Stanley Kubrick

5 Films That Influenced Christopher Nolan

By MICHAEL MAHER

Before Christopher Nolan was a blockbuster director, he was a kid who loved movies. Here are the five films he identifies as his biggest influences.

Christopher Nolan has established himself as one of the blockbuster directors of this generation. The skills he has acquired as a filmmaker can be credited to the countless movies he’s seen in his lifetime.

“Movies become indistinguishable from our own memories,” Nolan said in an interview with Wired magazine. “You file them away and they become very personal.”

Here’s a look at how five specific films played a major role in establishing Nolan’s blockbuster worlds.

2001: A Space Odyssey

In May of 1977, Star Wars reinvigorated the world’s love of sci-fi and space films. That summer, theaters in the UK re-released Stanley Kubrick’s space epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“My dad took my brother and me to Leicester Square, which is where you’d find the biggest theaters in London. I remember very clearly just the experience of being transported to another world. I was a huge Star Wars fan at the time. But this was a completely different way of experiencing science fiction. I was seven years old, so I couldn’t claim to have understood the film. I still can’t claim that. But as a seven year old, I didn’t care about understanding the film. I just felt this extraordinary experience of being taken to another world. You didn’t doubt this world for an instant. It had a larger than life quality.

When I tell people this story, they often find it unusual that a child of that age would want to see 2001. But the truth is all of my friends went to see 2001 in the year after Star Wars. We would all sit and talk about what it meant. It was ‘pure cinema.’ The fact that it’s challenging cinema in an intellectual sense doesn’t bother you when you’re a kid. You just appreciate the feeling of the movie.” — Entertainment Weekly

“It just has that sensory stimulation of pure cinema that speaks to people of all ages. People forget kids like it too — because we were all into spaceships.” — Empire Magazine

It’s obvious that 2001 highly influenced Nolan’s Interstellar, but director Stanley Kubrick would be the one that really shaped Nolan as a filmmaker. Not only did Kubrick’s work leave an impression, but so did his personal approach to the craft.

“From a storytelling point of view, from a directing point of view, there is one thing I associate with what he does, which is calm. There is such an inherent calm and inherent trust of the one powerful image, that he makes me embarrassed with my own work, in terms of how many different shots, how many different sound effects, how many different things we’ll throw at an audience to make an impression. But with Kubrick, there is such a great trust of the one correct image to calmly explain something to audience. There can be some slowness to the editing. There’s nothing frenetic about it. It’s very simple. There’s a trust in simple storytelling and simple image making that actually takes massive confidence to try and emulate.” — Entertainment Weekly

It’s not Kubrick’s filmmaking alone either, as the director also influenced Nolan’s approach to studio collaborations.

“I think anyone who is working [for the studios] looks to Kubrick as the great example of someone who is able to make films that were very personal to him, very idiosyncratic, with a great degree of passion, while collaborating with the studios and making what he did fit within the economic models of their times.” — Entertainment Weekly

That mindset has since helped Nolan’s production company, Syncopy, establish itself as a blockbuster powerhouse in a matter of years. Syncopy has collaborated with Legendary Pictures, DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. to produce films that have hit nearly $4.7 Billion in box office sales — in less than a decade.

Blade Runner

Director Ridley Scott had just blown audiences away with Alien when his 1982 follow-up film, Blade Runner, hit theaters. The films established Scott as a blockbuster filmmaker during Christopher Nolan’s most influential years.

“I have always been a huge fan of Ridley Scott and certainly when I was a kid. Alien, Blade Runner just blew me away because they created these extraordinary worlds that were just completely immersive.” — Media Factory

This film has influenced nearly all of Nolan’s movies. He considers Blade Runner a key touchstone of science fiction. The film’s production design and style were key to establishing the base of Nolan’s Batman universe. Nolan even cast Blade Runner star Rutger Hauer in Batman Begins.

