Christopher Nolan is one of the very best film directors plying his trade in Hollywood today. He has managed, over the course of nine films, to blend his trademark cerebral storytelling with a knack for nail-biting tension; this has then built to pulse-pounding, action-packed spectacles in many of his recent movies. His films have grossed over $4.2 billion at the worldwide box office, and he has also moved into a producing capacity with films such as Transcendence.
He has certain stylistic traits that pop up throughout his filmography, including a preference for non-linear storytelling and complex, labyrinthine plots that force his audiences to think about what they are watching and analyze it on a deeper level.
He is best known for his much-celebrated trilogy of Batman movies: The Dark Knight trilogy. These redefined the character for the modern age, and were equally beloved by fans and critics alike. He has also given us his own personal sci-fi masterpieces Inception and Interstellar, both of which made incredibly good money at the box-office, especially for movies that weren't based on existing properties like comic books or novels or video games. We also wonder if he will return some day to his roots, which were in tense and inventive crime thrillers like Memento and Insomnia.
This quiz will test any fan of Nolan's, as it covers almost the entirety of his career. Good luck!
In Memento, what does Guy Pearce's Leonard Shelby suffer from?
Christopher Nolan made his directorial debut with 1998's Following, a micro-budget thriller that he directed over the course of a year, mainly shooting on Saturdays as his cast all worked full-time jobs during the week! It was with his second feature Memento, however, that he made a big splash. A psychological neo-noir, it starred Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano. Pearce played Leonard Shelby, a man searching for the people that attacked him and killed his wife, all while coping with a debilitating condition...
What technique does Leonard use for investigating his wife's murder?
Given that Leonard Shelby is conducting an investigation into his wife's murder, it would certainly help if he could, you know, remember things. Or retain information. This aspect of Memento, as well as its tricksy narrative structure (black and white scenes shown chronologically, color scenes shown in reverse order, with the two sequences meeting at the end) are where the true genius of the film lies. Leonard has to come up with a very unique technique, in order to have any hope of conducting a fruitful investigation...
In Insomnia, why can't LAPD Detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) sleep?
Nolan's success with Memento lead to him getting the opportunity to work on big budget thriller Insomnia, which starred Al Pacino, Hilary Swank and a chilling Robin Williams. It was a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, which starred Stellan Skarsgard. Pacino plays Will Dormer, an LAPD detective dispatched to the small fishing town of Nightmute, Alaska, to investigate the murder of 17-year-old Kay Connell. He is there with his partner Hap Eckhart, all while an Internal Affairs investigation back home threatens to put Dormer under the microscope...
What is Walter Finch's (Robin Williams) job in the movie?
The late great Robin Williams had an interesting few years in the early 2000's, in which he purposely made a concerted effort to get away from the comedy roles he was known for. In 2002, he played emotionally disturbed photo development technician Sy Parrish in One Hour Photo, in what was a true revelation of a performance. His role in Insomnia came that same year. He played Walter Finch, an unsettling man and the main suspect in Kay O'Connell's murder...
In Batman Begins, what false identity does Ra's Al Ghul use when he is training Bruce Wayne?
Nolan is undoubtedly best known to most movie fans as the director of the massively acclaimed The Dark Knight trilogy. After Insomnia, Nolan was keen to reinvent Batman on screen, after the character had laid dormant after 1997's abysmal Batman & Robin. Warner Brothers let Nolan and co-writer David Goyer fulfill their vision, which was to tell Batman's origin story with a realism never seen before in comic book movies. They also had Bruce Wayne globe-trot for the first time on the big screen, and we see much of Bruce's training in the mountains of Bhutan...
What device do The League Of Shadows plan to use to disperse The Scarecrow's fear gas over Gotham City?
The main villains of Batman Begins are Ra's Al Ghul and his League Of Shadows, who use The Scarecrow's (Cillian Murphy) fear gas as part of their masterplan to destroy Gotham City. He laces Gotham's water supply with his fear-inducing drug, which Ra's intends to turn into an airborne agent with a powerful device, stolen from Wayne Enterprises, which will vaporize Gotham's water supply. Once the drug is in the air, it will infect the citizens, who will then tear themselves apart through fear.
Name the Gotham City Crime Boss Bruce confronts before he leaves to begin his training.
Two of the big inspirations for Nolan and Goyer's take on Batman were the classic comics Year One and The Long Halloween. Both of these series take place in Batman's early crime-fighting days, and both function very well as crime noir stories, that simply happen to have costumed heroes and villains appearing from time to time. Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli created 'The Roman', the most powerful crime boss in Gotham City for Batman: Year One, and he also appeared in The Long Halloween. In the movie, he was played by Tom Wilkinson, but what is the character's full name?
