Why Filming That Tenet Backwards Fight Scene For Christopher Nolan Was ‘Crazy,’ According To John David Washington

John David Washington in Tenet

The following story gets into spoilers for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, so if you still haven’t seen the film, and want to avoid details, bail out now.

There’s a tremendous reveal in the middle of Tenet, the time-twisty thriller from revolutionary storyteller Christopher Nolan, where the audience learns that the man John David Washington’s character was fighting in a hallway at an earlier point of the movie… was John David Washington’s character. I told you it was time-twisty. Washington’s lead, known only as The Protagonist, is working his way back through the movie, and encounters himself from an earlier scene. We watched that scene, but didn’t know who the man was fighting at the time. Viewing it is nuts. Filming it, as it turns out, was even more crazy for all the people involved.

CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast had John David Washington back on the show to talk about his new Netflix drama Malcolm & Marie, where he costars opposite Zendaya. But we couldn’t resist asking him a few Tenet questions, especially about specifics now that the movie has been out and he can peel back the curtain a tad. Listen to the clip above for him to tell the story about filming the hallway fight sequence, and how challenging it was, mentally as well as physically.

Speaking of physically, in the conversation above, ReelBlend co-host Kevin McCarthy mentions behind-the-scenes photographs that he saw of John David Washington filming the hallway fight scene from Tenet, and seeing cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema hauling a massive IMAX camera on his shoulders to capture the action. Hoytema got so close to the action that he received a swift kick from Washington. As he puts it:

This was so crazy. This is why I love what I do. There was a section where there was some hand-to-hand stuff, frontwards and backwards, and I ended up kicking Hoyte while we were fighting. And I kept going, but was like, ‘Oh I’m sorry!’ And he was like, ‘Keep going!’ No it’s OK, keep going!’ I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is crazy!’ And I’m seeing Chris [Nolan] at the monitor like, ‘It’s happening.’

Actors and craftspeople go to extreme lengths to bring Christopher Nolan’s visions to the big screen. Behind the scenes stories like this are such a joy to listen to, because talent usually loves collaborating with Nolan, but they can’t elaborate on the process because he keeps stuff so close to the vest. After the fact, though, when they can open up about their experiences, you get the enthusiasm that you see in John David Washington above.

Here’s the latest episode of ReelBlend, for the full interview with John David Washington:

Powered by RedCircle

And make sure that you check his performance out in Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie, a relationship drama that’s generating all sorts of conversations how that audiences are able to see it for themselves. It’s streaming on Netflix as we speak. For the full video interview with John David Washington, check out ReelBlend's YT channel, then hit like and subscribe.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.