What's Up With Christopher Nolan's Weird Chair Rule?

Christopher Nolan has a wild rule on set...

We all know Christopher Nolan as the auteur director behind hits like Dunkirk and The Dark Knight Trilogy, movies where good guys fight Nazis and people like the Joker, but it turns out the nemesis he hates the most in real life are chairs. 

The guy hates a chair. 

In a recent “Actors on Actors” video series, Anne Hathaway told Hugh Jackman this about Christopher Nolan.

“He doesn’t allow chairs, and his reasoning is, if you have chairs, people will sit, and if they’re sitting, they’re not working,” the Oscar-winning actress said “I mean, he has these incredible movies in terms of scope and ambition and technical prowess and emotion. It always arrives at the end under schedule and under budget. I think he’s onto something with the chair thing.”

Obviously, this ranks up there with Kubrick faking the moon landing and Hitchcock haunting Tippi Hendren. 

It also seems like a worker's rights violation and kind of an asshole-y thing to do. 

Nolan is fairly private, but we haven't really heard any stories of him being a bastard on set. Most actors seem to love him and even the tone of Hathaway's comments feels playful and not upset. As film critic Matt Zoller Seitz put it“If Christopher Nolan has a rule forbidding the hundreds of people who work on his very expensive films from sitting down, he should be sued to the end of the known universe and back...I’m just saying this is an odd story that feels incomplete.”

So what's the real story? 

The internet went to work and really deciphered it. 

Former A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky dove deep and went through set photos and it seems like the chair rule only applies to stars, and not to crew or producers. 

Let's address the obvious, forbidding chairs for crew would be a terrible idea that should have Nolan sued into oblivion. But if the rule is that the stars of his movie are not allowed to sit when they arrive to set to work...I think that's...okay? 

Here's the deal, most big-budget movies have massive stars that head to their expensive trailers while lights are set up and cameras are maneuvered. If they are on set, it means they are about to shoot. So Nolan's rule keeps them within the environment and headspace of the scene. 

Again, if this applies to the PA's standing 10 miles away shutting down a road...it's dumb. But a look across Twitter where people share their stories shows that it seems like it is only stars. 

Video is no longer available: twitter.com/somebadideas/status/1277708549112684544

We may never have a definitive statement on the chair rule, but it is important to remember. If you're on set and experience harassment or any other sort of discriminatory behavior, you should contact SAG, the WGADGA, or PGA unions, depending on what kind of set it could be. 

For right now, I have no outrage toward Nolan. It seems like a fun director rule for stars only to keep them present in the moment. And hey, he gets great performances, so I cannot argue with that. 

We'll let you know if this story develops any other way.      

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Yes, I assumed his rule meant not on an actively shooting set. Not everywhere on the production. It's a smart policy, providing nobody on set is physically handicapped. I don't like directing from a chair because it feels too much like watching TV at home. A couple times I found myself zoning out during a take. After that, I was either manning the camera, or standing right next to it with a monitor in hand.

June 30, 2020 at 12:01PM


Clearly Nolan needs to be canceled for this obvious human rights violation. *sarcasm*
Really scraping the bottom of the barrel for content.

June 30, 2020 at 5:42PM

Dan Earl

browsing reddit again?

June 30, 2020 at 10:29PM


The guy hates a chair.

July 1, 2020 at 12:50AM

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Agree with this. More productive when standing. Attention will more likely to remain focussed on the scene and what is going on. Its kinda common sense. Depending on the role of the crewmember of course they would need to sit at some point.

July 2, 2020 at 7:56AM, Edited July 2, 7:55AM

Dan Kim

He can do whatever he wants, don't want to work on his films, don't... as we Australians say "Harden the fuck up" :-)

July 2, 2020 at 8:10PM