Phase9 Entertainment

INSOMNIA - Q&A with director Christopher Nolan

Movie Interview by Kris Griffiths

PHASE9 joins INSOMNIA director Christopher Nolan at a press conference in London's Claridges Hotel.

Someone who can't sleep is almost like a metaphor for a film director's journey to getting his film made. Was the anxiety Al was experiencing a reflection of what you were feeling too?

Well I certainly had my share of sleepless nights during the making of the film, particularly at the scripting stage. With this type of film you're definitely trying to feed off your own fear and neurosis and put it in the film in an expanded and extrapolated form. That way you get a thriller that can tap in to something everyone understands and can relate to. I ended up sleeping very well though because it all gets very physically tiring when you're on your feet all day.

Al Pacino throughout the film deteriorates quite convincingly. How much of that was acting and how much was make-up?

As far as the make-up goes I really don't know because I wasn't involved in any of that process. We have a very good make-up guy called John Caglione who did DICK TRACY. To the eye, whatever he did with Al was very subtle and almost invisible, even under all the studio lights -anything more would have been distracting. Most of it was performance and how Al carried himself.

The underwater log scene was very effective. What was it like filming it?

We managed to get Pacino underwater and put him through it a bit. It was shot by a guy named Peter Romano who shoots the vast majority of underwater sequences in Hollywood movies and is incredibly experienced. It was a very technical and complex shoot particularly because we'd blocked off the entire surface of the water with these great big logs, but it was done very safely and Al was very happy with it.

Is Al the type of actor you have to rein back in a situation like that or did you sometimes have to persuade him that getting wet might help?

No, Al is right in the middle and because he is so vastly experienced in filmmaking he totally understands what the value of having him in the scene is, but he also understands when you don't need him. He's neither reluctant nor gung ho because he knows the craft of filmmaking so well.

How different was it working with Robin Williams?

Al and Robin's way of behaving and concentrating were completely different. Between shoots, Robin would be talking, laughing, telling jokes, and generally keeping the crew's spirits raised, which was actually very nice for everyone. Then when the camera rolls he immediately focuses. Al prefers to keep himself to one side, looking inside himself a little more and already focussing on what he has to do. What they both like is to have a very specific and strong framework in which to work. They also both like to do a lot of takes, which I do too, so we all ended up having a lot of fun while shooting.

I haven't actually seen the original film but do you think there will now be a revival of interest in it?

I certainly hope so. It's available in the states on DVD from Criterion but I don't know on what format you can get it here. It's a fantastic piece of work and I think I've made an interesting comparison with what we did with it. I didn't want to remake the film in the same way so what we did was take the events and the narrative sequence of the original whilst changing the characters and the perspective on the story.

How exactly did you develop your interpretation of the original?

What I was trying to do was make a very different film and what I required was a sympathetic protagonist. I wanted somebody with charisma and a sense of warmth who would draw you into the story and take you through the series of events with him, so you are sympathetic towards his motives but uncomfortable at the same time, rather than in the original which is a brilliant film but it's very cold and alienating. That was something I had experimented with in MEMENTO so I didn't want to do the same thing with this one. I wanted to draw the audience further into the story and take them to darker places.