There’s no doubt that Christopher Nolan is a master director. He can pull career-defining performances out of any actor and has the clear confidence to do so. But “Insomnia” marked his first time directing big-name stars, and no matter who you are, that’s no small task. Directing his third feature film, Nolan was still relatively new to feature filmmaking and was certainly new to working with a big-time Hollywood studio. Nevertheless, working with Al Pacino helped Nolan better understand his craft, and prepare himself for future endeavors.
“I had gone up to Pacino after a series of takes and given him a note on what I wanted,” Nolan told The Los Angeles Times in 2023. “He told me, ‘I’ve already done that. You can’t see it to the eye, but I’ve done it on the dailies.’ I looked for it and I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ because there it was.” Of course, not every actor is Al Pacino, but all of the best ones have more going on than one can pick up on initially.
This experience during “Insomnia” aided Nolan on future projects, including “Oppenheimer.” In the interview, he even compared his experience with Pacino to a more recent one with Cillian Murphy, explaining that Murphy had quite a lot of intensity bubbling beneath the surface than what he initially saw on set. “Great film actors can do that,” Nolan remarked. Indeed, they can.
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