Interstellar (film)

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A ringed spacecraft revolves around a reflective sphere.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Produced by
Written by
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by Lee Smith
Distributed by
Release dates
  • October 29, 2014 (2014-10-29) (London premiere[nb 2])
  • November 5, 2014 (2014-11-05) (North America)
  • November 7, 2014 (2014-11-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time 169 minutes[2][3]
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $165 million[4]

Interstellar is an upcoming 2014 science fiction film directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine, the film features a team of space travelers who travel through a wormhole. It was written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, who combined his idea with an existing script by his brother that was developed in 2007 for Paramount Pictures and producer Lynda Obst. Nolan is producing the film with Obst and Emma Thomas. Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, whose works inspired the film, acted as both an executive producer and a scientific consultant for the film.

Warner Bros., who produced and distributed some of Nolan's previous films, negotiated with Paramount, traditionally a rival studio, to have a financial stake in Interstellar. Legendary Pictures, which formerly partnered with Warner Bros., also sought a stake. The three companies co-financed the film, and the production companies Syncopy and Lynda Obst Productions were enlisted. The director also hired cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema since his long-time collaborator Wally Pfister was busy working on Transcendence, his directorial debut. Interstellar was filmed with a combination of anamorphic 35 mm and IMAX 70 mm film photography. Filming took place in the last quarter of 2013 in locations in the province of Alberta, Canada, in southern Iceland, and in Los Angeles, California. The visual effects company Double Negative created visual effects for Interstellar.

Interstellar is scheduled for a limited release in North America (United States and Canada) on November 5, 2014 and a wide release on November 7, 2014. It will also be released in Belgium, France and Switzerland on November 5, 2014 and in additional territories in the following days, including the United Kingdom on November 7, 2014. For the limited release in North America, it will be released in 70 mm and 35 mm film formats in approximately 240 theaters which still project the formats, including at least 41 70 mm IMAX theaters. For the wide release, it will expand to theaters that will show it in digital format. Paramount Pictures will distribute the film in North America, and Warner Bros. will distribute it in the remaining territories.


When a wormhole (which can theoretically connect widely separated regions of spacetime) is discovered, explorers and scientists unite to embark on a voyage through it, transcending the normal limits of human space travel.[5] Among the travellers is a widowed engineer (McConaughey) who must decide whether to leave his two children behind to join the voyage and attempt to save humanity from an environmentally devastated Earth.[6]


In April 2013, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway were cast in the film's starring roles.[15] Director Christopher Nolan said he became interested in casting McConaughey after seeing him in an early cut of the 2012 film Mud,[16] which he had an opportunity to see since he was friends with one of its producers, Aaron Ryder.[9] Nolan called McConaughey's character an everyman with whom "the audience could experience the story".[17]

Other well-known actors eventually joined what would become "an all-star cast".[18] Actor Irrfan Khan said he declined a role since he wanted to be in India for the releases of The Lunchbox and D-Day.[19] Actor Matt Damon was cast in late August 2013 in a small role and filmed his scenes in Iceland.[10]


Development and financing[edit]

Director Christopher Nolan

The premise for Interstellar was conceived by film producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who collaborated on the 1997 film Contact.[9] Based on Thorne's work, the two conceived a scenario about "the most exotic events in the universe suddenly becoming accessible to humans" that would attract filmmaker Steven Spielberg's interest in directing.[20] The film began development in June 2006 when Spielberg and Paramount Pictures announced plans for a science fiction film based on Thorne's treatment. Obst was attached to produce the film, which Variety said would "take several years to come together" before Spielberg directed it.[21] By March 2007, Jonathan Nolan was hired to write a screenplay for Interstellar.[22]

Steven Spielberg moved his production company DreamWorks in 2009 from Paramount to The Walt Disney Company, and Paramount needed a new director for Interstellar. Jonathan Nolan recommended his brother Christopher, who ultimately joined the project in 2012.[23] In January 2013, Paramount and Warner Bros. announced that Christopher Nolan was in negotiations to direct Interstellar.[24] Nolan said he wanted to encourage again the goal of human spaceflight.[6] He intended to write a screenplay based on his own idea that he would merge with his brother's screenplay.[25] By the following March, Nolan was confirmed to direct Interstellar, which would be produced under his label Syncopy and Lynda Obst Productions.[26]

