Christopher Nolan's new 'family' go to infinity and beyond in Interstellar
Christopher Nolan (below) has a galactic amount of pressure on his shoulders.
After all, the acclaimed British film-maker directed three massive blockbusters.
The Dark Knight, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises earned a combined US$2.9 billion (S$3.7 billion) worldwide.
The moment it was announced, Interstellar became the most anticipated film of 2014 - even though no one really knew what it was about, other than it involved outer space.
Naturally, there was an air of excitement as international journalists gathered at Four Seasons Beverly Hills awaited the arrival of Nolan and his A-List cast last week.
Much of the buzz arose from watching the film the night before, which lasted almost three hours.
The stars were Nolan alumna Anne Hathaway, and Nolan newbies Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain.
If Inception prompted a deluge of questions, the number of them for Interstellar could be considered of cosmic proportions.
Perhaps the cast were also feeling pressure. McConaughey, in particular, exhibited none of the exuberance seen during Oscar season.
Quoting a famous Nolan character: Why so serious?
It took Chastain - surprisingly the chirpiest in the cast - to break the ice, joking that the only reason she was in the room was because of the pay cheque.
"Well, we did offer you a lot of money," said Nolan, smiling.
Brushing the joke aside, Chastain, 37, said she was honoured to be a new member of Nolan's film family.
"When I received the call from Chris, I knew I wanted to sign on before I got the script!" she exclaimed.
Of the three actors, Chastain seemed to be the odd one out.
Aside from sporting a disposition more cheery than the rest, her pristine white dress and ginger hair also made her stand out, since her cast-mates were dark-haired, and clad in black.
A somewhat dour Hathaway said that having worked with Nolan on The Dark Knight Rises, she'd say yes to anything he asked of her.
"Getting the call was when I said yes," said Hathaway, 31. "Reading the script was a formality. I was going to say yes to anything."
For McConaughey, 44, it was the script that drew him in.
"It was a really wild script. And more ambitious than anything I've seen before.
"It got my imagination working right away," said the Oscar winner, adding that having Nolan at the helm was the icing on the cake.
Another plus for McConaughey was being able to share the story with his eldest son Levi.
"I've a six-year-old son who's a dreamer and loves to ask questions about space and the solar system," said the father of three.
"I thought this is an incredible and ambitious fable to show the amazing capacity of us as a human race," he explained.
In the science-fiction movie, which opens here tomorrow, McConaughey plays single parent Cooper who joins a group of explorers in search of a new habitable planet to replace a depleted Earth.
Hathaway and Chastain play crucial members of the team. To say more would count as spoilers.
Unsurprisingly, the movie also stars Nolan's frequent collaborator and talisman Michael Caine, along with Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and John Lithgow.
Interstellar has a lot of scientific theory behind it, and features themes like relativity, black holes and quantum physics - all straight from the research of Kip Thorne.
The celebrated US theoretical physicist - known for his contributions in gravitational physics and astrophysics - served as one of the film's executive producers.
But will the high-brow science leave movie-goers befuddled?
"My responsibility to the audience is to try and understand the narrative possibilities of the science - but not get too deep," said Nolan, 44.
"We strive for emotional clarity. You will understand the story emotionally or on an intellectual level," added the Oscar-nominated writer-director.
The film's heart - the emotional relationship between a father and his children - would make it relatable to everyone, he said.
"My hope is that people enjoy the film as entertainment... enjoy the ride," he said.
His advice for those who still don't get his latest masterpiece?
"See the film again and buy all the home entertainment stuff," he said laughing.
"I like films that you want to see again and again. It means there is more to be found.
"Then we can have a more in-depth discussion about whatever questions and theories you have."
Escaping the typecasting rut
PARTNERS: Director Christopher Nolan (left) with his Interstellar leading man Matthew McConaughey (right). PHOTOS: REUTERS, WARNER BROS
He has spent much of his career on the covers of tabloid magazines (often shirtless).
But Matthew McConaughey has truly reinvented himself, and these days, you can't help but take the actor seriously.
The 44-year-old Texanonce lamented becoming typecast, after starring in countless romantic comedies.
Now, with an Oscar under his belt, for his powerful performance in last year's Dallas Buyers Club, and a part in the cable TV series True Detective, directors want McConaughey in their films.
Judging by the work McConaughey is taking on, it looks like it's drama stuff all the way.
He turned down Channing Tatum's male stripper sequel, Magic Mike XXL.
After Interstellar, he will act as a suicidal man in a Gus Van Sant drama, The Sea Of Trees, playing opposite Ken Watanabe.
The one-time Sexiest Man Alive chats with M about picking and getting into roles, as well as going under the radar.
ON THE YEARS LEADING TO THE OSCAR WIN
I do think that the (two years) I took off - and was not being seen - was good.
(McConaughey made no films from 2009 to 2011).
Some people ask me if I went through a re-brand. I don't think so. It was more a sense of un-branding.
I like a little anonymity.
Suddenly, directors thought I was a good idea again.
Then I got a call from Richard Linklater (for Bernie), then I made Mud...films that usually would not come to me.
ON HOW HE CHOOSES HIS FILM ROLES
I'm less result-oriented now. One thing I'm doing more of now is to process, process and process.
I'm really looking at these projects and seeing what kind of personal experience I can get while making the films.
Can I, when we wrap the film, say that the months I worked were enough and rewarding? And if the film never sees the light of day, would I be happy that I got something out of it?
Would I be able to say, "Yes, I got an experience out of that"?
ON BEING ABLE TO RELATE TO THE SCENE IN INTERSTELLAR ROLE WHERE HE LEAVES HIS FAMILY
We all have our different goodbyes. It could be going to school for the day or Daddy going off to work for a while.
I was recently down at Fort Hood (in Texas) where I met up with some military personnel who have come back from Afghanistan, and their families.
I noticed the similarity of choices that they made; where you head off without a guarantee of a return ticket.
That really framed it all. It was a good reality check.
- Joanne Soh
No repeats, please
Christopher Nolan enjoys reusing actors in his films. For instance, Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Tom Hardy. Here are a few with only one Nolan film to their name...
The Prestige (2006)
The Prestige (2006)