Despite his reputation as a director of groundbreaking and mind-bending films, Christopher Nolan is a stickler for tradition. Just as he passionately fights for the practice of shooting on film, Nolan pushes the casts of his films to appreciate the classics — gathering up his cast and crew before each of his productions start to screen movies that serve as inspirations for their respective projects. Before filming The Dark Knight, Nolan made everyone watch Michael Mann’s Heat, while the cast of Dunkirk was given the homework of All Quiet on the Western Front and The Battle of Algiers. But Nolan broke his own tradition for the first time by avoiding all Bond films before and during the filming of his upcoming movie, Tenet.
In an interview with Total Film magazine, Nolan revealed that he broke his own longstanding tradition of screening his film’s inspirations for the first time with Tenet, which is highly inspired by one of Nolan’s favorite franchises: the James Bond series. Nolan explained that he didn’t screen any Bond movies for the cast of Tenet, which includes John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Clémence Poésy, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh, because the espionage genre is already so culturally ingrained in everyone:
“Interestingly, this is one of the first films I’ve ever made where we didn’t do any screenings. And the reason was, I think we all have the spy genre so in our bones and in our fingertips. I actually wanted to work from a memory and a feeling of that genre, rather than the specifics.”
“This is definitely the longest period of time I’ve ever gone in my life without watching a James Bond film,” Nolan added. “My love of the spy genre comes from the Bond franchise, and the Bond character very specifically.” But it’s perhaps because Nolan has such an affection for Bond that he wanted to put some distance between Tenet and the famed gentleman spy. That, and the spy genre has become such common cultural knowledge that everyone knows the trappings of the genre — which is something that Nolan wanted to go beyond with Tenet.
“It’s totally in my bones,” Nolan said. “I don’t need to reference the movies and look at them again. It’s about trying to re-engage with your childhood connection with those movies, with the feeling of what it’s like to go someplace new, someplace fresh. It actually has to take them somewhere they haven’t been before, and that’s why no one’s ever been able, really, to do their own version of James Bond or something. It doesn’t work. And that’s not at all what this is. This is much more my attempt to create the sort of excitement in grand-scale entertainment I felt from those movies as a kid, in my own way.”
Nolan’s name was thrown around quite a bit when the search for a new Bond director had begun, as the director has a well-known love for the franchise. But Nolan was never officially attached to direct a Bond, choosing instead to put his own spin on the espionage movie with Tenet.
Tenet is still slated for a July 17, 2020 release date (for now).
Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
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