Emma Thomas, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, and Tom Hardy sat down with Buzzine to talk about working with Christopher Nolan, stuntwork at zero-Gs, and the mysteries of Inception...
Izumi Hasegawa: There’s a moment where Ellen [Page]‘s character expresses a little bit of confusion about where they are and who’s dream they’re in and so forth. In terms of shooting this film, were there ever any moments where you were thinking, “Okay, can we recap where we are and what’s going on here?” Were there any moments where it was so complex and involved for the actors that it was confusing at all to you?
Tom Hardy: Personally, it was easy to orientate which dream sequence I was in because of my costume. If in doubt, I could just look at my shoes and say, “Oh!” [Claps] “I know which dream I’m in.”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Also, if you’re doing it right, you spend a lot of time thinking about every scene in every movie you do. I enjoy putting some thought into it before we roll camera.
IH: Joe, can you tell us a little more about the Fred Astaire fight sequence and the training for it, and the zero-G situation in the elevator?
JGL: It was just about the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set. It was also probably the most pain I’ve ever been in on a movie set, physically — but pain in a good way, like in the way I guess athletes must get when they have to put on their pads and they tape up their ankles and they get a little beat up throughout the day, but that’s just part of slamming yourself into walls and jumping around all day. I was really grateful to the whole stunt team — Tom Struthers, who Chris has worked with before…he and his guys really took me in and taught me a lot and let me do it, because I’ve had the opposite experience, where stunt teams can be a little exclusionary toward actors. To speak to your Fred Astaire comparison, I get a kick out of that ’cause she’s talking about how there’s this dance sequence in a Fred Astaire movie where it’s a similar effect, and I was thinking about it and I came up with an analogy. Because Inception does contain a similar technique, it’s sort of how Sesame Street and Star Wars both use Jim Henson puppetry. It’s a similar technique but to very different effect.
IH: Mr. Hardy, what were the pleasures and challenges of your action work?
TH: The pleasure was that there wasn’t actually that much, to be honest with you, so I felt I’d just come off a cage fighting film and I’d been pretty badly beaten up. I was a bit broken. I had broken toes and ribs and wrist. It was nice to wear nice suits and have a tan and slippers and cardigans. It wasn’t until the end of the shoot, when we went to Calgary, that they wrote in a couple of extra skidoo scenes and introduced me to a pair of skis for the first time in my life, and then tied me to the back of the skidoo in desperation to get the shot as quickly as possible and expediently sent me up the top of the mountain and then down it several times, giving me claymores and hand grenades and a rifle, and I went back to business, which I enjoy thoroughly.
IH: Emma, do you release a smart movie in the summer at your peril, or is that the appeal?
Emma Thomas: I think audiences aren’t given enough credit. I think what we’ve experienced in the past is that people do like to be challenged. The other thing I feel very strongly about this film and one of the things I really love about it is that it can be appreciated on many levels. If you’re the sort of person who goes to watch a film, wants to really think about the intricacies of the plot and how the technology works and the dream levels and map that out, then you can do that. But there’s also an enormous amount of fun and action and emotion. It’s a great love story. I think that if you want to, you can simply appreciate the film on that level.
IH: Cillian, how have Emma and Chris changed? What’s the inside scoop?
Cillian Murphy: There’s no inside scoop really. I’ve been very lucky to work with Chris three times now, briefly on The Dark Knight. It’s always a real privilege and a real pleasure. This was particularly exciting to get to work with this great bunch of actors, and the character was something new for me. It was really interesting to explore that because, I guess in terms of the structure of the film, he’s like the mark but he’s got a lot more layers to him. He’s a lot more complex than what you’d see in a traditional heist film, so it’s great to talk to Chris and to explore what we can bring from that character because he does sort of, by accident, get to work stuff out — the relationship with his father and things. That was great, and it was a brilliant experience. The atmosphere and the environment that you get on a Chris Nolan film that himself and Emma create is one where you feel very safe and very confident and able to experiment with characters. It’s a great place to be as an actor.
IH: Ken, what was the toughest challenge for you?
Ken Watanabe: First of all, I made the character, basically. He is a CEO and is smart and powerful, but the most unique point of this movie was when the characters enter other people’s dreams. So I tried to emphasize different aspects of my character in each level of the dreams, the layers of dreams, and then one of the scenes – the first sequence in the castle – I picked up some hidden personality [traits] of Saito, just some more radical and powerful, and the second sequence in the old hotel with Leo talking about secrets, I picked up that his character is smart and sharp, and it’s a totally different kind of personality and it’s really interesting. Of course it was tough shooting when we were in the water the whole day and [with] no gravity for a whole day. My wife visited the set in London, where I shot [a scene] where I float above the floor for a whole day, and she asked me, “What’s the movie [about]?”
IH: What was the collaborative process like for you, once you came aboard?
JGL: One of my favorite parts of working for Chris is that, as well thought-out as everything was, he leaves room for spontaneity on the day, both from the side of the camera, that he and Wally [Pfister] work together in this very kind of organic way, and as well as from the actors. It’s nice to not feel like you’re just re-enacting a preconceived moment, but there’s room for an organic feeling to develop while the camera is rolling. Even amidst these enormous technical productions, Chris always prioritized, making sure that spontaneous and organic feeling could happen at the moment.
IH: Emma, is he normal at home?
ET: Gosh. I’m enjoying the pain he’s going through right now. Yeah, completely normal. At home, we probably talk about work a little bit more than most people do at home, but our kids don’t let us do that too much, and yeah, he’s completely normal. But I do wonder where it all comes from.
IH: Is he a good sleeper
ET: He’s a very good sleeper. Yes, sometimes I wish he’d wake up earlier, but yeah, he’s very normal – he is!
Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Inception' is released on July 16, 2010.