Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest directors of our generation, forever pushing the boundaries and quality of the modern day blockbuster. To reach his level of quality, he's relied heavily on practical effects rather than special effects and filmed largely in IMAX (which can be quite difficult).
Christopher Nolan's latest film Dunkirk opens in July this year, and like the rest of his movies, he's not taking any shortcuts. When speaking to EW, Nolan spoke about the cost of perfection when filming Dunkirk and how cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema had to take one for the team:
“Hoyte hand-held the [IMAX] camera for a few sections of 'Interstellar' very effectively, and then on this I had to break the news to him that he was going to be doing it for a massive amount of the film ['Dunkirk']”
Nolan went on to say that “We definitely bought him a lot of massages along the way”, which is well-earned because filming in IMAX for a war movie would be extremely strenuous!
This is just a classic example of a director using methods that would be considered quite unorthodox to achieve a higher quality of filmmaking. This can be seen throughout history with various other filmmakers. Let's look at four other times directors strived for quality in their movies, even when it can be unbearable for the rest of the cast!
1. Stanley Kubrick - 'The Shining'
Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest and most influential directors of all time. He's given us such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket and of course, The Shining. For this 1980 classic, Stanley Kubrick insisted that his cast retake the above scene over and over until it was perfect. This drove the cast insane because it took a staggering 127 takes to get right, which left actress Shelley Duvall calling the ordeal "unbearable" in an interview with Roger Ebert.
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2. Terrence Malick - 'The Thin Red Line'
Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line is one of the greatest war films of all time, with 7 #Oscar nominations behind it and plenty of praise (Martin Scorsese named it his second favorite film of the '90s). But did you know that director Terrence Malick cut lots of big names stars for the sake of the film?
The film already has a wonderful list of actors, like Sean Penn, John Cusack, Adrien Brody and Jared Leto. However, it was also supposed to have prolific actors Bill Pullman, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas, Viggo Mortensen, Martin Sheen, Jason Patric, and Mickey Rourke— until Malick cut them from the movie. Not because he disliked them, but because he had 6 hours of movie that he needed shortened to 3 hours. This block of footage meant that Malick didn't spare any Hollywood actor when deciding to shorten the film to its perfect length. Talk about biting off more than he could chew!
3. Jackie Chan - 'Dragon Strike'
Next up on our list is a relatively less well-known film, Dragon Strike (or Dragon Lord as it's sometimes called). Directed by martial arts legend Jackie Chan, who also starred in the film, it contained one scene that required 2,900 takes. This was a world-record when the movie came out, but considering how intricate some of Jackie Chan's martial arts scenes can be, it's not entirely unbelievable.
4. Christopher Nolan - 'The Dark Knight Rises'
As we've previously discussed, Christopher Nolan is not afraid to go the extra mile for the benefit of a movie. One of the craziest things that Nolan has ever done, or any director for that matter, was when he had a plane dropped from the sky for The Dark Knight Rises. Most directors would probably achieve this shot using special effects, but Nolan opted to take the better (but more difficult) route of actually dropping a plane from the sky.
When asked for his proudest moment at a Tribeca Film Festival panel in 2015, Nolan described the plane scene from The Dark Knight Rises as his top choice:
"It was sort of an incredible coming together of lots and lots of planning by a lot of members of the team who worked for months rehearsing all these parachute jumps."
It's safe to say that hard work quite often results in good movies, as proven by the directors on this list. There have even been rumors that Christopher Nolan crashed a World War 2 plane for his new movie, Dunkirk— though it looks we'll have to wait until July to see if that one's true. Until then, check out the new second trailer below!
Let me know how excited you are for Dunkirk in the comments below!