Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao, Michael Caine
Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery
Running Time: 148 minutes
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the best in the dangerous art of extraction: stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb's rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved.
Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible-inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse; their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.
But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.
This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime.
You create the world of the dream.
You bring the subject into that dream and they fill it with their secrets.
Director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan reveals that he began creating the world of "Inception" almost a decade before he made the movie. "About ten years ago, I became fascinated with the subject of dreams, about the relationship of our waking life to our dreaming life. I've always found it to be an interesting paradox that everything within a dream-whether frightening, or happy, or fantastic-is being produced by your own mind as it happens, and what that says about the potential of the imagination is quite extraordinary. I started thinking how that could be applied to a grand-scale action movie with a very human dimension."
"Inception" hinges on the premise that it is possible to share dreams...dreams that have been designed to look and feel completely real while you're in them. And in that subconscious state, a person's deepest and most valuable secrets are there for the taking. Christopher Nolan elaborates, "At the heart of the movie is the notion that an idea is indeed the most resilient and powerful parasite. A trace of it will always be there in your mind...somewhere. The thought that someone could master the ability to invade your dream space, in a very physical sense, and steal an idea-no matter how private-is compelling."
Producer Emma Thomas agrees, noting that the film had to maintain that balance between a thrill ride and an emotional journey. "It has elements of a heist movie, but one set in a more fantastical framework. It has huge action sequences, but it also has characters you truly care about, and there is a real emotional driving force throughout the movie."
That driving force is largely embodied in the central character of Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. "In essence, that's what was immediately engaging to me about the script," says the actor. "It is this highly entertaining, complex thriller where anything can happen, but at the heart is one man's quest to uncover a long-buried truth and to get back home. It's also completely original; I don't think anyone could say they've experienced anything like it before. That combination made me excited about working on the project, as well as with Christopher Nolan. He is an expert at taking this kind of multi-layered storyline and making it true and tangible to an audience."
Emma Thomas comments, "Chris Nolan has learned a lot over the years in terms of making big movies, and a lot of those things have come into play here. But this film is something very fresh and very different and also quite personal. It gave him a completely clean and pure canvas on which to work."
Christopher Nolan asserts that the central theme of the story is both personal and universal "because we all dream. We all experience the phenomenon of our minds creating a world and living in that world at the exact same time. There is also an incredible contrast in the world of dreams-they are so intimate and yet they have infinite possibilities in terms of what we can imagine. So the challenge was to blend the intimacy and emotion of what might take place in a dream with the massive scope of what our brains can conceive of. I wanted to create a film that would allow the audience to experience the limitless realities that only in dreams can we realise."
"We knew the production of 'Inception' was going to have to be big because of the subject matter-you can do anything in a dream," adds Emma Thomas. "In fact, the scope of this film is greater than anything we've done before, even just in terms of the number of countries in which we shot."
Production on "Inception" circled the globe, with principal photography taking place in six countries, on four separate continents. Over the course of filming, the cast and crew experienced a number of extremes, braving the heat of Tangiers in Morocco and traversing the snows of Calgary, Canada. Shooting also took place in Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles, where the effects team generated a driving rain for a multi-vehicle action sequence, complete with a freight train plowing down the middle of the street.
Christopher Nolan also returned to the cavernous converted airship hangars at Cardington in England, where he previously filmed sequences for both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." Although the actors were not subject to the elements while shooting interiors at Cardington, their equilibrium was challenged by gravity-defying sets that were designed to revolve a full 360 degrees, and another set constructed on a giant gimbal that put everything and everyone on "tilt."
"To me, the material demanded a very large-scale approach," Christopher Nolan attests.
"That's why we wound up shooting in six different countries, building enormous sets, and really pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved practically, as opposed to computer effects.
"It's interesting because the human brain is often compared to a computer," the director continues, "but the truth is that's a very inadequate analogy because the brain is capable of more than we'll ever know. For a filmmaker, that made it an ideal world to be delving into because there are no rules for what the mind can create, and a movie exploring that had to be the grandest form of entertainment."
Assemble your team, Mr. Cobb.
And choose your people... wisely.
In addition to filming all over the world, "Inception" features an international ensemble cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger and Dileep Rao, who were all working with Christopher Nolan for the first time, as well as Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine, who were reunited with the director.
