Christopher Nolan and ‘Tenet’ cast talk new blockbuster film

‘Tenet’ is Nolan’s most audacious and dizzying film yet. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 August 2020

Christopher Nolan and ‘Tenet’ cast talk new blockbuster film

DUBAI: British-American filmmaker Christopher Nolan was 7 years old the first time he went to see a James Bond movie at the cinema.

The 007 caper, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” starred Roger Moore and it may have been in that London theater seat, while sat next to his father, that the Nolan we know, the visionary director behind “Inception,” “Interstellar,” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy, was truly born inside of him.

“I’ve tried to retain from that experience the feeling of possibility — that you could jump through that screen and go anywhere in the world and see the most amazing things,” he told Arab News.

“It had such scale, such possibilities. It was pure escapism and an excellent sort of fantasy component to it as well. The car that turns into a submarine, and all of that stuff. I think I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to get back to that. I try to give that feeling to audiences, to take you back to that sense of wonderment about the possibilities of what movies can do and where they can take you,” Nolan said.




Nolan’s screenwriting credits include “Inception,” “Interstellar,” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy. (Supplied)

It is fitting, then, that for “Tenet,” his most audacious and dizzying film yet, he chose the spy genre to bring audiences into a world that has been brewing in the back of his head for decades — a world in which objects and people can move backward and forward through time in front of your very eyes, and the fate of both the future and the past are in balance.

“People who know my earlier work will recognize some of the tropes like the bullet coming out of the wall and going back into the gun. It’s something that’s used for metaphorical purpose in ‘Memento.’ But here, we try to actually make it concrete and make it a real thing,” Nolan, 50, added.




The film constantly comes up with new concepts and sequences that have never been attempted on screen before. (Supplied)

While the film constantly comes up with new concepts and sequences that have never been attempted on screen before, it is the simple spy story at its heart that keeps audiences grounded, with a charismatic star in John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”) and his sidekick played by Robert Pattinson, both who light up the screen, even while their characters go unnamed.

For each, the trick was finding a way to avoid getting lost in the grandeur of Nolan’s nearly unfathomable vision and a $225 million production that focused on practical stunts that went as far as to crash a real plane.




John David Washington and his sidekick played by Robert Pattinson both light up the screen, even while their characters go unamed. (Supplied)

The trick was to dive further into their characters. We may never find out much about the past of Washington’s Protagonist, but Nolan and Washington had his whole life mapped out in secret, with Washington spending hours pouring into aspects of his character the audience only sees hinted at.

“It all comes from inside out. It comes from knowing why he’s doing what he is doing, how he got there, what he sees, what he wants, and why he even wanted to sign up for this. I would have diaries and write about his backstory. It was fun,” Washington said.

For Pattinson, who will next don the cowl in 2021’s much-anticipated “The Batman,” he had to find the right emotional reaction to the mind-bending world his character finds himself in. Pattinson settled on sheer, unadulterated joy — and found it worked.

“Once I realized that you could play him as someone who enjoys the chaotic situation that he’s in, then that seemed to be the touchstone for the rest of the character. It’s not pleasurable for any of the characters once you find out the truth of the story. It’s not a great thing to find out. He is just one of those people who say, ‘God, I love this. I love living in a nightmare,’” said Pattinson.

At the center of that nightmare is a man named Andrei Sator, played by Oscar-nominee Kenneth Branagh, an enigmatic man whose relationship with the future may lead to the end of the world.




Oscar-nominee Kenneth Branagh plays a man named Andrei Sator whose relationship with the future may lead to the end of the world. (Supplied)

“He’s a man who plays fast and loose with his own soul. The consequences for humanity are absolutely appalling,” said Branagh. The actor, who has spent a career diving deep into the intricate work of playwright William Shakespeare, found in the screenplay to “Tenet” a world that he could barely get his head around.

“’Tenet’ is the screenplay that I’ve read more than any other screenplay on anything else I’ve worked on. I needed to keep up with its twists, its turns, and its challenges. It’s a very gripping read, but you definitely have to go back. At least, I definitely had to go back. I imagine that might be the case in the cinema.