Though Paramount and Warner Bros. are traditionally rival studios, Warner Bros., who released Nolan's Batman films and works with Nolan's Syncopy, sought a stake in Nolan's production of Interstellar for Paramount. Warner Bros. agreed to give Paramount its rights to co-finance the next film in the Friday the 13th horror franchise and to have a stake in a future film based on the TV series South Park. Warner Bros. also agreed to let Paramount co-finance "a to-be-determined A-list Warners property".[27] In August 2013, Legendary Pictures finalized an agreement with Warner Bros. to finance approximately 25 percent of the film's production. Although it failed to renew its eight-year production partnership with Warner Bros., Legendary reportedly agreed to forego financing for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in exchange for the stake in Interstellar.[28]


Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan was hired by director Steven Spielberg to write a script for Interstellar, and he worked on it for four years.[9] To learn the science, he studied relativity at the California Institute of Technology while writing the script.[29] Jonathan said he was pessimistic about the Space Shuttle program ending and how NASA lacked financing for a manned mission to Mars. The screenwriter found inspiration in science fiction films with apocalyptic themes, such as WALL-E (2008) and Avatar (2009). Entertainment Weekly said, "He set the story in a dystopian future ravaged by blight but populated with hardy folk who refuse to bow to despair."[23] Jonathan's brother, director Christopher Nolan, had worked on other science fiction scripts but decided to take the Interstellar script and rewrite it with new ideas. Christopher kept in place Jonathan's conception of the first hour, which is set on a resource-depleted Earth in the near future. The setting was inspired by the Dust Bowl that took place in the United States during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Christopher instead revised the rest of the script in which a team travels into space.[9]


Nolan filmed Interstellar with anamorphic 35mm and IMAX film photography.[5] Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema was hired for Interstellar, as Wally Pfister, Nolan's cinematographer on all of his past films, was working on his directorial debut, Transcendence.[30] IMAX cameras were used for Interstellar more than any of Nolan's previous films. To minimize the use of computer-generated imagery, the director had practical locations built, such as the interior of a space shuttle.[16] Van Hoytema retooled an IMAX camera to be handheld for shooting interior scenes.[9] Some of the film's sequences were shot with an IMAX camera installed in the nosecone of a Learjet.[31]

Nolan, who is known to keep details of his productions secret, strove to ensure secrecy for Interstellar. The Wall Street Journal reported, "The famously secretive filmmaker has gone to extreme lengths to guard the script to ... Interstellar, just as he did with the blockbuster Dark Knight trilogy."[32] As one security measure, Interstellar was filmed under the name Flora's Letter.[33]

Part of the filming in Iceland took place at the Svínafellsjökull glacier

The film's principal photography was scheduled to last for four months.[10] It began on August 6, 2013 in the province of Alberta, Canada.[28] Towns in Alberta where filming took place included Nanton, Longview, Lethbridge, and Okotoks. In Okotoks, filming took place at the Seaman Stadium and the Olde Town Plaza.[33] Production designer Nathan Crowley planted 500 acres of corn that would be destroyed in an apocalyptic scene.[23] Scenes involving McConaughey's character and a dust storm were also filmed in Fort Macleod, where the giant dust clouds were created on location using large fans to blow cellulose-based synthetic dust through the air.[34] Filming in the province lasted until September 9, 2013 and involved hundreds of extras as well as approximately 130 crew members, most of them local.[33]

Filming also took place in Iceland, where Nolan had previously filmed scenes for his 2005 film Batman Begins.[35] The country was chosen to represent two extraterrestrial planets: one covered in ice, and one covered in water.[9] A two-week Iceland shoot was scheduled[10] and a crew of approximately 350 people, including 130 locals, worked on it. Locations included the Svínafellsjökull glacier and the town of Klaustur.[36][37] After the Iceland shoot, the crew moved to Los Angeles to film for 54 days. Filming in California was relatively unusual since California's tax credit was not available for films with a budget greater than $75 million. Filming locations included the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites, the Los Angeles Convention Center, a Sony Pictures soundstage in Culver City, and a private residence in Altadena.[38] Filming concluded in December 2013, and Nolan started editing the film for its release in 2014.[39]

Production design[edit]

