Hello Carl. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule of teaching, enlightening and guest appearing on Epic Rap Battle videos to join us for today’s FOTD.
Development and financing
The premise for Interstellar was conceived by film producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who collaborated on the 1997 film Contact and had known each other since Carl Sagan set them up on a blind date.
I was intrigued by this so I dug a little bit deeper. I found an article from the LA Times from Aug 15th that goes into further details.
Theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne was a divorced, single dad raising a teenage daughter when he got a call in September 1980 from a close friend — who happened to be fellow scientist Carl Sagan.
Would Thorne be interested in going out with a woman he knew?
Though the shy Caltech professor was far more comfortable contemplating black holes and other imponderables than he was navigating the world of dating, he said yes.
Thorne took his date, Lynda Obst, then a science editor at the New York Times Magazine, to the world premiere of Sagan’s TV series “Cosmos” at the Griffith Observatory. True to science-nerd form, Thorne wore a not very flattering tuxedo — he remembers it being baby blue, though Obst insists it was maroon.
“We really enjoyed each other’s company, but the romance never went anywhere,” Thorne said on a recent afternoon over lunch at the private faculty club at Caltech, the Athenaeum.
The article goes on to talk about Christopher Nolan wasn’t keen on Thorne’s presence as an adviser at first.
Nolan admits he was initially wary of Thorne’s involvement.
“I was worried that he would just be the science police, telling me what I could and couldn’t do with my story,” said the director, who traces his own interest in space to watching Sagan’s “Cosmos” when he was 10. “But what I rapidly realized in talking to him was that he was able to offer me tremendously exciting narrative possibilities.
“The mind-blowing quality of real science — relativity, gravitational theory, black holes, wormholes — they’re far more exotic than anything I can come up with as a screenwriter.”
The scientist and the filmmaker only really came into conflict once, Nolan said. The director was determined to have a spacecraft in the film travel faster than the speed of light. Thorne balked at the idea.
“Over about two weeks, he finally wore me down and helped me understand that it was impossible according to the theory of relativity,” Nolan said.
Mr. Thorne. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
A couple last things I found interesting. Mr. Thorne won a bet with Stephen Hawking and the prize was a subscription for Penthouse magazine.
Though a self-described introvert, Thorne is also a born teacher, and he clearly enjoys talking. One moment he’s telling the story of how, in the mid-1970s, he won a scientific bet with his friend Stephen Hawking. The prize? A subscription to Penthouse magazine. (“You have to understand, I grew up in a Mormon culture — I thought that would be a fun thing to bet for.”) The next moment he’s patiently explaining how the imperceptible slowing of time due to Earth’s gravity affects the GPS system in the iPhone resting on the table.
Thorne had been the one to suggest to Carl Sagan when he was writing the screenplay for Contact to change the black hole to a wormhole. He stayed friends with Lynda Obst as she went from science editor to journalist to film producer and in 2005 they started collaborating for Interstellar.
I thought that was a really sweet anecdote and a really cool piece of trvia. I could have also gone with Steven Speilberg being on board to direct the movie first but backed out. I’ll save that for another column. For now though I wish you a pleasant day, thank for reading my Fact Of The Day, and remember...
We are indeed Carl, we are indeed.
Fact Of The Day is the daily column where RobGronkowski’sPartyBusDriver shares some random tidbit of science fiction, fantasy or horror knowledge. If there is a show or movie you would like to see done, leave a note in the comments below. You can see the full archive of past columns here.