So far, the only things we’ve known about Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar are mostly what we’ve been able to glean from its handful of trailers. (To recap: Matthew McConaughey goes to space to find a new Earth while Jessica Chastain stays at home and broods.) No longer! Today marks the debut of Entertainment Weekly’s cover story on the film, and it’s chock-full of amusing anecdotes and previously unknown plot details (as well as a few other ones that many people have guessed). Here are 15 of the most interesting:
1. There’s a robot in it: The space mission at the heart of Interstellar has four human crew members — Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Wes Bentley, all of whom we’ve seen in the trailers, and British actor David Gyasi, whom we haven’t, really — but there’s also apparently a robot named TARS onboard. Whether he’s this kind of space robot or this kind of space robot remains unknown.
2. Nolan tried to use rear projection for the starscape backgrounds whenever possible. As EW’s Jeff Jensen reports, the director “loathes blue screen the way the Amish loathe zippers.”
3. Nolan keeps a flask of Earl Grey tea in his pocket whenever he’s on set. He does not put milk in it.
4. The film’s central question, according to Nolan: “What happens when scientists bump up against these things that defy categorization and analysis — like love?” This point is reportedly driven home by a pivotal soliloquy Hathaway gives about the power of love (not this one).
5. Chastain, as others have reported, is playing McConaughey’s grown-up daughter. Thanks to the theory of relativity, she keeps getting older while he stays the same age.
6. Nolan changed the script to make Chastain’s character a woman. The actress said she only got a handle on the film after she met Nolan’s daughter Flora and realized Interstellar was “a letter to his daughter.” (The film’s code name was Flora’s Letter.)
7. McConaughey’s character, Cooper, is meant to be a Chuck Yeager–style everyman. If you read between the lines in the profile, you can see him struggling with how to play “normal” after being in Rust Cohle mode for so long. The solution he landed on? Playing a version of himself. “I had to say, ‘Guess who the Everyman is in this movie, McConaughey?’” the actor remembers asking himself. “‘You.’”
8.Nolan’s inspirations for the film ranged from the obvious (2001: A Space Odyssey) to the … less so. One particular inspiration was the work of architect Mies van der Rohe, the modernist legend whose designs proved the basis for the Odyssey spacecraft in the film.
9. To film the scenes set on a dying, dusty Earth, the production planted a 500-acre cornfield in rural Alberta. Then they burned it all down in a “manufactured apocalypse.”
10. “Fun fact: Nolan has a deep fear of the sea.”
11. Hathaway may have gotten hypothermia while filming a scene set on a water planet. But she says it wasn’t a big deal: “Wimps don’t last long on [Nolan’s] set.”
12. Besides the obvious debt to 2001, Nolan took lessons from Stanley Kubrick in other ways. Particularly, Kubrick’s search for “the one powerful Image,” which inspired Nolan to try his hand at longer shots.
13. Nolan swears he tried to cut down the film’s two-hour, 45-minute runtime, but he just couldn’t. Editing it down “subverted the tone of the movie,” he told Jensen.
14. Nolan thanked Hans Zimmer for providing the score by giving him a watch. On the back was an inscription: “This is not the time for caution.” The line is probably from the film, but it could also be a quote from Arianna Huffington or Tony Blair.
15. Everyone involved swears that this film is Nolan at his most warm and emotional. Even his wife! “Whenever I read that Chris’ films are ‘unemotional,’ I don’t agree,” Emma Thomas says, “but I do find this one to be more emotional.” Hathaway concurs: “In this film, I feel his technical prowess and his humanity are presented in the most balanced way.”