Christopher Nolan Wanted to Shoot ‘Dunkirk’ Without a Script
Christopher Nolan does things his own way. That’s led to some of his greatest technical coups to date; when he wanted to defy gravity for Inception, he built a giant rotating box the size of a hallway. Armed wth the biggest budgets studios can afford, he employs new technologies and puts them fully through their paces, all to bring his massively ambitious visions to life. And for his latest epic Dunkirk, Nolan wanted to blaze his own path yet again. But this time, his plans didn’t involve fancy equipment or elaborate sets.
A new item in The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Nolan initially wanted to shoot Dunkirk without using a script at all. The film largely eschews dialogue and most manners of exposition, so you can see where Nolan’s impulse may be coming from, but the director wanted to go all in on his minimalist approach. THR quotes an interview between Christopher Nolan and brother Jonathan bundled with the officially published Dunkirk screenplay, where the director states, “I got to a point where I understood the scope and movement and the history of what I wanted the film to address, because it’s very simple geography. I said, ‘I don’t want a script. Because I just want to show it,’ it’s almost like I want to just stage it. And film it.”
Luckily, Nolan’s wife and co-producer Emma Thomas advised him to rethink the idea, and they decided to do it the old-fashioned way. Though one still can’t help but imagine how the logistics of such a setup would work. How would the actors have known what to do? Even if they’re not speaking, they still need cues or some sense of the larger story, no?