“Virtual Reality Without the Headset”: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ Pitch to Warner Bros

Image credit: Warner Bros.

A British war film made with a sizeable American budget.

That’s what director Christopher Nolan said was his aim when he was formulating Dunkirk, his highly anticipated war film that tells of the huge evacuation that took place during a fierce battle in World War II.

Of course, having Nolan’s reputation would certainly help when acquiring a budget, but studios still need thorough convincing before forking out million upon millions. In a great first-person article he penned for The Telegraph, Nolan described what enticed him about this pivotal moment in WWII, the difficulties in bringing the film’s ambitious scenes to the screen, and what got Warner Bros. to back it all in the first place.

To put it simply: the London-born filmmaker sold WB on the idea of offering audiences an almost ‘you are there’ experience of what it was like during this turning point on the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France.

His pitch:

We’re going to put the audience into the cockpit of a Spitfire and have them dogfight the Messerschmitts. We’re going to put them on the beach, feeling the sand getting everywhere, confronting the waves. We’re going to put them on small civilian boats bouncing around on the waves on this huge journey heading into a terrifying war zone. It’s virtual reality without the headset.

And so it makes sense that WB has since crated a VR experience as part of the film’s marketing campaign.

Nolan wrote that he believed the best way to give audiences an authentic experience was to keep it all as close to the real thing as possible; real ships and planes, rather than CG replicas, for example.

… We were going to try to find real ships and planes that matched those from the time as closely as possible. We would find the actual planes, and fly them in dogfights against each other, and get the camera and the actor up in the plane.

From his Dark Knight trilogy, to Inception, to Interstellar, it’s clear that Nolan like to balance out his ambitious fictional tales with “real world” element. This one’s decidedly different. After nine feature films, Dunkirk will be his first true story.

We’ll find out if the acclaimed filmmaker makes good on his “virtual reality without the headset” pitch when Dunkirk, which features a cast that includes Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney James D’Arcy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy, arrives in Australia on July 20 and opens in the U.S. on July 21.

Image credit: Warner Bros.
Image credit: Warner Bros.

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