“It’s hard to say what was conscious homage, and what was my analysis of why Blade Runner was so convincing in its production design and in the way it uses its sets. From a pragmatic point of view, Blade Runner is actually one of the most successful films of all time in terms of constructing that reality using sets. On Batman Begins, unlike The Dark Knight, we found ourselves having to build the streets of Gotham in large part. So I immediately gravitated toward the visual treatment that Ridley Scott had come up with, in terms of how you shoot these massive sets to make them feel real and not like impressive sets. And immediately we started looking at the rain, the handheld cameras, the longer lenses…

So myself, my designer Nathan Crowley, and my cinematographer Wally Pfister, we started to throw all of that into the mix of how you can help the look of something, how you can create texture, as Ridley Scott has always been the absolute master of. Creating a texture to a shooting style that maximizes the impact of the set, and minimizes the artifice — the feeling that this world has edges to it that you would see at the edge of the frame. Blade Runner is one of the examples of how you can take a camera and get down and dirty… and really envelop your audience in the atmosphere of the world you’re trying to create. We definitely tried to emulate that style, and I think in doing so we actually created homage, particularly where we used the rain very much.” — Forbes

The Spy Who Loved Me

Released the same year Nolan first watched Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me may be the most well-known Roger Moore Bond film. To the eyes of a kid, this was the coolest Bond ever. To Christopher Nolan, 1977 may have been the greatest year ever.

“One of the first films I remember seeing was The Spy Who Loved Me and at a certain point the Bond films fixed in my head as a great example of scope and scale in large scale images. That idea of getting you to other places, of getting you along for a ride if you can believe in it — in The Spy Who Loved Me, the Lotus Esprit turns into a submarine and its totally convincing, and it works and you go ‘Wow, that’s incredible.’” — IndieWire

Nolan frequently cites this particular Bond film often, but he is a huge fan of Bond films in general. He credits the franchise for creating threats that played on audiences fears.

“Interestingly, the Bond films, back in the 60s, they were very specifically about Cold War fears — They introduced the threat of nuclear terrorism very specifically for the first time in movies and they were closer than people realize, in pop culture terms, to what people feared at the time. And I think that one of the things in taking on an action film set in a great American city post-9/11, if we were going to be honest in terms of our fears and what might threaten this great city, then we were going to come up against terrorism and how that might feature in the universe of Batman. And I think we approached it with a great deal of sincerity.”

It wasn’t only the Dark Knight trilogy that benefitted from the influence of 007. In fact, the closest thing we may get to a Christopher Nolan James Bond film is Inception.

“The Bond influence on the film was very intentional because, for me, growing up with the Bond films — they’ve always stood for grand-scale action.” — BBC

The Spy Who Loved Me was not the only Bond film to be a major influence, as Nolan also cites On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as his favorite Bond film. Overall, it was the world of James Bond that showcased an expansive cinematic universe.

“I think for me, when you look at the idea of being able to create a limitless world and use it almost as a playground for action and adventure and so forth, I naturally gravitate towards cinematic worlds, whether it’s the Bond films and things like that. So without being too self-conscious about it or without too much intention as I was writing it, I certainly allowed my mind to wander where it would naturally and I think a lot of the tropes from different genres of movies, heist films, spy films, that kind of thing, they therefore sort of naturally sit in that world.” — Collider

The Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick‘s 1998 film, The Thin Red Line, is listed as one of Christopher Nolan’s all-time favorite films. The film helped Nolan realize that there were no set boundaries in film editing, which helped him set up the story in Memento.