The Endurance spacecraft is based on the International Space Station

Interstellar features three spacecraft: the Ranger, the Endurance, and the Lander. The Ranger's function is similar to the space shuttle's, that of being able to enter and exit planetary atmospheres. The Endurance, the crew's mother ship, has a circular structure formed by 12 capsules—four with planetary colonization equipment, four with engines, and four with the permanent functions of cockpit, medical labs and habitation. Production designer Nathan Crowley said the Endurance was based on the International Space Station: "It's a real mish-mash of different kinds of technology. You need analogue stuff as well as digital stuff, you need back-up systems and tangible switches. It's really like a submarine in space. Every inch of space is used, everything has a purpose." Lastly, the Lander transports the capsules to planetary surfaces with colonization equipment. Crowley compared it to "a heavy Russian helicopter".[9]

The film also features two robots, CASE and TARS. Nolan wanted to avoid making the robots anthropomorphic and chose a five-foot quadrilateral design. The director said, "It has a very complicated design philosophy. It's based on mathematics. You've got four main blocks and they can be joined in three ways. So you have three combinations you follow. But then within that, it subdivides into a further three joints. And all the places we see lines—those can subdivide further. So you can unfold a finger, essentially, but it's all proportional." Actor Bill Irwin voiced and physically controlled both robots, but his image was digitally removed from the film and his voicing for CASE was replaced.[9]


Sound engineers Gregg Landaker and Gary Rizzo mixed the sound for Interstellar, supervised by sound editor Richard King.[40] Christopher Nolan said he sought to mix the film's sound to take maximum advantage of current sound equipment in theaters.[41] The studio's website said, "The sound on Interstellar has been specially mixed to maximize the power of the low end frequencies in the main channels as well as in the subwoofer channel."[42]


Composer Hans Zimmer, who scored Nolan's Batman film trilogy, is scoring Interstellar. Zimmer and Nolan plan to move away from the trilogy's scores and to come up with a unique one. Zimmer said, "The textures, the music, and the sounds, and the thing we sort of created has sort of seeped into other people's movies a bit, so it's time to reinvent. The endless string [ostinatos] need to go by the wayside, the big drums are probably in the bin."[43] Zimmer also said that Nolan did not provide him a script or any plot details for writing music for the film and instead gave the composer "one page of text" that "had more to do with [Zimmer's] story than the plot of the movie".[44] Nolan said he told Zimmer, "I said, 'I am going to give you an envelope with a letter in it. One page. It's going to tell you the fable at the center of the story. You work for one day, then play me what you have written," and he embraced what Zimmer composed. Zimmer conducted 45 scoring sessions for Interstellar, which was three times more than for Inception.[23]

Visual effects[edit]

The visual effects company Double Negative, which developed effects for Nolan's 2010 film Inception, worked on Interstellar.[45] Visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin said the number of effects in the film was not much greater than in Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises or Inception, but that for Interstellar, they created the effects first, so digital projectors could be used to display them behind the actors, rather than having the actors perform in front of green screens.[9]


Director Christopher Nolan said influences on Interstellar included the "key touchstones" of science fiction cinema; Metropolis (1927), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Blade Runner (1982).[46] Nolan said about 2001, "The movies you grow up with, the culture you absorb through the decades, becomes part of your expectations while watching a film. So you can't make any film in a vacuum. We're making a science-fiction film... You can't pretend 2001 doesn't exist when you're making Interstellar." He also said Star Wars (1977) and Alien (1979) influenced Interstellar '​s production design: "Those always stuck in my head as being how you need to approach science-fiction. It has to feel used—as used and as real as the world we live in."[47]

Nolan compared Interstellar to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), as a film about human nature.[48] He also sought to emulate films like Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). "When you say you're making a family film," he said, "it has all these pejorative connotations that it'll be somehow soft. But when I was a kid, these were family films in the best sense, and they were as edgy and incisive and challenging as anything else on the blockbuster spectrum. I wanted to bring that back in some way." He also cited the space drama The Right Stuff (1983) as an example to follow, and screened it for the crew before production.[9]

Scientific accuracy[edit]

Theoretical physicist Kip Thorne was a scientific consultant for the film, to ensure the depictions of wormholes and relativity were as accurate as possible. "For the depictions of the wormholes and the black hole," he said, "we discussed how to go about it, and then I worked out the equations that would enable tracing of light rays as they traveled through a wormhole or around a black hole—so what you see is based on Einstein's general relativity equations."[49]



