Imagine you are a creative filmmaker, and your dream comes true: A film idea that you’ve carried for years finally gets greenlit. It’s not a book adaption, there are no comic-background and it is not part of a huge franchise but a Major Studio bets $160 million that your Idea is good enough to invest in and to make a profit. The budget gives you the opportunity to realize your vision, without compromising on the financial side, so you are able to realize your idea without shooting in front of a greenscreen. Instead of that you can build a giant centrifugal to orchestrate a stunning hallway fight-scene.
After his 2008 mega success, Christopher Nolan was in a great position to realize that kind of dream-project: A group of thieves breaking through a dream into a person’s mind to steal their ideas and secrets. Or to plant new ones.
In our dreams physical laws like gravity or time don’t really matter. And Nolan plays with that in a really cool way.
To realize the fight scenes in a hotel-hallway they built a massive centrifuge with 7 steel rings and 30 ft in diameter. Each of those rings were linked to 55 hp motor. The whole system was then linked to a huge computer-system that control the speed and direction.
If you have a huge centrifugal set that is moving, lighting and camera placement is a huge issue. So every light you can see in the hotel wall in the scene is actually real. The camera was placed on a telescoping arm in the middle of the hallway.
Joseph Gordon-Levit practiced the choreography for this for 2 weeks, the shooting itself took 3 weeks. The funny thing is, only about 90 seconds ended up in the movie. Another fact that shows how much creative freedom Christopher Nolan had to realize his vision.