a pair of intimate dramas that play out on a very small scale.

We’d bet that Nolan wouldn’t mind having a crack at this kind of film himself, but his point is a good one: who else will studios trust to create films on such a huge canvas?

The list is pretty small, and perhaps even smaller after Damian Chazelle’s Babylon slumped at the box office a year ago.

The success of Oppenheimer and Barbie this year will hopefully encourage studios to look for newer Nolans and Gerwigs to arm with sizeable budgets for original films, but until that happens? Nolan understands the rarity of his situation and he intends to make the most of it. Hollywood studios better prepare to raid their piggy banks, it seems…

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