Christopher Nolan Came Up With The Idea For Tenet While Making Memento

John David Washington as the Protagonist in Tenet
(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

In a lot of ways, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet felt like a culmination of the filmmaker’s many visions almost exactly 20 years after he first came onto the scene for fans. It explores his continued fascination with the concept of time, which very much began with 2000’s Memento. And apparently the inspiration for Tenet began all the way back during the making of that early Nolan film. One might call it a dream within a dream.

Tenet is finally available to view at home after a lot of hub-bub regarding its chaotic place in the theatrical vs. streaming conversation. It will open the door for a slew of more Nolan fans to see it in all its glory and time-twistyness. With that in mind, Christopher Nolan has recently spoken about his early influences for Tenet, which took place on the set of Memento, his second feature film. In his words to Complex:

I had this notion of just a bullet getting sucked out of the wall and into the barrel of a gun. It's an image that I had in Memento to demonstrate the structure of that movie, but I always harbored this ambition to make a film where the characters had to deal with the physical reality of that. In a way, an idea comes to the fore when the time is right for it, and it's a hard process to quantify, so I was doing all these other things. There are things that you learn how to make and everything in Tenet, interestingly, on the surface of it, they're all versions of action or particular ways of filming things that I've tried before in a different form. You're building on what you've done in the past.

This is interesting. If the opening of Memento has slipped your mind, or you decided to opt out of getting a tattoo to remember it by, the 2000 movie begins with a bullet flying out of a wall into a man’s head and then into the gun. So… time inversion. In terms of filmmaking, Christopher Nolan has been using this concept since the inception of his career, and he decided early on he wanted to make a movie that would have characters actually grapple with bullets going into guns and such.

It sounds like a Memento rewatch could be really interesting following Tenet to reflect on how his early ideas became the $250 million summer blockbuster that his latest movie was produced to be. There are a number of distinct styles Christopher Nolan has been working with over the years or little elements that seem to always make their way into his work, whether it be trains or Michael Caine. And it’s intriguing to hear that Tenet was an innate part of his ideas even before he became a massive director with lots of public opinions.

Tenet is now available to buy on digital, 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray. Check out all the ways you can stream it and learn what big movies are coming next year with CinemaBlend’s 2021 release schedule.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.