INTERSTELLAR – Production Design

Interstellar (IMDB, 2014) is science fiction adventure film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film received mostly positive reviews and eventually became a massive hit. This magnum opus of Nolan was also widely appreciated by the scientific committee (Desowitz, 2014). Talking about hardcore science fiction concepts such as Space travel, Relativity, Time bending, wormhole and blackhole; it is already challenging enough to imagine how the production design was done for this film.

Nathan Crowley, the production designer says, he had to come up with a “real” set while working with Nolan. Most of the visual effects shown on the film was achieved practically with the use of miniatures and real time effects and the modern concept like green screen and CGI was only a secondary option (Moore, 2014). When we think about it, it really excites us. However I wanted to focus on a few of the outstanding examples of Production design achieved on the sets.


Cornfield and the Sand Storm

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) an Engineer turned farmer owns a cornfield that stretches up to a few thousand hectors. This cornfield was actually cultivated right from scratch just for the film. How amazing is that! This is extreme dedication and planning. Sometimes I realise, for a film like this we  have to recreate an entire “world” and not just a house or a room (Moore, 2014).

As mother earth slowly comes to an end, it sends frequent sand storm across the land creating dust and dirt everywhere. Keeping the intensity of the scene in mind, the filmmakers had the challenging task of how they were going to show the audience the problems the characters were exposed to in the film’s context. once again the sand storm was really created on set! The set designers had huge fans to blow away the loose sands onto the frame to created the storm effect (Ashley, 2015).

Nolan says, having real time effect make the characters more natural on set. Now thats a good one!


Alien Planets and Shallow Oceans

As Cooper and his team travel deep into space, they end up in a few alien planets. Keeping in mind the practical sets, the film crew scouted extensively for location within our own earth for real locations that would match the other planets description. The icy planet on the film was shot in the ice mountains of England and Iceland. The shallow ocean with the mountain waves was shot in a reservoir in Iceland where the run off water from the glacier is naturally collected.

I consider this as another finest example of production design. Having the right outdoor locations are as equally important as having the set designed in the right way. Often the right combination gives the best result for a film.


The Endurance and The Ranger

Nathan Crowley had do depict a combination of futuristic and retro look for the everything that was designed for the sets. With compilation of real NASA prototypes, the design team came up with Endurance (Space Rover) and Ranger (Space Shuttle) in order to look as realistic as possible without bending any logic. Moreover the astronaut suites were not as bulky as they usually are in other films. Instead the production team opted for a sleek model to emphasise on a futuristic look.

The two space robots TARS and CASE were designed in a form of “metallic box” that could walk and talk in the form of projecting its sound through an inbuilt speaker. The fact that the team opted for a design with less features over a humanoid has turned out to become more realistic and out of the ordinary.

On the whole, I have hinted a few specific examples of the production design from Interstellar which was the most appealing for me. One of the main reasons for which I choose Interstellar over any other film was because this film features a combination of futuristic and a down to earth sort of look. I feel this combination has uplifted the overall story telling element of the film in the most precise way. After all story is the hero of any film.


Moore, B. (2014). Christopher Nolan Talks ‘Interstellar’ & Celluloid vs. Digital. Screen Rant. Retrieved 8 March 2015, from

YouTube,. (2015). Making Of Interstellar – Behind The Scenes (Narrated By Matthew McConaughey). Retrieved 8 March 2015, from,. (2014). Christopher Nolan Shows How He Filmed Interstellar Without Using Green Screen. Retrieved 8 March 2015, from

Desowitz, B. (2015). How ‘Interstellar”s Nathan Crowley Designed the Ultimate Trip, Through Wormholes & Space-Time. Thompson on Hollywood. Retrieved 8 March 2015, from


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