I also see a lot of attempts to do what I saw Terrence Malick doing, in terms of the portrayal of mental states and memory. If you watch The Thin Red Line, that was a revelation to me. He’s cutting to memories and flashbacks with simple cuts; there are no wavy lines or dissolves. There are moments [in Memento] where Guy’s character is remembering his wife that were taken very much from that film. — Movieline

Superman

“One of the great films that I am very influenced by that we haven’t talked about was Dick Donner’s Superman. It made a huge impression on me.” — The Hollywood Reporter

“Donner took on the character of Superman, he made the image of how people my age saw Superman. I still remember the trailers. I remember going to the cinema to see something else and seeing these epic trailers — the character standing in the cornfield, Marlon Brando’s voice — and that stuck with me.” — IndieWire

One of Nolan’s biggest takeaways from the film was the realistic setting.

“… the world is pretty much the world we live in, but there’s this extraordinary figure there, which is what worked so well in Dick Donner’s Superman film.” — The Hollywood Reporter

“When I talk about reality in these films, it’s often misconstrued as direct reality, but it’s really cinematic reality. It’s about trying to find the translation and credibility in the events and fantastical nature of what is going on.” — IndieWire

That cinematic reality played a huge role in the world of the Dark Knight trilogy, and once again appeared in Superman’s universe with the Man of Steel franchise, which was produced by Nolan.

A Star Odyssey    by  Naolito

A Star Odyssey

by Naolito

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Stanley Kubrick’s personal copy of Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. 

This well-worn book, normally housed in the Stanley Kubrick Archive in London but currently on tour in a traveling exhibition, is filled with Kubrick’s notes and comments. Many passages are highlighted, and Kubrick has filled the margins with hand-written notes that run the gamut from notating passages that inspired him, to crossing out sections he found silly.

The Shining Board Game

Stephen King’s 1977 psychological horror novel The Shining has inspired several other works, most notably Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation, a movie widely considered to have elevated King’s story of the possessed Overlook Hotel and its luckless winter caretakers, the Torrance family, to a higher artistic plane. But King himself never really approved of Kubrick’s interpretation: “Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror,” he said, “but others fall flat. A visceral skeptic such as Kubrick just couldn’t grasp the sheer inhuman evil of the Overlook Hotel.”

Presumably King had a better time playing the board game of The Shining, which won the first Microgame Design Contest in 1998, and about which you can read more at Board Game Geek. King helped with its development by offering consultation as the creator of the world in which the original story takes place. He also offered his services as an early play-tester too. You can tell that the game’s faith lies with King’s novel rather than Kubrick’s film by its use of things that never made it from page to screen as gameplay elements, such as the hotel grounds’ hedge-sculpture animals that come to vicious life.

You can play The Shining board game as the Torrance family, in which case you’ll have to fight those hedge animals. Or you can play it as the Overlook Hotel itself, in which case you’ll control them. Each player has a host of implements at their disposal — ghosts, decoys, the famous axe and snowmobile — all meant to help them accomplish the task of driving the other side away. Think of it as a simplified wargame set in a haunted hotel.

If you’d like to see how you fare, whether in the shoes of the Torrances or the Indian-burial-ground foundation of the Overlook, you’ll find all the game’s materials freely available on the Micrograme Design Contest’s site. Print them out, set them up, and prepare to feel some sheer inhuman evil for yourself.

“You never have this experience again with the story. You have a reaction to it: it’s a kind of falling-in-love reaction. That’s the first thing. Then it becomes almost a matter of code breaking, of breaking the work down into a structure that is truthful, that doesn’t lose the ideas or the content or the feeling of the book. And fitting it all into the much more limited time frame of a movie. And as long as you possibly can, you retain your emotional attitude, whatever it was that made you fall in love in the first place.  You judge a scene by asking yourself, “Am I still responding to what’s there?” The process is both analytical and emotional. You’re trying to balance calculating analysis against feeling. And it’s almost never a question of “What does this scene mean?” It’s “Is this truthful, or does something about it feel false?” It’s “Is this scene interesting? Will it make me feel the way I felt when I first fell in love with the material?”  It’s an intuitive process, the way I imagine writing music is intuitive. It’s not a matter of structuring an argument.” - Stanley Kubrick on his approach to a story

“You never have this experience again with the story. You have a reaction to it: it’s a kind of falling-in-love reaction. That’s the first thing. Then it becomes almost a matter of code breaking, of breaking the work down into a structure that is truthful, that doesn’t lose the ideas or the content or the feeling of the book. And fitting it all into the much more limited time frame of a movie. And as long as you possibly can, you retain your emotional attitude, whatever it was that made you fall in love in the first place.

