The resonant world of dreams

Pushing boundaries
Last Updated 16 July 2010, 13:33 IST

Christopher Nolan is back with an international cast in Inception, an original sci-fi action film that travels around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams. Here’s an excerpt of a conversation with the lead actor Leonardo Dicaprio (Dom), and writer, director Christopher Nolan.

You’ve been fascinated by dreams in your lifetime?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: I’ve been fascinated by dreams since I was a kid. I think that the relationship between movies and dreams is something that has always interested me. My primary interest in dreams and in making this film is this notion — your mind, while you’re asleep, can create an entire world that you can experience. I think that says a lot about the potential of the human mind, particularly the creative potential.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I have never been a big dreamer; I remember fragments of my dreams. I tried to take the traditional approach in conducting research for this project — like reading Freud’s book on the analysis of dreams. The only thing I’ve extracted from this research on dreams is that there’s no specific science you can apply to dream psychology.

Leo, what did you love about this character?
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: This was an extremely ambitious concept that Chris was trying to pull off and he accomplished it with flying colours. There are very few directors in this industry who would pitch to a studio what they really wanted to do. Nolan is one of them. Watch his earlier work such as Memento and Insomnia, and you’ll know that he is able to portray these highly condensed, complicated plot structures and give them emotional weight along with keeping the audience fully engaged along that process. For me, it was a matter of sitting down with Chris and being able to really form the backbone of a character that had a real, cathartic journey. And at the end of the day, these different layers of the dream do represent a psychoanalysis of him getting deeper and closer to the truth and what he needs to understand about himself. So, that, in its own right, is immediately intriguing. Chris and I got to work and talk a lot about the different concepts of what Cobb has been through in the dream world and what his past is. So, as we were talking more and more about the character, it all became more and more exciting and I think all of us mutually felt like this was a journey that we had to be a part of.

What were the toughest action sequences for you? 
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I think the sequence in Morocco was pretty tough because I had to run through a crowd of people and I felt like a pinball because I was bouncing and falling into various vending machines. That was a little bit tough, but at the end of the day you’d be surprised. We pulled off a lot of stuff in a day’s work that was pretty spectacular. It was a very professional team that took care of us.

This is another character that’s very chameleon-like, who has a lot of secrets, a lot of mysteries.  Are those the kind of roles that you’re naturally attracted to?
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I don’t really question when I read a script. If I feel like I could be of service to that role, if I feel like it emotionally engages me, it’s something that interests me and, obviously, if the director is somebody that has the capacity to pull off the ambitious nature of whatever they’re trying to do in the screenplay, I never question that. So, I guess a lot of my films have been more serious in tone, but that’s something that I don’t try to deny. Look, I’m a very fortunate person. I get to choose the movies that I want to do. I’ve a lot of friends in this industry that don’t get to do that. I grew up in LA.  A lot of my friends are actors and, so, I realise every day how lucky I am to have this opportunity. So, while I’m here, I’m going to do exactly what I want.

Chris, can you talk about how you originally conceived the film, and how the script has evolved?
CHRIS NOLAN:  I first pitched this project to the studio 10 years ago. I’d just finished Insomnia and this pitch was very much the movie it is today, except that I hadn’t yet really figured out the emotional core of the story, which took me a long time to do. I think I grew into the film in a sense. I had the relationship between architecture and dreams in place, but it took me a long time to connect this idea emotionally with the story. When I looked at heist movies, I knew I wanted Inception too to feel like a heist movie — deliberately superficial and no high emotional stakes. But, over the years, I realised that this doesn’t work. When you’re talking about dreams, they have to have emotional consequences and resonance as they are all about the human mind.

(Published 16 July 2010, 13:33 IST)

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