The Childhood Moment That Inspired Christopher Nolan To Make Interstellar

Is Christopher Nolan more of a Stanley Kubrick type who make clinical films that raise heady questions about human nature and our place in the grand scheme of things? Or is he a showman who marries personal stories and themes with crowd-pleasing spectacle like Steven Spielberg did in his blockbuster heyday? The answer is, arguably, a bit of both, and there's no better example of this than Nolan's 2014 sci-fi movie "Interstellar."

Set in a dystopian future where Earth is no longer capable of sustaining humankind, "Interstellar" stars Matthew McConaughey as Joseph Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot who leads a mission to a distant galaxy in search of a new planet for humanity to call home. The film recalls Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" in terms of its realism-driven depiction of black holes and space travel, yet its emotional plot — which centers on Cooper's relationship with his daughter Murphy — lies more in Spielberg's wheelhouse. That's no accident, either; "Interstellar" was originally developed as a directing vehicle for Spielberg before Nolan came onboard.

Interestingly, however, Nolan described "Interstellar" to The New York Times as being inspired by "2001" and a film by one of Spielberg's peers: George Lucas' 1977 classic "Star Wars" (aka "Star Wars: A New Hope"). As Nolan recounted, he was seven when his father took him to see "Star Wars" during its initial release and a theatrical re-release of "2001" over the course of a year. By no coincidence, this was also when he began shooting Super 8 movies.

"This Was Our Whole Childhood."

Nolan's love of "2001" is particularly well-documented. Around the same time he oversaw a 70mm "unrestoration" of the film in 2018 (understandably, the movie's still-living special photographic effects supervisor, Douglas Trumbull, was somewhat "flabbergasted" that Warner Bros. didn't involve him in this process), Nolan described Kubrick's space epic as being the perfect movie to show kids. While explaining what he meant by that, he also referenced his own childhood encounter with both "2001" and "Star Wars":

"I saw Star Wars when I was 7, and the movie changed everything for people my age. They re-released 2001 on the basis of that success and I went to see it with a bunch of my friends. We [all said after watching it], "We don't know what the hell that means, but it's exciting." We just wanted spaceships, we wanted space, we wanted that experience of leaving the Earth."

Nolan's brother Jonathan Nolan, who co-wrote the script for "Interstellar" and several of his other directorial efforts to date, noted as much when he visited the "Interstellar" set during production. As Nolan recounted, upon seeing the spaceship set pieces constructed for the film, his sibling told him, "Of course we're doing something like this; this was our whole childhood." Knowing all this, it only seems right that many still consider the Nolan brothers' space adventure to be the movie that's as close to their hearts as anything else they've made, together or apart.