An investigation: Does Christopher Nolan really ban chairs on his film sets?


We’re all excited to see the upcoming Tenet, which director Christopher Nolan has been determined to release as the year’s first big tentpole since the outbreak of coronavirus.

But once the movie does finally come out on August 13, do you think our appreciation of its high-octane action scenes will be made all the more sweet with the knowledge that all those actors were not allowed to sit down on set in between takes? Or is banning chairs from a blockbuster film set just kind of a lame power move that is in fact highly discriminatory?

Allow me to explain. In a Variety interview between Hugh Jackman and Interstellar’s Anne Hathaway, the actress casually remarked that on the sets of his films, Christopher Nolan “doesn’t allow chairs, and his reasoning is, if you have chairs, people will sit, and if they’re sitting, they’re not working”. She then added, “I mean, he has these incredible movies in terms of scope and ambition and technical prowess and emotion. It always arrives at the end under schedule and under budget. I think he’s onto something with the chair thing”.

Did the rest of the internet think Nolan was ‘onto something with the chair thing’? Absolutely not, with fans and critics decrying the practice as “ableist and a labor violation”.

It seems the rumour was just specific and odd enough that film fans felt it matched Nolan’s public image as a control freak autuer; but is the ‘no chairs rule’ even true?

Nope, says Nolan’s representative Kelly Bush Novak, who confirmed that “the only things banned from [Nolan’s] sets are cell phones (not always successfully) and smoking (very successfully)”. The spokesperson elaborated that, “The chairs Anne was referring to are the directors’ chairs clustered around the video monitor, allocated on the basis of hierarchy not physical need. Chris chooses not to use his but has never banned chairs from the set. Cast and crew can sit wherever and whenever they need and frequently do”.

Sounds like another bout of film Twitter memery and misunderstanding. Yet I ask you this: is it more of a Hollywood control freak move to ban chairs on sets, or to release an official statement within 24 hours addressing a rumour about how you don’t ban chairs on sets? A paradox fit for a Christopher Nolan mind-bender.