How long Inception took to make underscores its importance to Christopher Nolan’s stellar track record, as he spent nearly a decade on it. It’s no exaggeration to say that Christopher Nolan has a filmography many directors would be respectfully envious of. From Memento, the Dark Knight trilogy, and Interstellar, to Dunkirk, Nolan is widely regarded as one of the defining directors of the modern era. Despite those famed titles, one of Christopher Nolan’s most revered efforts is Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a dream thief who infiltrates his victims’ minds to extract information.

Inception is a now-infamous mind-twisting adventure through dreams and the human subconscious. The iconic shot of a city street bending upwards like an urban tsunami is now a legendary cinematic image, and the ambiguous final shot of Cobb’s totem in Inception is still debated over a decade after release. Inception, as an original story, is arguably the film that will most heavily define Nolan’s legacy. It doesn’t take an astute studio executive to see the creative potential and epic scale in the Inception concept, but even though Nolan struck storytelling gold with his tale of lucid dreaming meets corporate espionage, it took the auteur nine years to make Inception a reality after delivering the first pitch.

Related: Inception: All The Evidence Cobb Is Still Dreaming In The Final Scene

Christopher Nolan Started Working On Inception In 2000

The cast of Inception on the poster

It’s not unusual for filmmakers to develop their stories over the course of several years and, sure enough, Nolan worked on early drafts of what would eventually become Inception around the turn of the millennium in 2000, ten years before the project eventually saw the light of day. How long Inception took to make shows the arduous process behind big-budget would-be blockbusters.

A movie based on the 5 stages of Inception, to Nolan’s credit, wasn’t exactly an easy pitch. Once a movie pitch is successful, development usually begins in earnest with script writing, pre-production and casting. Unusually, Nolan pitched Inception to Warner Bros. as early as 2001 — and not unsuccessfully, either. Despite this initial interest, Nolan later claimed (via NYTimes) that he “wasn’t really ready to finish it” and “needed more experience in making a big movie.

Nolan recounts that as a budding director early in his career, he tried to scale down Inception, assuming he would be forced to work with a small budget. He soon came to realize that a movie taking place primarily inside the human mind called for some hefty bankrolling in order to execute properly, so held off on the idea and started Batman Begins instead.

The Dark Knight Trilogy Primed Nolan To See Inception Through

Joker speaking with Rachel in The Dark Knight

Nolan’s experience with DC and The Dark Knight trilogy served a dual function — giving the director the knowledge and tools required to make movies at a much larger scale, and bolstering his reputation enough to secure the budget required to do justice to Inception. Some filmmakers work on multiple projects simultaneously and might’ve started scripting Inception while shooting The Dark Knight, but Christopher Nolan has always been a one-project-at-a-time kind of artist.

Related: Inception: What Each Character Represents (Confirmed By Christopher Nolan)

Of course, Nolan’s increased stock in the movie industry also meant more jobs kept landing on his desk, and moving from Batman Begins to The Prestige to The Dark Knight meant Inception was only subjected to more time on the back-burner. Finally, with multiple blockbusters and a record-breaking superhero movie to his name, Nolan and Warner Bros. began developing Inception properly in early 2009 ahead of a 2010 release.

Considering how Inception changed sci-fi movies in the 2010s, the prospect of an early 2000s, low budget Inception is a fascinating one, if only out of morbid curiosity. However, with the finished product wowing audiences with spectacular visuals, nuanced storytelling and head-scratching science fiction themes, it’s easy to see where that added experience and bigger budget came into play. Inception surely wouldn’t have been as successful without those nine years spent building up to the momentous challenge Nolan’s dream-stealing concept presented.

Will Christopher Nolan Make Inception 2?


Inception director Christopher Nolan hasn’t been secretive about the fact that he has no intention of making Inception 2. This is simply because the story is complete, which means that a sequel is unnecessary. Similar to Nolan and Christian Bale’s Dark Knight trilogy, there’s no real reason for the director develop a sequel to Inception or flesh out what happens to its characters, who have all completed their roles in the finished story.

Moreover, because of how long Inception took to make, it’s understandable that Nolan might not want to undertake a similar endeavor again. Any sequel to one of the most groundbreaking sci-fi movies of the century will entail another Herculean effort, and there would have to be an extremely compelling reason for the Nolan to revisit the dream levels of Inception — either through a sequel or spinoff — in the future.

More: Inception Theory Suggests Cobb’s Final Line Secretly Answers His Big Dream Mystery

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