Christopher Nolan has become one of the most recognizable directors in the world to the point that his films are sold largely on his name and not the names of the actors involved. After all, TV spots for his newest movie, Dunkirk, are built around footage of Nolan directing. This comes at a time when major blockbusters are relying less and less on a director’s vision and more on the vision of a studio, as is the case with Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Nolan has been directing features since 1998, but it was 2008’s The Dark Knight that really spawned a cult following that continues to worship him to this day. Since then, Nolan has released Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar, and now Dunkirk. He previously directed The Prestige, Insomnia, Memento and Following.
But a key collaborator in Nolan’s life who we rarely hear about as much is his wife, Emma Thomas. Nolan’s films frequently feature a main character whose wife has died, but in real life, Nolan has a great relationship with his significant other, and she is a vital part of his creative process.
Here’s what you need to know about Emma Thomas, the wife of director Christopher Nolan.
1. She Has Produced All of Nolan’s Films
Emma Thomas is a film producer, and she has served as a producer on every single feature film Christopher Nolan has made, from Following to Dunkirk. The only work of Nolan’s that Thomas has not produced is the short 2015 documentary Quay.
Thomas has exclusively worked alongside Christopher Nolan, not having produced a film that he had no role in. The movies she has produced that were not directed by Nolan were Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Transcendence and Man of Steel. However, these were all movies that Nolan produced as well.
Outside of her role as producer, she has also served as a crew member on films like Loch Ness, Bean, The MatchMaker, The Borrowers, The Hi-Lo Country, and High Fidelity. In an interview with SSN Insider, Thomas said that she started off interning at Working Title and then worked her way through small roles on films.
“I kept in touch with the people who worked there and managed to get a job as a receptionist, then took jobs within the company as they became available,” she said. “I was working in the production department as in-house production coordinator; it was a fantastic experience and I learned an enormous amount about the way movies are made.”
2. She Met Nolan at University College London When She Was 18 /h2>
Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan met in college at the University College London. He was 19 at the time; she was 18.
According to ICG Magazine, both were English literature majors and hardcore film buffs, running a film society at school and arranging for classic movie screenings. Together, they sold tickets to these screenings, and saved up that money to use it to make Nolan’s first film, Following.
This isn’t to say that Nolan discovered a love of film at UCL, though. Rather, he told Portico Magazine that he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker from a young age.
“…I chose [University College London] because I wanted to be in London, at the heart of the film business, and I very much liked the idea of studying English,” Nolan said. “…A lot of what I learned about literature during that period informed what I was doing in terms of my writing and screenwriting. So for me, there was a very inspiring relationship between what I was learning and what I was trying to do in my filmmaking.”
In an interview with Collider before the release of Inception, Thomas said that Nolan has not changed much since college in that he’s always had a very clear goal for his life.
“Chris… we met when I was 18 and Chris was 19,” she said. “And he had already known at that point for I think 10 years that he wanted to direct films. So he’s always been a very singular… he’s had a singular ambition.”
In October 2016, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan returned to University College London in order to host a fundraiser for UCL’s Dementia Research Institute, according to UCL’s website.
She said, “We first met when I was 18 and he was 19 and obviously I don’t think that he is cold. But people think that his films are going to be complicated, a little demanding of the audience, maybe too dense. They tend to think his films are all about style over substance and that they’re not emotionally engaging, maybe because some of his films have been interesting, structurally, like Memento, for example.”
3. She & Nolan Founded Syncopy Inc.
You’ve likely seen the logo for Syncopy Inc. many times in front of films in the last few years; this is the production company that was founded by Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas in 2001.
The first film that Nolan and Thomas released under Syncopy was Batman Begins. Every subsequent Nolan movie has had the Syncopy logo in front of it, in addition to two films that Nolan did not direct: Man of Steel and Batman: Gotham Knight, the latter being a direct-to-DVD Batman animated film.
Films produced by Syncopy have made $4.6 billion at the worldwide box office collectively. The highest grossing film to dat was The Dark Knight Rises, which made $1,081,041,287 in the box office. Dunkirk pulled in $525,325,567 at the box office.
4. She Is Involved in Every Aspect of Nolan’s Films
Emma Thomas, it seems, is a vital part of Christopher Nolan’s career, and she has a hands-on role all throughout the filmmaking process.
“The thing I love about my job is that I’m involved in pretty much every aspect of making a film, from development, [to] the shoot, and all the way through marketing,” Thomas said in an interview with SSN Insider. “It’s creative and administrative processes that very much merge and I love that I get to stretch both muscles.”
She went on to describe her job as helping her husband to realize his vision.
“My job is a facilitator for him,” she told SSN Insider. “I help him fulfill that vision and put it up on-screen. In many ways I’m filtering so he doesn’t have to worry about things that might distract him from the pursuit of that film. They’re very clearly differentiated roles; that’s not to say he doesn’t listen if I have opinions creatively, but he’s definitely driving the ship.”
In an interview with CBS, Nolan said of his wife, “I do everything she says and never argue and we don’t bring our work home with us.”
5. They Have Four Children
Christopher Nolan and his wife have four children, three boys and one girl. In an interview with The Standard in September, Nolan said, “We have four children. We have a body of work that we have made together. So the moral of the story is: pay a lot of attention to who you meet on your first night at your halls of residence.”
Nolan has not spoken much about his kids, wanting to protect his family’s privacy. However, he has talked about the fact that having kids was a major inspiration behind Interstellar, a movie built largely around the main character’s relationship with his daughter.
“The story spoke to me as a father, more than anything,” Nolan told The New York Times. “Having children absolutely fine-tunes your sense of time and time passing. There’s a desperate desire to hang on to moments as your kids grow up.”
Emma Thomas has also said that Nolan wants to make movies that his kids can see, which could explain why his first three movies were rated R but his past seven movies, including Dunkirk, are rated PG-13.
“Where, in the past, he never made movies for any reason other than the fact that he wanted to see those movies himself, now he wants to make films he can watch with his kids,” Thomas told The New York Times in an interview conducted before the release of Interstellar.