‘Transcendence,’ from Christopher Nolan protege, seeks enlightenment

Pre-production secrecy is nothing new to Christopher Nolan, whose opaqueness about his upcoming projects is so legendary that even Nolan whisperer Geoff Boucher had to use some cleverness to get behind it.

So it’s no surprise that Wally Pfister, Nolan’s acolyte and longtime cinematographer, would shroud his own directorial debut in layers of mystery. Until Wednesday, we didn’t know the plot, title, stars or much else about the film, except that Pfister was making it. Maybe. What does making a film mean, anyway?

As of Wednesday, we know the title (“Transcendence) and one of the stars (Johnny Depp, a choice that lit up the blogosphere with the question of whether this was a good or bad move in what is an increasingly odd career trajectory).


We still don’t know much else. I’ve learned the film will shoot in Los Angeles (a shift from potential East Coast locales, owing to new plot elements) when cameras begin rolling in the winter. There are also a total of three leads, which means that those wishing for Christian Bale, who has apparently been in Pfister’s sights, can still hold out hope.

Pfister is an interesting cat, evidence of which was on display at the Hollywood Film Awards earlier in the week, when, accepting a prize for “The Dark Knight Rises” at the buttoned-down event, he flashed a skull ring and some other flashy finger jewelry. (One imagines the conversations he’ll have with Depp about fashion.) And he’s shot movies as different as “Moneyball” and “Inception,” so expect some pizazz.

Cinematographers don’t try directing very often, and when they do, they tend not to do it very well. That said, there’s reason to think Pfister will pull it off, in part because shooting a Nolan movie, with its narrative and logistical complexities, is about the best training you can get in the film business.

And Nolan will be involved here. He’s supporting and guiding the project as an executive producer, and his wife/producing partner Emma Thomas is expected to be a strong on-set presence.

At the Hollywood Film Awards, Nolan presented the award to Pfister, tartly joking that he was now accepting applications for a new cinematographer. It got a laugh, but the more interesting question is who Pfister will hire to be his cinematographer. Sometimes it’s fun to be the man in charge.


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