You judge a scene by asking yourself, “Am I still responding to what’s there?” The process is both analytical and emotional. You’re trying to balance calculating analysis against feeling. And it’s almost never a question of “What does this scene mean?” It’s “Is this truthful, or does something about it feel false?” It’s “Is this scene interesting? Will it make me feel the way I felt when I first fell in love with the material?”

It’s an intuitive process, the way I imagine writing music is intuitive. It’s not a matter of structuring an argument.” - Stanley Kubrick on his approach to a story

The Lost Ending of 'The Shining' Explained

by Gwynne Watkins

In the final shots of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the audience sees the corpse of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) frozen to death in the hedge maze where he tried to kill his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Then the camera moves to a vintage photograph on the wall of The Overlook Hotel, which inexplicably includes Jack among the 1920s revelers. It’s an indelible set of images – but it wasn’t the ending that director Kubrick first envisioned. When The Shining premiered in theaters in 1980, those two iconic shots bookended an additional scene, of Wendy and Danny recuperating in the hospital. This week, on a Reddit thread titled “Frames from the hospital scene from the original ending of The Shining,” a fan unearthed three continuity Polaroids that show scenes from the film’s deleted epilogue. Read on to find out what happened in The Shining’s original ending, and why Kubrick made the last-minute decision to axe it.

The two-minute hospital scene, according to co-screenwriter Diane Johnson, was Kubrick’s way of reassuring the audience that Jack’s wife and son were okay after his murderous rampage. “He had a soft spot for Wendy and Danny,” Johnson explained in an interview in Kubrick: The Definitive Edition. However, the scene – as it reads on paper, anyhow – isn’t exactly a reassuring hug. The script pages from the deleted epilogue were published two years ago on The Overlook Hotel, an exhaustive fan site run by Pixar director Lee Unkrich (who peppered his film Toy Story 3 with subtle Shining references).


A Polaroid of Shelley Duvall recuperating in the hospital in a deleted scene from ‘The Shining.’

The scene opens with Stuart Ullman, the manager of the Overlook Hotel (played by Barry Nelson), arriving at the hospital with flowers for Wendy. On his way in, he greets a nurse, who is playing a game with Danny. When Ullman enters Wendy’s room, he tells her that the police have completed an investigation of the hotel, and “they didn’t find the slightest evidence of anything at all out of the ordinary.” He adds that “it’s perfectly understandable for someone to imagine such things when they’ve been through something like you have.” Then Ullman offers to put the Torrances up in his beach house while they recuperate. On his way out, Ullman tosses Danny a yellow ball – a reference to the tennis ball that mysteriously rolls up to Danny earlier in the film, leading him to the hotel’s haunted Room 237.

In short, the epilogue suggests that Ullman is a participant in the hotel’s supernatural evil, and that he is a conspirator in keeping its deadly secrets. Shelley Duvall said in Kubrick: The Definitive Edition that she believed the cut scene was crucial in explaining “some things that are obscure for the public, like the importance of the yellow ball and the role of the hotel manager in the plot.”


Barry Nelson re-appeared as hotel manager Stuart Ullman in the deleted ending. Here he’s seen with child actor Danny Lloyd and actress Robin Pappas.

