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Bigger than Batman: Christopher Nolan says ‘Inception’ is ‘the biggest challenge I’ve taken on’

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On Sunday, the staff of Los Angeles Times Calendar section will be previewing key 2010 releases by Hollywood. This is an early look at one of the articles in that package.

So what exactly isInception”? That’s a popular question after a visually dazzling but enigmatic trailer was released for a film that didn’t exactly clear things up with its title.

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Is it an international thriller? A story of madness and lost love? Or Hollywood’s very first metaphysical heist movie? The answer is “all of the above,” according to writer-director Christopher Nolan, whose follow-up to “The Dark Knight” seems to have Ian Fleming, the Wachowski Brothers and Sigmund Freud as its spiritual advisors.

“I think we’ve put a lot of different things into the pot with this one,” Nolan said this week during a break from the editing bay.

“I grew up watching James Bond films and loving those and watching spy movies with their globetrotting sensibility.... We get to do that here, not just geographically but also in time and dimensions of reality as well. We get to make a movie that’s expansive, I suppose you’d say, in four dimensions.”

The Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. release is shaping up as one of the most intriguing releases of 2010. Leonardo DiCaprio leads a cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and Ken Watanabe.

The film was produced by Emma Thomas, who is Nolan’s wife as well as his career partner. She said that ‘Inception’ is a story that requires a huge canvas. The pair didn’t set out looking for a way to top their Batman epic in scope, that’s just where Nolan’s ‘Inception’ script took them.

“It’s something that we had been talking about on and off for seven or eight years,’ Thomas said. ‘Coming off of the ‘The Dark Knight,’ the only thing we really knew is that we wanted to do something more personal. It seemed like the right time to do this. The fact that it’s really just an enormous movie -- that wasn’t ever really a factor in the decision. This story lends itself to a movie of this size.’

A key part of the premise is corporate espionage by way of dream invasion, but motives and even reality are slippery in a film that toys with perception as its travels through time and space. The crew covered a lot of territory too, filming in six countries.

“This is the biggest challenge I’ve taken on to this point,” said Nolan, who may return to Gotham City for his next feature. “We’re trying to tell a story on a massive scale, a true blockbuster scale – the biggest I’ve ever been involved with. We tried to make a very large-scale film with ‘The Dark Knight’ and with this one we wanted to push that even further.”

-- Geoff Boucher

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