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Oppenheimer's Christopher Nolan on How A.I. Can Be an "Extraordinary Step Forward" for Filmmakers
"There will be wonderful things that will come out, longer term..."
If the term "Pandora's box" was ever applicable to a scientific breakthrough, the Manhattan Project's detonation of the first atomic bomb in the summer of 1945 would have to be a frontrunner alongside genetic editing, super colliders, and artificial intelligence.
With the latter dominating the cultural conversation amidst the ongoing writers' strike in Hollywood, Christopher Nolan (writer, director, and producer of next month's Oppenheimer) gave WIRED his thoughts on the repercussions of A.I., stating that while certain boundaries do need to be put in place to protect creatives, computer learning does have the potential to augment storytelling rather than monopolize it.
Oppenheimer's Christopher Nolan Discusses How A.I. Will Change Filmmaking
"The whole machine learning as applied to deepfake technology, that's an extraordinary step forward in visual effects and in what you could do with audio," he explained. "There will be wonderful things that will come out, longer term, in terms of environments, in terms of building a doorway or a window, in terms of pooling the massive data of what things look like, and how light reacts to materials. Those things are going to be enormously powerful tools."
Of course, it is worth mentioning that Nolan remains thoroughly committed to doing as many things in-camera as possible. For him, computer-generated effects represent a last resort option and, as we know, he took that filmmaking ethos to new heights on Oppenheimer (exclusively hitting the big screen July 21) by recreating the Trinity blast via completely practical methods.
Christopher Nolan's Filmmaking Approach to Technology
"I'm, you know, very much the old analog fusty filmmaker. I shoot on film," Nolan continued. "And I try to give the actors a complete reality around it. My position on technology as far as it relates to my work is that I want to use technology for what it's best for. Like if we do a stunt, a hazardous stunt. You could do it with much more visible wires, and then you just paint out the wires. Things like that."
Based on American Prometheus (the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography written by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin), the World War II thriller stars Nolan regular, Cillian Murphy, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father of the atomic bomb." Tapped by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) to spearhead the Manhattan Project, Doctor Oppenheimer assembles the country's best minds, corralling them in New Mexico to develop a new kind of weapon, the likes of which the world has never seen.
Emily Blunt (Katherine "Kitty" Oppenheimer), Kenneth Branagh (Niels Bohr), Robert Downey Jr. (Lewis Strauss), Florence Pugh (Jean Tatlock), Dylan Arnold (Frank Oppenheimer), Josh Peck (Kenneth Bainbridge), Benny Safdie (Edward Teller), Michael Angarano (Robert Serber), Olivia Thirlby (Lilli Hornig), Josh Hartnett (Ernest Lawrence), Jack Quaid (Richard Feynman), David Krumholtz (Isidor Rabi), Gustaf Skarsgård (Hans Bethe), Matthew Modine (Vannevar Bush), Danny Deferrari (Enrico Fermi), Dane DeHaan, Alden Ehrenreich, Rami Malek, and David Dastmalchian co-star.
Jonesing for another thriller based on true events? A Friend of the Family is now streaming on Peacock.