Emma Thomas observes, "The movie has some great roles, and the actors really responded to the material, which made the casting process very smooth. We felt very lucky to have such a remarkable level of talent. I think the actors were also inspired by the rest of the cast; they wanted to work together and be a part of it."
They also wanted to work with Christopher Nolan.
Ellen Page affirms, "I am such a fan of Christopher Nolan's, so the idea of being a part of this film was very exciting. And I was blown away by the script; it was like nothing I had ever read. I completely disappeared into it, and when I finished, I was literally sweating. It was so conceptually original and so incredibly moving, with a powerful emotional spine that one can really connect to. It was phenomenal to work with a filmmaker who is able to create entire worlds, things you've never seen before, in such an amazing way."
Ken Watanabe, who previously teamed with Christopher Nolan on "Batman Begins," recalls, "When Christopher Nolan called and asked me to join him, it was easy to say yes, because it was a wonderful opportunity to work with a director I loved working with before. And after I read it, I was even more pleased. So my heart and my head told me I definitely had to do this movie."
"I was very excited by the script, and then when Christopher Nolan told me the other actors involved, I knew it couldn't get any better," says Cillian Murphy, who was in both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" "I think Christopher Nolan's films are intelligent and hugely entertaining, and this one fits that bill beautifully."
"His mind is so rich," Marion Cotillard says, "and that's one reason Christopher Nolan is such an extraordinary director and writer. On a movie as imaginative as this, you need a director you can trust-someone to take your hand and share his vision-and I trusted him 100 percent. He really inspired me and gave me the keys I needed."
"Christopher Nolan is an extremely talented filmmaker," Leonard DiCaprio states, adding, "I also appreciated getting to collaborate so closely with such an unbelievable cast. We had lengthy conversations about our characters, and their individual histories and relationships. And Christopher Nolan definitely encouraged that; he wanted every actor, no matter how big or small the part, to have a real sense of our characters and to bring something to the table to make them our own."
Christopher Nolan offers, "It was fascinating to watch the actors evolve as a group, very much the way the characters do in the story. It really brought a richness to their scenes together. As a writer, you hope for that kind of chemistry, but it's not until you get on the set that you see the cast bring out their characters' idiosyncrasies and interesting interrelationships. That's a vital part of any movie, especially a heist movie, and I think these actors really delivered that.
"The film follows a team of very different people, each with singular skills, who are brought together to accomplish a very special task," Christopher Nolan continues. "If any one of them fails, it can spell disaster, so each individual is integral to their success. And we understand everything they're going through because we are on that journey with them."
Dom Cobb- The Extractor
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a master in the art of extraction. The actor notes, "Dom Cobb has achieved a level of expertise that has made him very well known in the underground black market of individuals who are able to infiltrate people's minds and extract information."
"At the beginning of the film," Christopher Nolan says, "we learn that Dom Cobb is the best extractor in the game. He is hired by corporations to steal secrets they would otherwise never have access to. It's all based on the persistence of an idea, the notion that any concept will stay fixed in the subconscious. It's impossible to unlearn something, and that forms the basis for what an extractor is able to do in terms of retrieving information."
The way extraction works is through a process called dream sharing- manufacturing the world of the dream and bringing the subject into that world, which feels completely real as long as they are in it.
But Dom Cobb's rare skills have also resulted in him being a wanted fugitive who can never go home. Emma Thomas shares, "From the start, we know he is a man with a past that makes it impossible for him to go back to America. But his kids are there and that motivates him more than anything else. He's willing to take any risk in his work if it means he can get home to what he loves most."
For that reason, Leonard DiCaprio says that the approach he and Christopher Nolan took was that "no matter how surreal the dream state, everything needed to be grounded in our connection with the character; everything had to be emotionally charged. From Dom Cobb's standpoint there is something very real at stake, so all of his choices, his reactions, and how he deals with the people he's working with is a means to one end: getting back his life."
Christopher Nolan expounds, "Working with Leonard DiCaprio early on, we really delved into the emotional life of his character. It was very important to him that that be the guiding thread of the story, and with it he is able to draw the audience through the complex story in a very clear fashion. That's what great actors are able to bring to a project, and Leonard DiCaprio made a massive contribution to the film. I think he is one of our finest actors and his performance in the film is extraordinary."
