Wally Pfister, best known as Christopher Nolan's Oscar-winning cinematographer, will this year make his directorial debut with sci-fi actioner "Transcendence," arriving April 18 and starring Johnny Depp as an ailing scientist who downloads his brain into a supercomputer. Pfister sat down with the LA Times to talk his first time in the director's seat, getting advice from Nolan, navigating inevitable comparisons to his mentor, and more. Highlights below, plus the film's trailer. (Our interview with Pfister at the time of "Inception" is here.)
Pfister on discussing with Nolan whether or not "Transcendence" was too big an undertaking for a debut feature:
"I told Chris, 'I think it's a good project. My hesitation is that it's just too big for my first adventure. And Chris very calmly said, 'Absolutely not. You know how to handle this scope of filmmaking. And storytelling is the same whether you're dealing with $100 million or $10 million.'"
On the film's themes of technology:
"I wanted to get away from the cliched notion of a sentient machine taking over the world. There are deeper questions of what we're using technology for. To heal or to create a barrier? Is it benevolent or malevolent? I want the audience to understand both sides of it... The question is whether we're going to take advantage of technology or technology is going to take advantage of us."
Will the film be similar to Nolan's work?
"If people are expecting Nolan-lite, I think they'll be surprised. My training comes from Chris, but my emotional content comes from a different era. I'm steeped in a 1970s, pre-'Star Wars' period, films like 'Soylent Green.' Chris comes from a different place."
On trying to keep a project secret in the era of blogs:
"It wasn't like we had some deep, amazing secret to keep; we just didn't want too many plot elements to leak out. But it's interesting with blogs. Sometimes just keeping your mouth shut becomes a veil of secrecy... Technology strikes again."