Like you, I rate The Prestige high in Christopher Nolan’s films. It and Memento are clearly the best he has made, for all the show-off techniques of his Batman films (which look increasingly silly and dated as time goes by… love those Nokia mobile phones!). I thought Inception was one of the worst films I saw that year. It had a truly dreadful script (“Is this a dream, or is this reality?”), the sort of snowmobile sequence you see in James Bond movies, and so on. The fact that it had one brilliant-looking special effect after another was more or less irrelevant. You can’t make a good film without a good script. I keep wishing and hoping Nolan will return to less flashy films: the sort of original and thought-provoking material he worked with in Memento and The Prestige. He could then emerge as one of the great directors. But he must get other people to write his scripts.
I assume this is the real reason Priest is still mad at Nolan:
But signs of Nolan’s high-handedness and control-freakery, as Priest saw it, were already in evidence. A crunch came when Priest’s American publishers wanted to issue a new edition of The Prestige to tie in with the film – something that would have made a huge difference to sales. The film-makers refused to clear images from the film for use on the jacket, which effectively nixed the plan. Nolan’s stated position was that he didn’t want to encourage anyone to read the book before they saw the film, lest it give away the twist ending – though, as Priest points out, a tie-in edition of the film script went on sale ahead of release.
“I was seriously aggrieved by that,” says Priest, “because it was selfish and mean. Everyone else is on a percentage, and the only hope a writer has is the book. He basically vetoed that. It wouldn’t have hurt him, and it was vetoed on the really selfish, narrow grounds that he didn’t want people to have the film ‘spoiled’.
“Now it’s 14 years later,” Priest continues, “and I take a mature point of view. It denied me a certain chunk of cash, but, you know, who cares? I think he was probably young and naive and full of his own importance.