SAN DIEGO — Director Christopher Nolan and actor Matthew McConaughey paid a surprise visit to the annual fan convention Comic-Con on Thursday, to promote their upcoming sci-fi film Interstellar. Capping off an 80-minute panel for Paramount Pictures, Nolan and McConaughey made their first ever appearances at the convention, and the 6,000-plus person crowd in the convention center’s Hall H greeted them like rock stars.
“Well, I heard a lot about this place being the most passionate about movies and pop culture in general,” said Nolan about why he finally chose to visit Comic-Con (after declining to appear for any of the Dark Knight trilogy). “I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.” The crowd roared in approval, causing Nolan to add with a chuckle: “And judging by the crowd here, I’m not disappointed.”
After a brief interview by Entertainment Weekly editor Matt Bean and a few quick audience questions, Nolan unveiled the newest trailer for his film, which he said will be released to the public at some point in the near future (likely attached to a major August release, like Guardians of the Galaxy or Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). The film itself opens Nov. 7.
The trailer set up the same dilemma previewed in previous trailers: Humanity is struggling to survive after severe climate change has depleted the food supply. “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars,” says McConaughey’s character over shots of dying crops and dust-covered cars and homes. “Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt.” His character is then recruited to pilot an interstellar mission to hunt for another hospitable planet for humanity to relocate to, a mission with no clear chance of his return, which upsets his children, especially his daughter (Mackenzie Foy).
The rest of the trailer featured brand new scenes of what that mission would entail — with McConaughey and fellow astronauts played by Anne Hathaway and David Oyelowo visiting planets that appear barren, icy, or filled with vast oceans filled with enormous waves. Nolan’s ambition here appears to be nothing less than epic; during the panel, he specifically cited Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as a key inspiration and guide for this movie. “We really have an ambition with this film, not to do what that film did, because I don’t think we ever could,” he said, “but to tell a similarly ambitious story in terms of the scope and scale.”
To that end, Nolan said that he tried to provide “as much reality for the actors as possible,” which included giving them something to actually look at outside their spaceship windows instead of a giant green screen. Nolan declined to explain how he went about achieving this effect, however. “I want you to come see the film!”
Nolan also cited Star Wars and Blade Runner as inspirations, but, keeping in character with his aversion to spoiling too much of his film before audiences have seen it, Nolan didn’t want to say much more. “I wouldn’t want to give too complete a list [of my sci-fi inspirations], because then when you see the film, you’ll see all the things I’ve ripped off,” Nolan said, to much laughter. “And I’m not joking when I say that.”
Neither Nolan nor McConaughey’s appearances had been announced prior to the Paramount Pictures panel at Comic-Con — all that was promised, in fact, was a general look at the studio’s upcoming slate. After a brief preview of the film that highlighted its focus on space exploration (including clips of interviews with astronauts like Jim Lovell and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk), McConaughey appeared on stage first, and discussed how the script written by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan pulled him into the production. “It’s by far the most ambitious film that Mr. Nolan’s directed,” said the Oscar-winning actor, who then introduced Nolan to the stage, causing the largest cheers in Hall H of the day.
That was no small accomplishment, given that just minutes earlier, actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson also made a surprise appearance in Hall H to promote his film Hercules, which opens in theaters tomorrow. Johnson strolled through the hall, high-fiving fans, before explaining that he’d bought out three San Diego movie theaters that night for people to watch the movie on a first-come, first-serve basis. Given that box office prognosticators are predicting Hercules may debut under Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy, the Rock appears to be making something of a, well, Herculean effort to foster some last-minute buzz for his movie. And then soft-spoken Nolan went and stole all The Rock’s thunder.