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Nolan's Sleight of Hand - USA TODAY 10/20/06


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  • Nolan's Sleight of Hand - USA TODAY 10/20/06

    Inside the mind of Chris Nolan

    Updated 10/19/2006 8:24 PM ET

    Touchstone Pictures
    A study in concentration: Director Chris Nolan's latest movie,
    The Prestige, opens Friday.

    By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY

    LOS ANGELES — Christopher Nolan loves to mess with your mind.

    Maybe it's a movie that unspools in reverse, like Memento. Or a hero who isn't so heroic, as in Insomnia. If you've left one of the director's films feeling as if you need to see it again, don't be embarrassed. Nolan likes it that way.

    "Audiences have a tendency to watch movies a certain way, to expect certain things," says the director, 36. "I enjoy shaking up those expectations."
    He tries to perplex moviegoers again with today's The Prestige.

    The film, with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as magicians in a vicious competition, hopscotches through time, much like Nolan's 2000 breakthrough murder mystery, Memento, which began with the murder and played backward.

    Unlike that Guy Pearce cult classic, Prestige comes freighted with heavier expectations.
    After all, Nolan revived one of film's most beloved franchises by leading Batman Begins to strong reviews and $205 million in domestic grosses. His next installment, The Dark Knight, is due in 2008.

    Before that, he decided to pull the rug from under audiences with the movie of Christopher Priest's novel about magicians who'll stop at nothing to learn each other's secrets.

    "I told the studio that people were going to see this movie in different ways," Nolan says over a lunch of eggs and bacon at a coffee shop near his home. "It will depend on how you approach magic. Some people just want to be entertained, some people want to know the secret behind the trick."

    Not that Nolan gives many secrets away. In the special edition DVD of Memento, for instance, viewers must decipher a code just to play the film — a device concocted by Nolan's brother Jonathan, who co-wrote Memento and Prestige.

    Nolan has been getting behind a camera since he was 7, when he and friends made stop-motion war films with their action figures and a Super 8 camera.

    He began making short films at University College in London and made his feature debut with the 1998 crime drama Following, which also used flashbacks and flash-forwards.

    But it wasn't until 2000's Memento that Nolan got Hollywood's attention.

    "When Chris told me he wanted to have the movie play backward, I thought he was a bonehead, and I told him," Jonathan Nolan says. "You can see how good my instincts are."

    But Jackman says Nolan's skills go beyond fractured narratives. "He reminds me a lot of Clint Eastwood," Jackman says. "He doesn't get too stressed on set, he moves quickly. If he says the movie will be done on April 11, it will be done on April 11, and probably under budget."
    Jackman recalls one day when crews were to shoot a sweeping mountain vista, only to find that Los Angeles had been shrouded in fog.
    "Chris said, 'It's OK, we'll just shoot the fog.' And it was beautiful."

    That, too, may be one of Nolan's tricks. He says he lives a relatively mundane life with his three children, aged 4, 3 and 15 months, and wife Emma Thomas, who produces his films. He still drives a 1987 Honda Accord with 146,000 miles on it.
    And he still has that filmmaker's insecurity.

    "I'm still not sure how I keep getting hired," he says. "Maybe the secret is making movies people need to see more than once."
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

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