In The Dark Knight, who is the first public figure murdered by The Joker?
The Dark Knight was a genuine worldwide phenomenon upon its release in 2008. Batman Begins had restored the public's faith in Batman as a character, and with the sequel, Nolan and company improved in almost every regard. The movie was a billion dollar success, thanks in no small part to the late Heath Ledger's iconic performance as The Clown Prince Of Crime, The Joker. Heavy inspiration was taken from Joker's first appearance in 1940, in which he announced to the media, ahead of time, which public figure he was about to murder in a fiendish manner...
How many different stories does The Joker tell about how he got his scars?
In the classic (though somewhat controversial) graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke, readers are shown a version of The Joker's origin story. In it, he is a struggling comedian whose wife died of a freak accident the night before he was due to be part of a gang who robbed a chemical factory. However, at one point in the story, Joker indicates that he's so far gone that he doesn't quite remember how he came to be, and if he did have a past, he'd prefer it to be multiple choice. In The Dark Knight, Joker tells multiple contradicting stories about how he received the distinctive scars on his mouth/cheeks, and this could be an homage to the 'multiple choice' idea from the comic.
When Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face, he begins targetting people he holds responsible for what tragedy?
Heath Ledger casts a very large shadow over The Dark Knight, and for good reason. With a relatively small amount of screen-time, he makes such a large impression that it's easy to forget the story of the film is not actually centred on The Joker. Rather, it focusses on Batman and the fall of his ally, Gotham's 'White Knight': crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent. Dent is horrifically burned midway through the film, and Joker manipulates him, twisting his anger and pointing him in the direction of those he believes were responsible for the death of....
At the start of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman hasn't been seen in Gotham for how long?
Nolan, who was reticent to return to direct a third Batman movie, eventually agreed after he, his brother Jonah and David Goyer came up with a story they felt would end the trilogy on a high note. They took quite a risk with the set-up of the story, in that it takes place a number of years after The Dark Knight, and during this time, Gotham has been almost entirely crime free and Batman has been nowhere to be seen. That is, until a certain burly masked mercenary turns up in Gotham...
Where do Bane and his army of mercenaries make their base of operations?
Tom Hardy had his work cut out for him whenever he signed up to play the vicious mercenary Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Coming after Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker, any actor was going to find it a tough act to follow. But Hardy excelled, creating a unique villain who was so completely different from The Joker that comparisons felt unfair and unwarranted. In the film, Bane and his army of followers set up their base of operations in an ingenious place...
What is Miranda Tate's true identity?
When it was announced that French actress Marion Cotillard would be playing Miranda Tate in The Dark Knight Rises, fans' eyebrows were raised. Tate was not a known character from the comic books, and Cotillard's star was on the rise. Surely she wouldn't be hired to play an unimportant character with no comic book history, right? This had to be a trick, similar to what was done with Liam Neeson in Batman Begins? Well, fans were right! Miranda Tate's true identity was....
Catwoman is pursuing the 'clean slate' in the film. What is this?
Anne Hathaway appeared as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, and even though she is never referred to as Catwoman in the movie...she's definitely Catwoman. I mean, look at that costume. And those goggles that can look like cat ears! Anyway, Selina is presented as a professional cat burglar, grifter and femme fatale, who has an electric chemistry with both Bruce Wayne and Batman. In the story, she is pursuing something intensely, and will seemingly stop at nothing to get it...
In The Prestige, inventor Nikola Tesla was played by which pop music icon?
Nolan sandwiched this 2006 period mystery thriller between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. It starred Christian Bale and Michael Caine (naturally), alongside Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall. Oh, and Hugh Jackman played Robert Angier, the magician that Bale's Alfred Borden is feuding with throughout the film. Yes, this movie DOES feature Batman and Wolverine engaging in a battle of wits. With Black Widow and Alfred and that villainous scientist lady from Iron Man 3 watching on. It also featured a brilliant supporting turn from a genuine pop music icon...
Name the magic trick that Hugh Jackman's Robert Angier steals from Christian Bale's Alfred Borden?
One of the central conflicts of The Prestige sees Jackman's Angier steal a certain illusion from Borden's playbook, which he then performs with much more showmanship and to a larger audience. It's shown that Angier is a much more natural showman than Borden, and even though Borden is a more talented magician, he lacks the ability to truly engage an audience. The two men then obsessively sabotage each other, while also trying to figure out how they accomplish their illusions.