Arthur- The Point Man
Dom Cobb's longtime and most trusted colleague is Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon- Levitt. While Dom Cobb is the master planner, Arthur takes care of the details. Joseph Gordon-Levitt asserts, "Arthur is the organised one, the one making sure everything is in its right place. The way I see it, Dom Cobb is the artist and Arthur is the producer. He's the one saying, 'Okay, you have your vision; now I'm going to figure out how to make all the nuts and bolts work so you can do your thing.' But as fastidious and professional as he is, Arthur didn't want to apply his organisational skills to being a lawyer or doctor or any of the things he could have been because sharing dreams is fascinating. It's not just a job for him. I think the technology of dream sharing is something that has inspired him since he first heard about it so, ultimately, it's not the money he's doing it for. He wouldn't risk his life for a good paycheck. He loves it."
Joseph Gordon-Levitt discloses that his character's fascination with dreams is something they had in common. "I consider myself a creative person and dreams are where we're all artists. Everything you do in a dream-everything you see, everything you hear, everyone you talk to-is your creation. That's evidence of how powerful the creative mind could be if we were to let it, so it intrigued me to do a movie about dreams.
You could call it a heist film, but I think of it more as a con artist film. I think of our characters as gentlemen thieves, and I identify with them because they are artists, or actors. They're lying for a living...not just lying but manufacturing truth. They're creating reality, and that's what I do, too," he smiles.
"Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a tremendous actor to work with-very charismatic, extremely dedicated, and also physically adept," Christopher Nolan says. "He is a performer who doesn't just find the internal life of the character but also projects the physical expression of that through his movements and expressions. And that's good because there was definitely a very physical component to playing Arthur."
Ariadne- The Architech
To manufacture the world of the dream, one of the most vital members of the team is the architect. Ellen Page portrays Ariadne, a brilliant student of architecture, who is approached by Dom Cobb for a job, which, Ellen Page concedes, "isn't necessarily legal, but she is propelled by an intellectual curiosity that makes her unable to pull herself away from such a unique opportunity."
That opportunity is to design and build places that could not exist in reality. Ellen Page offers, "When Dom Cobb brings Ariadne into his world, so to speak, she immediately displays a natural ability to think outside the box and broaden her mind enough to facilitate what he's trying to accomplish. She ends up becoming even more involved in the job as she discovers what's really going on with Dom Cobb and learns about things he can't control. But, despite the fears that arise, she wants to try and help him in order for the team to succeed."
Christopher Nolan relates, "In writing the script for 'Inception,' it was very important to me that there be a conduit for the audience-a character who is being shown this world for the first time and is eager to explore it. That's how the character of Ariadne was born. It was also very important for the audience to see Dom Cobb through Ariadne's eyes and get to the core of that character. And when I met with Ellen Page, she had the perfect combination of freshness and savvy and maturity beyond her years. She is an extraordinary performer with incredible creativity and an innate curiosity of her own and, therefore, naturally infused Ariadne with those qualities. Ellen Page was able to balance the emotional life of her character with the need for Ariadne to bring the audience in and show them the truth."
Ellen Page says, "I was excited that Christopher Nolan had written an awesome role for a young woman who is intelligent and comfortable in her own skin. She is thrust into this completely new environment and unusual situation and deals with it very eloquently. She can very much hold her own, especially in a group that's a bit of a boys' club," she laughs.
Eames- The Forger
Unlike Ariadne, Eames is an old hand at dream sharing and has some history with Dom Cobb, whether as allies or possibly even competitors. Tom Hardy plays the role of Eames, who, he notes, possesses surprising skills as a forger...and not just on paper. "In the dream world, Eames can project the image of anyone, so he's actually forging an identity in a physical manifestation and can convince another person that he's whomever the team needs him to be in order to aid their deception. What's especially interesting for me about these characters is the idea of the antihero, the fact that what they are doing could be considered dishonorable, but you still root for them. That's nice because it's not just black and white; we have a lot of gray area to play in."
Christopher Nolan says that, like his character, Hardy is something of a chameleon. "Tom Hardy is an actor who can absolutely jump into the skin of a character and inhabit a role, and he did that very effectively with Eames. He saw the potential of the character right away and brought a wonderfully cheeky quality to his performance, which I was delighted to see come through."
