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.
I was an extra in the Dark Knight Rises, one of like 500 Gotham city cops in the Wall St Brawl scene. We had plenty of chairs and tables in our staging area, in an abandoned building an anarchist tried to blow up in 1920, blocks away from Occupy Wall St. https://t.co/nJYPdddvlI
I was an extra in the Dark Knight Rises, one of like 500 Gotham city cops in the Wall St Brawl scene. We had plenty of chairs and tables in our staging area, in an abandoned building an anarchist tried to blow up in 1920, blocks away from Occupy Wall St. https://t.co/nJYPdddvlI— Aaron Stewart-Ahn (@somebadideas) June 29, 2020
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 WGA, DGA, 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.