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For his latest trick, Christopher Nolan brings audiences to a new galaxy, as the tattered remnants of NASA’s space program (personified by Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway) target new and hospitable planets in a neighboring solar system to which Earth’s remaining citizens can move. Given the heavy scientific bent of Nolan’s Interstellar, which opens in theaters later this week, you would think that the director had NASA experts on speed dial, asking them to fact check all of the data in his screenplay.
You would be wrong.
In an interview with Yahoo Movies, NASA’s Bert Ulrich explained how Hollywood and the government’s chief space agency work hand in hand when it comes to their storytelling efforts. Ulrich serves as the multimedia liaison for film and TV collaborations, though he admitted that Christopher Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, didn’t really get involved – to a deep extent – with Interstellar during the picture’s development. Ulrich says that NASA "did help [Nolan] with footage, clearing footage and rights and stuff." But when it came down to getting the details of space, space travel and such down pat, NASA wasn’t involved. Ulrich said:
If a movie wants to go for accuracy, we’re there to help them, and we’re also here to provide them with scientists or astronauts to get it right, or other NASA personnel. But if they don’t, that’s fine, too."
Meow! Bert Ulrich clarified that NASA frequently will "reach out to a production" if they hear that it will be set in outer space so that NASA "can say we’re here if you need any help." But the organization, by no means, forces its knowledge on a filmmaker. Which explains how movies like Jason X can exist. Ulrich said:
Of course, we respect the creativity of the director and producer. If they want to have their independence, then by all means, we’re not gonna force them."
If you haven’t watched the full Interstellar trailer, give it a spin:
Instead of leaning on NASA, Christopher Nolan leaned on theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who acted as mentor and consultant on the film. It was Thorne who opened Nolan’s eyes to the possibility of wormholes and interstellar travel – of going through portals and coming out the other side, unaffected by dimensions of time and space. Did it work? In Eric’s review, he complained that Interstellar "is high-minded, but ultimately taken down by a mix of both obvious and overly-confusing plot maneuverings." Is he right? Find out when the movie begins screening tonight, Nov. 4.