The Sundance Film Festival is where Hollywood and cinema are at the moment. The 2024 edition is currently underway in Utah, and has seen A-listers and newbies alike in attendance. Making an appearance were Oppenheimer favorites Robert Downey Jr. and director Christopher Nolan. The former honored Nolan with the Sundance Institute Trailblazer Award on its opening night.
Nolan spoke for 10 minutes (the longest speech of the night), but gripped audiences nonetheless. He mentioned an interesting anecdote about his first big feature, Memento, and how Sundance was its saving grace. After the film was made, it was screened for independent distributors en masse, and hoped to pick up buyers simultaneously. Much to Nolan’s disappointment, “… they all passed” on the film.
The Inception director then credited producers Aaron Ryder and Bob Bernie for getting Memento to Sundance. This also led to Comcast Films Chief Brian L. Roberts taking in Oppenheimer for distribution. Roberts had watched Memento in 2001 at its Sundance screening, and explained his interests to Emma Roberts and Nolan on phone. The director also remarked that his Sundance run is still making him “discovered,” nearly 23 years after Memento.
Nolan spoke on the importance of Sundance as a film festival, and how it keeps the passion of filmmaking alive. “If that little fire that you already had in you that could get you to this festival gets fanned, the flame grows bigger.”
Nolan carried on his appreciation of the festival, saying that a filmmaker’s experience here is “unique in the whole world.” He said he was “grateful for the experience [he] had more than 23 years ago, and for this award.”
Oppenheimer is seeing a stellar run at the awards season this year, sweeping in both nominations and wins. The film’s success in the awards run has increased public exposure for Nolan, who is seldom in the public eye. Downey Jr. joked about his director’s predicament, who wondered if “[d]eath from schmoozing” was possible, in his speech that night. Nolan has already picked up Best Director wins at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards this year.