Christopher Nolan films sci-fi epic Interstellar in Alberta and Iceland
Filmmaker Christopher Nolan shot his sci-fi epic Interstellar on location mainly in Alberta and California, and also shot scenes in Iceland. Set in the near future, the film tells the story of a group of cosmonauts sent through a wormhole to seek a new home for humanity.
Nolan ended up using several locations that he knew already from his experiences on previous films. Alberta featured in his 2010 drama Inception and he returned there for Interstellar, doubling locations south of Calgary for the story’s opening mid-West setting.
Production support was available locally through the Alberta Media Fund, which was part of the appeal, but the landscape was also crucial.
A rural farmstead owned by Matthew McConaughey’s protagonist Cooper was built in Alberta and designed with interiors that suited practical production needs. The surrounding cornfields were grown for the shoot.
“The land was chosen in the early spring so that the house could be situated in good relation to the corn to be grown,” explains Bruce Brownstein, the Location Manager for the Alberta leg of the shoot: “It takes approximately five months for corn to grow to six feet high. We had a back-up cornfield in another part of Alberta just in case.”
Ten days of filming took place in Iceland, which stood in for an alien planet visited by the film’s cosmonauts. Again, Nolan returned to a place he knew, even using the same glacier location, Svínafellsjökull, where he had filmed scenes for Batman Begins nearly a decade before.
Iceland also offered a shallow pool feature with a vast expanse of water less than 30 centimetres deep that fitted the requirements of Nolan’s script and in fact edged out Morecambe Bay in north-west England as the chosen filming location. Sagafilm serviced the shoot locally.
“We found a location for the water that was the right depth and looked infinite,” explains Sagafilm’s Arni Bjorn Helgason: “It was not tidal like Morecambe Bay and was far less dangerous, although very cold. The distance between the locations was two hours and that is quite a lot less than the alternative.”
Iceland has become one of the world’s highest-profile filming locations due to its easy access, unique volcanic landscapes and generous filming incentive programme.
To read about Christopher Nolan's epic global shoot for The Dark Knight Rises click here.
(Images: Paramount Pictures)
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