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Jonathan Nolan interview on Fallout and comparison to Oppenheimer: ‘Joked with my brother I made a Barbenheimer show’ | Web Series

A couple of years after Westworld, director-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan is back with another sci-fi dystopian show, Fallout, based on the popular video game franchise. In order to promote the series, Jonathan visited India last month, over a decade after he couldn’t make it to the country for the filming of his brother Christopher Nolan‘s 2012 superhero film The Dark Knight Rises. In an exclusive interview, Jonathan revealed that Fallout took him back to the Batman days, where he felt like the kid lost in a candy store.

Jonathan Nolan joked with his brother Christopher Nolan that he made a show on Barbenheimer

(Also Read – Exclusive: Oppenheimer book author Kai Bird opens up on hits and misses of Christopher Nolan’s movie)

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Adapting the game into a show

“To be given the opportunity to take something you experienced as a fan, as a gamer, that you love… I didn’t know anything about the game when I sat down to play Fallout 3. I just wanted a game, and I knew that they were good and different. I hope the audience experience in this show what I did while playing the game – you never quite know what’s gonna happen next, what’s behind the corner, what the game is gonna do. It has a different ruleset than anything I’d played before and I hope the audience feels the same for anything they’ve watched before,” said Jonathan.

Fallout may borrow its aesthetic from the retro-futuristic and atompunk sci-fi shows of yore, its genre-bending screenplay lends it a breath of fresh cinematic air. “What attracted me to the show in the first place was its unique tone. They don’t look like anything before. They’re dark, ambitious, violent, but they’re also funny and weird. There’s political commentary and satire about what American had become before the world was blown to smithereens. I’d never seen all these flavours together in one place,” Jonathan elaborated.

He feels that the show has become only more relevant in the five years since it’s been greenlit. “To me, there’s too much relevance. We started talking in 2019. Then we had a global pandemic and fear of a nuclear war with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I thought this is all great marketing for the show, but now we’d like it to go back to being less relevant,” said Jonathan, laughing. He said that the humour embedded in the show helped made it more fun and scrumptious than dark and depressing. “We were filming in the midst of the pandemic with masks on, so it was good to be in touch with the lighter side. The shoot was all weirdly optimistic, and I hope the show has rubbed off on that too,” said Jonathan.

The Barbenheimer show

The sense of weird optimism at the heart of the show is probably what makes it distinct from other stories that depict the relationship between nuclear technology and apocalyptic risks, like Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning film from last year, Oppenheimer. Jonathan and Christopher have co-written films like Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight franchise, and Interstellar. So it’s only natural if the brothers approach the same themes through different lenses. Jonathan agrees that he does see Fallout as a companion piece to Oppenheimer.

“A little bit. Certainly playing in a similar space, but with a very different tone. Last year, I joked with my brother that I may have made Barbenheimer, the show. Because it does have a little bit of each of these things. It also struck me when I saw the poster we made for South by Southwest, where Lucy is drinking from the Nuka Cola bottle,” said Jonathan, underlining how Fallout is a marriage of Oppenheimer and its box-office rival, Greta Gerwig’s satire, Barbie.

Ella Purnell as Lucy in the SXSW poster of Fallout
Ella Purnell as Lucy in the SXSW poster of Fallout

The Barbie of Fallout is Lucy, played by Ella Purnell, who was also seen in Zack Snyder’s 2021 zombie apocalypse movie, Army of the Dead. But Fallout was unlike anything she’d seen or been in. “I had decades of history and lore for context. I knew of the games, I’d played the games. I got all of that through the 65-70 page pilot. But I wasn’t very good, so doesn’t count,” she told us, laughing. But the unawareness did help her with playing Lucy, who like Barbie, goes from a privileged bunker to the post-apocalyptic world above.

“Lucy has lived underground all her life. Then she leaves the vault and goes into the wasteland. So she’s like a new-born baby, she knows nothing, she’s incredibly innocent and naïve. So it was really about stripping it back, being the purest version of a person one could possibly be,” added Ella. Her casting really did 90 percent of the job, claimed Jonathan. “Lucy had to be simultaneously the audience and this smart, capable woman who’s also a little naïve and wide-eyed,” he pointed out.

Unlike Jonathan, Ella may not be a Fallout geek. But coming across fans of the game like him made her all the more grateful for the opportunity. “The magnitude of what we were doing was lost on me. It’s very overwhelming and intimidating to know that people just passionately, fiercely love the game. It’s an insane experience. To meet people who say, ‘The game changed my life, it’s how I bonded with my brother, it’s how I met my wife,’ it feels very humbling,” she said.

All episodes of Fallout will start streaming on Prime Video from April 11.

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