11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Dunkirk (the movie)

Christopher Nolan’s new movie Dunkirk is out now and getting the wonderful reviews it deserves. But you probably knew that already. But here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about he movie… 

1.)  Why he cast Fionn Whitehead

Though it’s now largely confined to history books, there are still people alive today who can remember Dunkirk. Look around on the internet and you’ll no doubt be able to find lots of first-hand accounts. It’s after hearing these that Christopher Nolan realised how young and inexperienced the soldiers were. This is why he decided to cast young and unknown actors for the beach setting.

2.) What the survivors think of the film

Amongst all those involved with the film itself, around 30 Dunkirk survivors attended the London premiere, all in their mid-nineties. What did they think of the film? They highlighted the realism and how it was an accurate portrayal, though they did also say the film was louder than the whole event itself. Perhaps my Dad’s right about cinema’s being too loud…

3.) The ticking sound

Long-time music collaborator with Nolan, Hans Zimmer actually used Nolan’s pocket watch to create the clock ticking sound we hear in the soundtrack.

4.) Christopher Nolan had a fun time doing his research

Naturally being both writer and director of a film based on a true story, you have to be something of an expert, able to portray the event as accurately as possible. So Christopher Nolan did his research – lots of it. Along with his wife and friend, he made the trip by boat from England to Dunkirk, the way the civilians would have done so, taking them 19 hours. 

He also actually got to ride in the same Spitfire shown in the movie so he could understand the feel of a fighter plane, allowing him to shoot an authentic, realistic experience from inside the cockpit.

5.) More IMAX cameras were damaged

Filming big, ambitious blockbusters with expensive IMAX cameras is always tempting fate; Nolan’s been known to damage them in the past, like having a vehicle accidentally smash into one during production of The Dark Knight. And so, lo and behold, another IMAX camera was damaged. In the scene where a Spitfire crashes into the sea, an IMAX camera was fitted into the cockpit, filming Lowden trying to escape. However the plane sank much faster than they expected, with the camera still strapped securely to the plane, the water running into the casing ruining the camera and film. Fortunately they kept the film wet and rushed it back to Los Angeles and managed to process it before it dried out and was ruined completely. This take was used in the final cut of the film.

6.) It’s the biggest boat movie yet

    Naturally lots of boats were needed on set for filming. However Dunkirk can boast having used over 50 boats on the sea – the most that’s ever been put on film.

    7.) Mark Rylance’s character was based on a real person

    The character played by Mark Rylance, Dawson, is in fact based on a real person – Lightoller, Second Officer of the Titanic, which he luckily survived. A true man of bravery, years later he sailed his own yacht, Sundowner, over to Dunkirk, facing danger once more. Like Rylance’s character, he refused to allow the navy to crew his boat, took one of his sons with him, lost another son who died in the RAF, and crammed so many soldiers in the boat that no one could believe that over 55 men were aboard.

    8.) The surprising Harry Styles

      Due to all the criticism, Christopher Nolan has compared casting One Direction pop star Harry Styles to casting Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight since people also underestimated him.

      9.) It’s been a big deal for the Netherlands

      Part of the movie was filmed at IJsselmeer, near small fishing town Urk. Obviously everyone there was excited to see the film… only there is no cinema in Urk. But to make sure people could still watch it there, a cinema truck was arranged to drive there to show them all their town on the big(ish) screen.

      10.) Silent films were an inspiration

      You might have noticed that despite there being little dialogue, Dunkirk is still a captivating film. This is because Nolan took inspiration from silent films, studying ways in which they built suspense with just images and no words. Taking from masters of cinema, no wonder it’s a masterpiece itself!

      11.) Not as many extras as you might think

      For those huge scenes, you can’t get away from needing extras – and lots of them. In fact 1000 extras were used along with cardboard cut outs of soldiers to really maximise the illusion of having thousands of men on the beach.

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