The teaser trailer for Interstellar debuted December 14, 2013 and featured clips related to space exploration, accommodated by a voiceover by Matthew McConaughey's character of Cooper.[50] The theatrical trailer debuted May 5, 2014 at the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.[51] It was made available online later that month, and for the week ending May 19 it was the most-viewed movie trailer, with over 19.5 million views on YouTube.[52]

Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey made their first appearances at Comic-Con in July 2014 to promote Interstellar. The Hollywood Reporter said that prior to Nolan's appearance, he had "not spoken about his new movie at all".[53] The pair participated in a brief discussion and screened a new trailer of the film.[54]

Paramount Pictures launched a complex interactive Interstellar website in July 2014.[55] The Hollywood Reporter said the website was "both cryptic and, just maybe, filled with hidden meaning". It reported that online users uncovered a star chart related to the Apollo 11 moon landing.[56] By the following October, the studio pursued a new marketing strategy by partnering with Google to create a digital hub.[57] The relaunched website debuted the film's final trailer, and allowed visitors navigate theater locations and schedules to help them plan to see Interstellar in certain formats.[58] It also provided navigation of film-related content across Google platforms, collected feedback from film audiences, and linked to a mobile app.[57] The app, initially released by Paramount Digital Entertainment in September 2014, featured a game in which players could build solar system models and use a flight simulator for space travel.[59]

Paramount is providing a virtual reality walkthrough of the Endurance spacecraft using Oculus Rift technology. It is hosting the walkthrough sequentially in four theaters, in New York City, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, from October 6, 2014 through December 6, 2014.[60] The publisher Running Press will release Interstellar: Beyond Time and Space, a book by Mark Cotta Vaz about the making of the film, on November 11, 2014.[61] On November 7, 2014, W. W. Norton & Company will release The Science of Interstellar, a book by Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist who was a scientific adviser and executive producer for the film.[62]

Theatrical run[edit]

Interstellar is scheduled a for limited release in North America (United States and Canada) on November 5, 2014 and wide release on November 7, 2014.[63] The film will also be released in Belgium, France, and Switzerland on November 5, 2014 and in additional territories in the following days, including the United Kingdom on November 7, 2014.[64]

Interstellar is an exception to Paramount Pictures's goal to stop releasing films on film stock and to distribute them only in digital format.[65] For the limited North America release, Interstellar will be projected from 70 mm and 35 mm film in approximately 240 theaters that still support those formats, including at least 41 70 mm IMAX theaters.[nb 3] A 70 mm IMAX projector was installed at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, California to display the format. The film's wide release will expand to theaters that will show it digitally.[58] Paramount Pictures will distribute the film in North America, and Warner Bros. will distribute it in the remaining territories.[5]

The Hollywood Reporter said the initiative to project Interstellar from film would help preserve an endangered format,[58] an initiative that Christopher Nolan, J. J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, Judd Apatow, and other filmmakers have stated they support.[66] The Reporter said that several theater owners saw the initiative as "backward", as nearly all theaters in the United States have been converted to digital projection.[67]

Box office forecast[edit]

In North America, Interstellar and Big Hero 6 will open the same weekend of November 7–9, 2014, with both forecast to earn between $55 million and $60 million. TheWrap said the pairing was "potentially a close race". It said Interstellar would appeal to men while Big Hero 6 would appeal to families.[68] Fandango reported that pre-sales for the film were outpacing Inception and Dawn of the Planet of the Apess pre-ticket sales and could gross more than $50 million during it's opening weekend.[69]


Interstellar was nominated for Original Score for the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, contending with six other films. The advisory board received a five-minute trailer for the film that included Hans Zimmer's music.[70]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The film credits read, "Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Legendary Pictures a Syncopy/Lynda Obst Productions production."
  2. ^ Interstellar is scheduled to premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on October 29, 2014.[1]
  3. ^ The sequences shot on 65 mm IMAX film will be displayed in their full 1.43:1 aspect ratio on 70 mm IMAX screens (the 5 mm difference is due to the addition of the audio track on the film print), but will be cropped down to as large as 1.9:1 on digital IMAX screens, down to 2.20:1 on regular 70 mm screens, and down to 2.35:1 to match the 35 mm anamorphic footage on 35 mm film and all other digital screenings.


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