'Dark Knight's' Jonathan Nolan takes his tales to TV
You hardly need to be a fanboy to know or appreciate the work of Jonathan Nolan. The younger brother of Christopher Nolan has collaborated with his sibling on some of the more inventive movies of the last decade, writing “The Prestige,” "The Dark Knight" and next summer’s hotly anticipated “The Dark Knight Rises." He also wrote the short story on which “Memento” was based.
Now Nolan is taking a leap into television, co-creating and executive-producing a new J.J. Abrams-shepherded show, this fall's conspiracy thriller “Person of Interest” on CBS. But is Nolan feeling OK about stepping away from a movie world in which he's been a relatively important player?
“One of the things I was drawn to with TV is that you get to see the fruits of your labor right away," he told 24 Frames. "Even when everything is going perfectly [in film], two or three years have gone by. And sometimes it’s six or seven. You’re not the same person, and you’re lucky if you even remember writing it.”
Moreover, Nolan said, it could be frustrating writing for film; the canvas, he said, sometimes felt too limited, even with an iconic character like Batman. “Working on a franchise, you come to really know the voice of a character — and then when you’re done you have to throw the character away," he said. "There’s something kind of tragic about that."
Nolan acknowledged that he was at least a little nervous about the opposite problem — coming up with stories that can last for dozens if not hundreds of episodes. “You do have to go in knowing you’re telling a really big story, and you have to know to save things for later,” he said. (More on "Person of Interest," which stars Jim Caviezel as a down-on-his-luck former government operative who sets about protecting mysterious strangers, in print and on our Show Tracker blog in the coming weeks.)
Nolan said he wouldn’t rule out a return to film but was happy to toil on the small screen for now. “None of these things are easy. A film is a sprint and a TV show is a marathon, and with a marathon you better come up with these interesting characters from the beginning," he said. "The goal is to do the opposite of a movie. By the end of movies, or at least of my movies, everyone’s kind of dead. And [my television partner] has been impressing upon me that in TV you kind of have to keep people alive."
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight." Credit: Warner Bros.