Ask “Tenet” star John David Washington what the world should know about director Christopher Nolan, and he does not disappoint.
“He can quote ‘Wayne’s World.’ You didn’t know that, did you?” a grinning Washington says during a Zoom interview with USA TODAY.
The actor, who also loves “Wayne’s World,” recalls the time when he and Nolan “bonded” over the comedy’s signature call-and-answer: “Party on, Wayne!” followed by “Party on, Garth!” “I threw it out there before a take once and he laughed and responded appropriately like, ‘Oh, so you know the movie well.’ And he does.”
Granted, anybody somewhat pop-culture savvy in the 1990s recalls Mike Myers and Dana Carvey’s famous movie quotes. But this is on the set of a brain-twisting spy thriller, by the English filmmaker who directed three hard-hitting Batman movies, the harrowing World War II film “Dunkirk,” the twisty heist film “Inception,” the Matthew McConaughey space epic “Interstellar” and the neo-noir amnesia film “Memento.”
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“It must be the films I make. People are always shocked to find out that I would ever watch a comedy or that I’m a big fan of ‘Talladega Nights,’ for example,” Nolan says, laughing. “I think it was Anne Hathaway who outed me as a huge ‘MacGruber’ fan and that’s kind of lived with me for years at this point.”
Relating to people on a human level in order to create a successful working dynamic is “super important,” Nolan says, and it’s something he learned directing Al Pacino in the psychological thriller “Insomnia.”
“I was very much a young up-and-comer and he was such a legend,” Nolan says. “The thing that I really noticed about him was he was extremely disarming, right from the get-go. Not that we talked about ‘Wayne’s World,’ but he made it very clear to me and I always carried it with me: Movie stars, directors, whatever, you can’t bring your reputations or your past work on to set. You have to be a team of equals and collaborators and looking to just do the best thing possible.”
Washington’s collaboration with Nolan follows his work with who the actor calls another “iconic human being,” 2018’s “BlacKkKlansman” with Spike Lee. But Washington found both filmmakers to be huge personalities but also regular guys who asked him questions and wondered how he felt about things.
“They have a great sense of humor and they really love what they do. It’s easy to get along with people like that, because I feel the same way,” Washington says. “That’s what makes it so much fun. It makes them human, yet simultaneously they are like larger-than-life figures.”