There was one more element to the deleted ending. After the camera zoomed in on the photograph of Jack, a title card was to appear, reading: “The Overlook Hotel would survive this tragedy, as it had so many others. It is still open each year from May 20th to September 20th. It is closed for the winter.” Once again, this reinforces that the hotel itself is evil. But what are those “many other” tragedies? At the beginning of the film, Ullman informs Jack that a previous caretaker went stir crazy and killed his family and himself. That’s one. But In the original script, Jack also discovers a large scrapbook in the boiler room with news clippings of all the murders and suicides throughout the Overlook Hotel’s history. Kubrick shot scenes with the scrapbook, but didn’t include them in the final cut. (You can read one of them here.)

When The Shining premiered in limited release in May 1980, the hospital scene was still there. Just days after the film opened, however, Kubrick decided the epilogue needed to be excised. He explained his rationale to the press in a telephone statement, saying, “when I was able to see for the first time the fantastic pitch of excitement which the audience reached during the climax of the film, I decided the scene was unnecessary.” Since the movie was already playing in New York and Los Angeles, Kubrick issued an unusual order: He instructed projectionists to cut the scene from the film by hand, and mail the deleted film strips back to Warner Bros.


Robin Pappas (who played the nurse) and Danny Lloyd (who played Danny Torrance) shoot the deleted hospital scene. Though Pappas was ultimately cut from the film, her name appears in the credits.

Whether the deleted ending made the film better or worse is a matter of debate among the few who have seen it. New York Times critic Janet Maslin advocated for the hospital scene, saying that it “helped maintain the film’s languid, eerie rhythm” and saved the ending from being too “abrupt.” Roger Ebert wrote in his Great Movies review of The Shining that the excised epilogue “pulled one rug too many out from under the story,” though it’s unclear whether Ebert himself saw the original cut. (He’s under the impression that the deleted scene revealed that police never found Jack’s body. In the script pages – which, in fairness, Kubrick might have changed while filming – the body is not explicitly mentioned.) More discussion on the scene can be found in this archived page from the alt.movies.kubrick newsgroup, where fans who saw the original cut have shared their recollections.

The million-dollar question is whether the deleted ending from The Shining will ever see the light of day again. There’s a good chance that it still exists somewhere; Unkrich indicates on his website that the Stanley Kubrick Archive in London has “35mm film trims.” However, Kubrick obviously didn’t want anyone to see the footage, or he wouldn’t have been so adamant about cutting it before the film went into wider release. As long as film historians respect his wishes, the alternate ending of The Shining – like the epic deleted pie fight from Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove – will exist only in photos and memories.

The Directors Series - Stanley Kubrick [1.5] THE FINAL FEATURES

The concluding installment of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and career of director Stanley Kubrick, covering his final two features and the legacy he leaves behind.
-FULL METAL JACKET (1987)
-EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)

The Directors Series - Stanley Kubrick [1.4] THE MASTER WORKS

Part 4 of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and career of director Stanley Kubrick, covering the string of groundbreaking features that solidified his reputation as a master filmmaker:
-2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
-A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
-BARRY LYNDON (1975)
-THE SHINING (1980)

The Directors Series - Stanley Kubrick [1.3] THE PETER SELLERS COMEDIES

Part 3 of the DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and career of director Stanley Kubrick, covering his features in collaboration with actor Peter Sellers:
-LOLITA (1962)
-DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)

The Directors Series - Stanley Kubrick [1.2] THE KIRK DOUGLAS YEARS

Part 2 of the DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and career of director Stanley Kubrick, covering his features in collaboration with actor Kirk Douglas:
-PATHS OF GLORY (1957)
-SPARTACUS (1960)

The Directors Series - Stanley Kubrick [1.1] EARLY INDEPENDENT FEATURES

Part 1 of the DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and career of director Stanley Kubrick, covering his early independent feature films:
-FEAR & DESIRE (1953)
-KILLER’S KISS (1955)
-THE KILLING (1956)

Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014): A Comparative Analysis

Luc Besson’s 2014 action film Lucy, like Besson’s other films, takes inspiration from many other films. In the case of Lucy this inspiration comes from familiar sources (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix) and some unexpected (The Blues Brothers).