Image Credit: Stephen VaughanSo have your dreams gotten really screwy since seeing Inception? I saw the film last month to prepare for this week’s cover story, and then I saw it again last weekend when it opened. Both times, for days afterwards, my dreams have felt even more vivid and bizarre and wake up sitting bolt-up right in bed-esque than normal. (And my “normal” is usually rather peculiar as it is.)
After my first round of freakish post-Inception phantasmagoria, I had to know if the people who actually made Inception have had similar experiences. So I asked Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt and a few other folks involved in the movie, and their answers were definitely not what I was expecting:
Leonardo DiCaprio: Ironically, I don’t remember my dreams very well. I only remember specific images or feelings, but I don’t remember whole storylines, just fragments of them. But recently, just when I was about to start this press [tour], I remember being in the dream state and knowing that I could manipulate the environment because I knew a little more about the dream world. I don’t remember what it was about or what I was doing, but I remember saying to myself, ‘You can work your way out of this.’ [Chuckles] And it was an interesting parallel, for sure.
Christopher Nolan: I did not have dreams as I was making the movie. I’ve never really written down dreams [in a dream journal]. If I have a very interesting dream, I will take a few moments to try and relate the dream experience into what it meant in my head. The peculiar thing about dreams is it really touches on human perception and the inadequacy of language. What happens is, in the moment that you wake up, you can recall the dream, you can re-experience it, you can remember it for a few seconds, but if you’re going to really remember that dream, you have to translate it to words. Writing into words, you lose the reality of it, but you’re left with the translation of it.
Ellen Page: Obviously, [working on the film] didn’t do a whole hell of a lot because nothing immediately comes to my mind. Always when I work, I have work dreams. You know, typically anxiety-based [dreams] about not being in on time, forgetting all my lines, all of a sudden needing to know a French accent and being like, ‘What?’ You know, those kinds of dreams. But nothing much more magical than that, unfortunately.
Emma Thomas, producer (and Nolan’s wife): Making the movie, I think I didn’t dream very much. We were working so hard on this film, it was hugely taxing physically on everybody. I don’t remember a single dream we had while we were making this movie because I was sleeping like a log. But once I watched the movie, it really made me start paying attention to my dreams. I don’t know that my dreams are any different, but once you start thinking about your dreams, it’s really interesting. If you really start focusing on them, you can remember them much more.
Wally Pfister, director of photography: The one thing I told Chris after I read the script is that I was really able to relate to this [idea]. There’s a state that I’ve encountered in dreams, and it usually happens when you’re really, really exhausted and you haven’t been getting a lot of sleep. You enter that dream state where you’re half-asleep, half-awake, and in that state, I’ve been very conscious of the fact that I’m actually dreaming while I’m doing it. I’m like, “Oh f—, check this out. I’m in a dream. I’m halfway there. But if I reach out and do [something in the dream], is that within the dream, or is that within reality?” And you can wake yourself up in a minute. You say, “Okay, if I’m in a dream, I’m gonna reach for this clock right now and wake myself up.” Sometimes you can get out of it and sometimes you can’t.
I’ve always found that fascinating. I’ve done little experiments within my dream when I’ve been in that state. I’m able to define that state when it happens. When I told that to Chris, he was like, “Yeah, that’s one of the seeds of this film. That’s what this is about. It’s about this crossover between the subconscious world and the conscious world and sometimes not knowing when you’re in the subconscious world and when you’re not.”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Well, I pretty much don’t remember my dreams in general. But working on Inception I think did help me strengthen my connection to my dreaming life. One goal of mine even before Inception: I always loved the idea of getting to have a lucid dream. A lucid dream is when you know that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming, and sometimes you can even take control of what’s happening — just, you know, have your unbridled creativity make manifest in front of you. People can do that; it’s actually an acquired skill. I’ve never really been able to do it, but the closest I came [was] while I was shooting Inception.
I did have one dream where I was in L.A, where I live, hanging out with people. And I realized, ‘S—, I’m supposed to be in England at eight in the morning tomorrow to shoot! This is terrible, I’m letting everybody down! There’s no way I’ll make it there in time. Chris [Nolan] is gonna be furious.’ Etc. And then I realized, ‘Oh wait, I’m not in L.A. I’m dreaming, I’m in my bed in England right now. All I have to do is wake up, and everything will be fine.’
And then I woke up. Now what would have been cool is if I had managed to just stay asleep at that point. Then I would have been in the middle of a lucid dream, and who knows what would have happened. I would have, you know, ridden on my Luck Dragon all the way to the North Pole or whatever. But that’s not what happened, ’cause I woke up. One day — one day I’ll manage to sleep and stay lucid.