Empire Australasia - May 2018

(Kiana) #1


IT ALL BEGANwith a falling scalpel. As a kid, Christopher
Nolan had watched and loved the 1966 sci-i adventureFantastic
Voyage, in which a crew of experts and their hi-tech submarine are
shrunk to the size of a microbe and enter the body of a dying
scientist. While they travel along his ear canal,
a normal-sized surgeon in the operating room drops his knife, its
clatter having catastrophic consequences for the teensy
crew within. “That is a great moment,” Nolan says. “I always loved
the idea of something in a larger-scaled world having
a cataclysmic effect on this smaller world beneath.”
Which is why, in the summer of 2009, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
spent the best part of a week in a near-derelict former airship
hangar in Bedfordshire performing a frantic, gravity-defying
istight on the walls and ceiling of a spinning corridor. This is
what happens when his character Arthur dreams up a hotel in
a subconscious reality which is encased withinanotherdream,
where his sleeping dream-self is tossed about in a rolling van. This is
what happens when Christopher Nolan makes an action movie.
It wasn’t easy for Gordon-Levitt, who at the time toldEmpire,
“I’ve never done any job that even comes close to the physical
challenge of this one.” After all, asInceptionstunt coordinator
Tom Struthers conirms, Gordon-Levitt“did every single
shot bar one in that rotating corridor”.
Nor was it easy for special-effects supervisor Chris
Corbould, who’d never constructed a rotating rig so
big (110 feet long), or which could spin so fast (up to
eight rpm, though it wasn’t safe to go beyond four for
Gordon-Levitt’s stunt work). One which, furthermore,
required the incorporation of a system which, Corbould
explains, allowed the camera to “whizz backwards and
forwards along the corridor in such
a way that you couldn’t see the tracks on the loor.”
It wasveryeasy for visual effects supervisor Paul
Franklin though. “That scene was entirely physical,” he
conirms. “That’s all for real, in camera.” Franklin lauds
both Corbould and Struthers for their ingenuity, but
reserves his highest praise for Gordon-Levitt. “Joe
trained very hard to make this all work. It would have
been easy for him to fall into one of those open doorways
and break an ankle.” Not that Gordon-Levitt seemed to
mind. For all the bumps, tumbling around in that rig was
his favourite part of the shoot: “It was the coolest scene
to do. It just feels like, ‘Wow, gravity is going haywire!’”
It’s a scene that has lost none of its novelty, even
eight years (and oneDoctor Strange) later. Nolan’s goal
withInceptionwas to ind “a fresh way to present
familiar action tropes, to give the audience a different
way of looking at them so they become re-energised.”
And it’s hard to think of any moment from Nolan’s own
fantastic voyage — through a man’s sleeping mind rather
than his physical body — that better captures that
remarkable energy.DAN JOLIN


1 _
It was nearly James
Franco rolling around
in that corridor:
he was originally
cast as Arthur, but
dropped out due to
scheduling conflicts.

2 _
The production
Gordon-Levitt had
injured himself during
the rotating corridor
scene, it wouldn’t have
caused a shut-down.

3 _
There are only
around 500 visual
effects shots in
were in Nolan’s
previous movie,
The Dark Knight.

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