Emma Thomas adds that there was also some comic relief in the banter played out by Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. "There is a fun dynamic between Eames and Arthur in the movie. Clearly, they have a rivalry that dates back before our story begins, but they also have a grudging admiration, even if they'd never admit it. They are a pretty funny duo to watch as the heist unfolds."
Mal - The Shade
Mal, played by Marion Cotillard, is the love of Cobb's life. "Mal is a tricky one to describe because she is a mix of so many things," the actress says cryptically. "But maybe it's the kind of thing you don't describe because different people can have different interpretations."
"Mal is the essence of the femme fatale," states Christopher Nolan. "Marion Cotillard brought an exceptionally haunting quality to her performance. What she was able to do with just her eyes and her emotional openness is quite beautiful. And she and Leonard DiCaprico together portray an incredibly moving couple. Underneath all of the action, I think 'Inception' is very much founded on a love story, and these two actors found the truth of that in a most remarkable way."
"Leonardo DiCaprico is such a gifted actor. I have always been a great fan of his work, so it was amazing to work with him," Marion Cotillard says. "His commitment is total and his intensity is unlimited. You can see it in his eyes. When you share a scene with him, you can trust everything he does because he's so authentic."
Leonardo DiCaprio has equal praise for his co-star. "It was wonderful to act alongside Marion Cotillard. She can be strong and vulnerable and hopeful and heartbreaking all in the same moment, which was perfect for all the contradictions of her character."
Saito- The Tourist
Ken Watanabe portrays the role of Saito, a rich and powerful business magnate, who offers Dom Cobb a very special job with a promise of payment more valuable than money. Simply put, if Dom Cobb can give Saito what he wants, Saito will get Dom Cobb home. There is only one condition: Saito wants to accompany Dom Cobb's team on the job to be sure he gets what he's paying for. Emma Thomas says, "We refer to him as 'the tourist' because he has no expertise, but uses his financial influence to join the group."
Ken Watanabe observes, "At first, it's only a business relationship, but as the story continues, Saito and Dom Cobb develop an understanding and a respect. They need each other."
Christopher Nolan says that he created the role of Saito with Ken Watanabe in mind. "I wrote the part specifically for Ken Watanabe because I wanted to work with him again. I enjoyed directing him so much on 'Batman Begins,' but his role was smaller and we didn't have a lot of time together. This time I made sure he had a bigger part. Ken Watanabe is an extremely charismatic performer, a true movie star. He is a consummate actor who knows how to get the most out of every scene. It's just a pleasure to watch him work."
Robert Fischer- The Mark
The target of Saito's business proposition is Robert Fischer, who is about to inherit control of his dying father's multibillion-dollar empire. Cillian Murphy, who plays the part of Fischer, points out, "Despite his vast wealth, Robert is riddled with all sorts of insecurities, as one might expect of someone who has lived his entire life in the shadow of a hugely powerful individual. It doesn't help that he has a very strained relationship with his father. So here you have a person who is about to inherit the world and is lacking for nothing except, perhaps, the thing he wants most: a proper relationship with his father."
Thomas comments, "We were so happy to work with Cillian Murphy again. He's a fantastic actor and he brought so much to his role. I think the character of Robert Fischer is especially interesting, because in a heist movie the mark isn't always so multifaceted. But Robert becomes a very large part of the story's emotional heart and a great deal of that is found in Cillian Murphy's performance."
>Yusuf- The Chemist
One of the keys to carrying out Dom Cobb's operation is the use of a drug compound that enables multiple people to share different dream states. Dileep Rao appears as a chemist named Yusuf whom the actor describes as "an avant-garde pharmacologist, who is a resource for people, like Dom Cobb, who want to do this work unsupervised, unregistered and unapproved of by anyone. Yusuf obviously has a monetary interest in helping Cobb, but he is also motivated by a burning curiosity. He has been experimenting with this stuff for so long and now he wants to see what it's like."
"The role of the chemist was particularly tough because you don't want him to seem like some kind of drug dealer. He's absolutely not," says co-producer Jordan Goldberg. "He's someone who is committed to the art of dream sharing and making it work in ways it hasn't before. We needed Yusuf to be funny and interesting and obviously smart, and Dileep Rao is all of those things."