“It was like a three-dimensional emotional chess puzzle making the movie. Nolan is extraordinary,” added Branagh.


Lebanese presenter Nadim Koteich on the ‘intellectual battle’ for regional culture

Updated 3 min 46 sec ago

Lebanese presenter Nadim Koteich on the ‘intellectual battle’ for regional culture

  • The broadcaster and satirist discusses his new show, media evolution, and surviving social media

DUBAI: “The material that appeals to the younger generation is less related to geopolitics and more related to values and emotions: The videos that expose lying, hypocrisy and contradictions, and the filthiness of the political elite across the board, are basically the hits among this generation.”

Sky News Arabia’s Nadim Koteich is talking about the radical shift in the Middle East’s media landscape in recent years. And the Lebanese presenter is well placed to do so, as a veteran journalist and broadcaster adapting to that shift. He is known for his biting satirical and political commentary which has proven hugely popular online. His new Monday-to-Friday show, “Tonight With Nadim,” is, he says, a natural progression of his previous work.

“Even the most traditional giants in the market are adopting digital strategies in terms of distribution and channeling the message,” he tells Arab News. “My show airs at midnight, but we post it completely on digital before it hits the screen. Before, the (TV) screen was sacred. Now, whenever it’s ready, just put it up. So what kind of short format is reaching the audience becomes a question of content.” Koteich’s 25-minute show aims to tackle the issues of the day via three segments: ‘Fake News’ — two or three quick stories that look to “decode” events and statements; ‘3D’ — a satirical take on the news; and ‘Serious Talk,’ which Koteich calls a “visualized editorial” of the day. It’s a format tailored for modern audiences.

Sky News Arabia’s Nadim Koteich is talking about the radical shift in the Middle East’s media landscape in recent years. Supplied

“(People under 30) don’t have the time, they don’t have the stamina, they don’t have the interest in just dry takes,” he says. “They have a love of skepticism when it comes to reading or following politics. They have so much more at their disposal than what conventional media is providing them.”

Younger viewers may prefer these “media nuggets,” but Koteich is keen to ensure that older ones are not ignored. It is less about age and more about ideology, he suggests.

“We are in an intellectual battle between two main projects in the region: Political Islam and national states,” Koteich, a fierce critic of Iran and Hezbollah, says. “The two audience camps are not divided not only by age groups, but also by communities. (Both have) young, old, and middle-aged groups. I think this dichotomy between age groups is a little misleading, because you need to talk about communities that are a hybrid of age groups.” Koteich, who has over 360,000 Twitter followers, has learned to tune out the background noise of social media over the years.

“You grow very thick skin,” he says. “You shouldn’t take (things) personally, because there is a collapse of context when it comes to social media and it’s made the conversation very poisonous. Because people are basically talking to a screen and the emotions are edited out in a very fierce, very dehumanizing way.” This loss of context can lead to the rise of conspiracy theories, he adds.

While Koteich’s politics are clear enough, he is prepared to dispassionately give his opinion on other presenters. Supplied

“Some of those who like my stance on Iran, are the same who get angry at me for criticizing Turkey, Erdogan or Hamas,” Koteich says. “They stereotype you as the person who is criticizing Iran and they are so happy, but when you attack Hamas, it awakens their sectarian tendencies. You shouldn’t get carried away by positive reactions, and you shouldn’t be taken down by negative reactions.”

While Koteich’s politics are clear enough, he is prepared to dispassionately give his opinion on other presenters.

“I’m a big fan of (‘Daily Show’ presenter) Trevor Noah, he had a big challenge to fill the shoes of Jon Stewart and he did that in a marvelous way. He has transformed the show, it’s much more loaded with racial analysis and issues as opposed to liberal- versus-conservative divisions,” he says, adding that he also admires Tucker Carlson of Fox News for the “clarity of his messages.”

Koteich sees the discussion of cultural issues, not just politics, as cause for optimism in the region, something to be explored in his and other programs. “If you look at what the UAE has done in terms of the new laws they have adopted, there’s this hidden dialogue between top-down and down-top that is evolving the legal climate,” he says. “With this happening, more and more space will be created for such discussions.”