Director Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” tells of a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion and a single idea within one’s mind can be the most dangerous weapon or the most valuable asset. Moviehole caught up with star Leonardo DiCaprio recently to talk about the highly-anticipated thriller.
Not to give too much away, but “Inception” is about a guy experiencing vivid dreams, right? Very interesting stuff!
You know, it was interesting being part of this film, because I’m not a big dreamer; never have been.
I remember fragments of my dreams, just to no great detail. In researching the project I took a traditional sort of approach. I read books on dream analysis – namely Freud’s book on the analysis of dreams – but mainly, I talked to the person whose dreams inspired the film, [director] Chris Nolan. I sat down with Chris for two months every other day to talk about the structure of this dream world, and what rules apply in it.
What did you learn about dreams?
The only thing I sort of obviously extracted from the research of dreams is that I don’t think there’s a specific science you can put on dream psychology. It’s up to the individual to take away from their dreams what they believe they mean. Obviously we suppress things, emotions, things during the day – thoughts that we obviously haven’t thought through enough, and in that state of subconscious our mind just sort of randomly fires off different surreal story structures. When we wake up we probably should pay attention to these things.
Did the script for “Inception” do your head in when you first read it?
Obviously this story structure was extremely ambitious in the fact that it featured four different states of the human subconscious that represented different dream-states, and each one affected the other. But as complicated as the screenplay was, as soon as Chris put it into a visual format I could understand it. By having a visual reference it was much easier to work out what was going on and what was what. That’s a testament to how engaging movies, and of course, the visual medium, are.
Amazing that Warner Bros let Nolan make such a different flick though – You gotta admit, it’s far from Batman!
Yeah, it was an extremely ambitious concept that Chris was trying to pull off here but he accomplished it with flying colours. There are very few directors in this industry that would even be brave enough to pitch to a studio a multi-layered almost at times existential high action, high drama surreal film that’s sort of locked in someone’s mind. Why was he able to get it made? It’s a testament to the work he’s done in the past. Watching his work and certainly in Memento and Insomnia, he’s able to portray these highly condensed, highly complicated plot structures and give them emotional weight and have you, as an audience, feel fully engaged along that process.
Would you say ”Inception” is about a journey of self-discovery?
Yes, at the end of the day, it’s about a man who is getting deeper and deeper and closer and closer to the truth – about himself. The different layers of the dream represent a psychoanalysis.
It’s not all brain food though. ”Inception” has some cool action sequences, too! Tough to shoot those?
The sequence in Morocco was pretty tough because I had to run through a crowd of people. I felt kind of like a pinball because I was bouncing from Moroccan to Moroccan and falling into various vending machines.
There’s a sequel idea right there! You’re caught in a Moroccan pinball machine!
If I feel I can 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, then I’ll do it.
Nobody wants to see you in a zany comedy – stick with the serious flicks. That’s what you prefer anyway, right?
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 have a lot of friends in this industry that don’t get to do that. I grew up in L.A. A lot of my friends are actors so I realize every day how lucky I am to have this opportunity, so while I’m here, I’m going to try to do exactly what I want.
Were you concerned that ”Inception” might be a little too similar to your last film, ”Shutter Island” though?
These types of films that are psychologically sort of dark at times, I find extremely exciting to do because there’s always something to think about. There’s nothing more boring than to show up on set and say a line and know that your character means exactly what they say. It’s interesting to have an unreliable narrator in a film and that’s what Shutter Island and Inception have been. Both these characters are unreliable to themselves and the characters around them. So that sheer notion was extremely exciting to me. The similarities between the two projects were something I certainly was aware of. But really, the only thing the films have in common is that both feature lead characters that are locked in a dream world, and these characters go on a similar cathartic journey. This film couldn’t have been more vastly different than the other in its execution, so I felt safe and completely aware of trying my best not to repeat any of those themes.
What genre do you think ”Inception” belongs to?
This is a science fiction film. The earliest conversations I had with Chris is how both of us have a hard time with science fiction – we have a little bit of an aversion to it because it’s hard for us to emotionally invest in worlds that are too far detached from what we know. That’s what’s interesting about Chris Nolan’s science fiction worlds – they’re deeply rooted in visually deeply rooted in things that we’ve seen before. There are cultural references and it feels like a world that is tactile.
Aside from Chris Nolan, you’ve also worked with James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott and Sam Raimi. Are you unemployed actor friends insanely jealous?
I traditionally have always tried to work with the best directors I can.
And next, it’s Clint Eastwood!?
Yeah, I’m talking to Clint Eastwood about playing J. Edgar Hoover who had his hand in some of the most sort of scandalous events in American history. Everything from the Vietnam War and Dillinger to Martin Luther King and JFK. It’s about the secret life of J. Edgar Hoover.
So, picked out a dress yet?
Will I wear a dress? Um. Not as of yet. We haven’t done the fittings for those so I don’t think so. But the film is going to span his life, yeah. We will have to see about the dress.
Just remember to pick out a pair of high-heels that match.
“Inception” commences July 22 around Australia