Completing the main cast of "Inception" is a trio of veteran actors who each play something of a paternal role to two of the characters. Pete Postlethwaite is seen as Robert's dying father, Maurice Fischer, while Tom Berenger takes on the part of Peter Browning, who is Maurice's longtime legal counsel, as well as Robert's godfather. In fact, Tom Berenger calls Browning more of a "surrogate father" to Robert, emphasising, "Robert even calls my character 'Uncle Peter' because Peter Browning has been with him his whole life and has probably spent more quality time with him than his own father."
Michael Caine appears as Cobb's father-in-law, Miles, who played a pivotal role in the younger man's life. "Miles is a professor who taught Dom Cobb about dream sharing," Michael Caine reveals. "Cobb ended up going against his advice and Miles doesn't necessarily approve of what he's done with that knowledge. But he still cares about him and worries about him all the time."
Despite his disapproval, Miles also introduces Dom Cobb to his most promising student, Ariadne. "He wants to help Cobb come home," says Michael Caine, "so, being a great judge of character, Miles makes an educated guess that she is the right one for the job and hopes for the best."
Michael Caine counts 'Inception' as his fourth film with Christopher Nolan, following "Batman Begins," "The Prestige" and "The Dark Knight." Christopher Nolan says, "It's always good to have Sir Michael Caine in your film, and he was gracious enough to do this role for us. It's a joy to have him on set."
"As Michael Caine says, he is our good luck charm," Emma Thomas smiles. "I don't think we could make a film without him at this point."
You mustn't be afraid to
dream a little bigger, darling.
Behind the camera, Christopher Nolan assembled a group of artists and artisans to help him realise his vision of "Inception," a process he suggests is not far removed from the work of Dom Cobb and his team. "There are definite similarities between the way these characters create an entire world for someone to exist in and the way that filmmakers construct a reality for an audience," the director asserts. "So, just as the character of Dom Cobb puts together this extraordinary team of people, I wanted to do that behind the scenes."
The production of "Inception" reunited Christopher Nolan with several of his previous collaborators, including director of photography Wally Pfister, editor Lee Smith, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin, and stunt coordinator Tom Struthers. In addition, Christopher Nolan worked for the first time with production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas and costume designer Jeffrey Kurland.
Notwithstanding some of the more illusory sequences in the film, Christopher Nolan, as is one of his trademarks, called upon his entire crew to accomplish whatever was attainable in practical terms, keeping CGI effects to a minimum. "It's always very important to me to do as much as possible in-camera, and then, if necessary, computer graphics are very useful to build on or enhance what you have achieved physically. Regardless of the fact that the story deals with different dream states, it is crucial that, at every level, the world feels concrete because when we are in a dream, we accept it as reality. So whether we were filming a ski chase down a mountain, or going underwater, or simulating zero gravity, I always wanted to go to the absolute limit of what was possible to shoot," the director states.
Not to say that the visual effects department wasn't critical to the production. Christopher Nolan affirms, "I was confident that Chris Corbould and his special effects unit could figure out a way to run a train down the middle of the road in Los Angeles, but I knew it wasn't feasible to fold a Paris street onto itself without the help of Paul Franklin's group. "I love watching my team react with a little bit of panic when I first present them with what I'm thinking," Christopher Nolan admits, laughing. "But it's astounding to watch the various departments break it down and then come up with inventive approaches to get it done.
And at every stage of 'Inception,' everyone delivered in extraordinary ways."
"Even when they feign horror," Emma Thomas teases, "I think they all truly enjoy solving whatever problem Christopher Nolan throws at them, but they also appreciate that he is challenging himself along with them and he'll be right with them in the thick of things." Further augmenting the sense of realism, a large portion of the film's principal photography was completed on location. "It is vital that, even when the characters are in a dream landscape, it doesn't feel like they are in a computer-generated world," says executive producer Chris Brigham, who served as the on-set line producer. "I think it adds so much texture and believability to the storytelling that the action is taking place in real surroundings."
Filming on "Inception" took the cast and crew from a skyscraper in Tokyo to a mountain in Calgary, from the exotic roads of Tangiers to the picturesque streets of Paris, and from historic London to modern Los Angeles.
Emma Thomas says that, as beneficial as it was, "having such a global footprint was one of our biggest challenges. Traveling to six different countries meant we also had to have different production crews in each place. It went great, but it was daunting."
Inception DVD Interview part 2