According to the film, what is the act of 'Inception'?
After the runaway success of The Dark Knight in 2008, Nolan was Warner Brothers' golden child, and was finally able to get the green-light for one of his passion projects. Inception had initially been developed in 2002 in the form of an 80-page script treatment for a horror film which was based around dream stealers and lucid dreaming. The final movie, which was released in 2010, was very different than this initial incarnation. Inception became a $160 million sci-fi action blockbuster, with a starry cast and a wonderfully cerebral script.
In the dream world, what is 'limbo'?
Inception was the rare film that combined arthouse smarts with blockbuster entertainment, and blended them seamlessly. It made audiences think every bit as much as it excited them with action and gravity defying dreamscapes. In the film, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team (including Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page) enter the dream of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), and while there, the plan goes badly wrong when they find out Fischer's subconscious has been trained to fight back against dream extraction. They realize that if they die, instead of simply waking up, they will instead end up in 'limbo'...
Why does Leonardo DiCaprio's Dom Cobb accept the mission, despite all the risks?
Prior to Inception, Nolan had tried to work with Leonardo DiCaprio several times, but had been unable to convince him to be in any of his films. He finally snared Leo for this one, though, as he was intrigued by the concept of the film and felt Nolan's script was well-written. Leo and Nolan then spent months fine-tuning the screenplay, in order to make sure that Dom Cobb's emotional journey was the film's driving force. He had a very good reason for taking on Saito's mission, you see...
What is the spaceship Endurance's mission in Interstellar?
Once again, Nolan followed up a Batman movie (The Dark Knight Rises) with one of his long-gestating passion projects: Interstellar, an epic sci-fi film starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck. Oh, and Michael Caine. Naturally. Nolan's brother Jonah had been hired to write Interstellar in 2007, with Steven Spielberg attached to direct, but the project stalled and Spielberg left. Jonah suggested his brother, who joined the project in 2012, writing his own screenplay which he then merged with Jonah's.
The treacherous Dr Mann, who tries to kill Matthew McConaughey's Cooper, was played by which A-List star in a surprise extended cameo?
It's always fun when movie studios keep things secret, because as audience members, we love to be surprised when we go to the cinema. Now, in this modern day and age of the internet, keeping anything secret has gotten increasingly difficult, and while this particular extended cameo in Interstellar wasn't kept entirely under wraps, it wasn't heavily publicized either. This meant that when Matthew McConaughey's Cooper and his crew reached the frozen planet that the mysterious Dr Mann had been communicating with them from, audiences were pleasantly surprised to find he was played by...
The upcoming Dunkirk features which current pop star in his first film role?
21st July, 2017 will see the release of Nolan's follow-up to 2014's Interstellar. It is a World War II epic entitled Dunkirk, and it stars regular collaborators Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, as well as Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and newcomer Fionn Whitehead in the lead role. The film will follow the story of the Allied soldiers who were surrounded by the German army on the beaches of Dunkirk, and were evacuated by Operation Dynamo between 26th May and 4th June 1940.
Nolan was one of the first A-List directors to shoot on digital video, as opposed to the traditional film stock. True or false?
In 2012, Nolan was one of the many filmmakers interviewed by Keanu Reeves for Christopher Kenneally's documentary Side By Side, which detailed the history and working processes of both photochemical film stock and digital video. Digital is shown as a growing trend in Hollywood, as it gives the filmmakers more immediate control over their image and is also much cheaper to use. But there are those who still believe in using real film stock, as they feel it gives a classic feel to their movies.
Nolan was producer and also received story credit on which 2013 DC Comics superhero movie?
As Nolan was making his Dark Knight trilogy, he was adamant that his Batman universe would not cross-pollinate with any other DC characters. He felt it would lessen the integrity of his story if there were other superheroes known to exist in the world. This also extended to his (and Christian Bale's) decision not to use Robin in any of the movies. However, during story discussions for The Dark Knight Rises, writing partner David Goyer pitched his idea for how to reintroduce another famous superhero to modern audiences. Nolan liked it so much that he pitched it to Warner Brothers, and was hired as producer for the film.
Only one of Nolan's films has been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Which one?
Over the course of his career, Christopher Nolan has become one of the highest-grossing film directors of all time, as well as one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the modern age. He is a true auteur, who manages to bring his own distinct style to every project, whether he's working on a comic book adaptation like Batman, or an original concept like Memento. He has been nominated for and won countless awards all over the world, but he has only ever garnered three Academy Award nominations, and only one of these was for Best Picture...