Jon Favreau Praises “Riveting” ‘Dunkirk,’ Talks Making Superhero Movies With Christopher Nolan
With the first week of November upon us awards season is in full bloom in Hollywood. There are major premieres and screenings every single night this week and that doesn’t even take into account AFI Fest opening on Thursday or the Governors Awards on Saturday. On Tuesday night Warner Bros. held a special Q&A for Christopher Nolan‘s critically acclaimed blockbuster “Dunkirk” which is pretty much a lock for multiple nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and a slew of below-the-line categories.
Even though “Dunkirk” opened in July, the main DGA theater was still almost full for a guild screening that featured a discussion afterward with Nolan and Jon Favreau. The latter has stepped up for his fellow filmmakers in this capacity before, most notably for a massive event saluting “Gravity” in 2014.
Favreau began telling the audience that Nolan had shown “Dunkirk” in its early stages to a number of filmmakers that he sees as his peers, including himself, even though they all actually look up to him. He remarked, “Chris is always an advocate for the photochemical process, for shooting on film for using opticals. All the things the studios fight you tooth and nail to do. And because of his wonderful body of work and his success he’s able to fight for the preservation for the film technology and the culture of film. And ‘Dunkirk’ is a magnificent example of this. My biggest qualm was I just turned 51 and there was no time to take a pee break in this movie. It’s riveting from the first frame.”
“Dunkirk” centers on the evacuation of 338,000 troops from the coastal town of Dunkirk, France at the end of May, 1940. Nolan’s film centers on the soldiers and their experiences on land, sea and air (Joe Wright’s “The Darkest Hour” centers on the political quagmire British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was in to save them). The screenplay follows three storylines that begin one week, one day and one hour before converging at the same moment. Favreau touched on this creative choice during the Q&A.
“I realize you take quite a few liberties with time and that’s a through line for all of your work going back to ‘Memento’ and I know you don’t like 3D, but you like 4D,” Favreau says. “You mess with the time signature both in structure and in the narrative.”
“Very much. I think the relationship between cinema and the passage of time is pretty fascinating,” Nolan says. “And in any movie you see there is a pretty sophisticated experience you are have watching on screen and your experience with the passage of time. So it’s often very difficult to figure out, ‘What was the time scale?’ What I have been doing with my films, which is sort of extreme of it in a way, is taking that mechanism and in a way simplifying it and putting it foreground. So, the audience is somewhat involved. They are aware of the fact the movie is playing with time and the sense of time.”
Nolan also reflected at length about the importance of music and sound design at the beginning of the production process, the use of old school special effect techniques to create the illusion of thousands of soldiers on the beach and the difficulties of filmming at sea.
“I hadn’t shot with boats before,” Nolan says. “I spoke to Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard for advice and they said, ‘Don’t do it.'” (Laughs.)
While both directors had success early in their directing careers they both took a leap after the landmark superhero films “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight,” a fact not lost on Favreau.
“I know how difficult it is,” Favreau says. “We both come out of the superhero movie tradition and we are both partially responsible for how things have developed and evolved. (Laughs.) And I think it’s wonderful that you are continuing to broaden things out and keep it exciting.”
“You feel responsibility to success to take more risks,” Nolan says. “There are so many great filmmakers out there who don’t have the opportunity to get a big budget. There are all sorts of films that don’t get made. If you succeed for the studio financially with each film you have an opportunity to grasp that opportunity and really try to stretch yourself and do something they wouldn’t let someone else do.”
Edit: Can the title be changed to something else, something more inclusive of all the other awards, not just the Oscars or it's chances. The award season is a rather extensive lead-up to the Oscar.