Does this mean that the next Nolan movie will feature crystal clear dialogue and no one will complain ever again? Not likely, thanks to Nolan’s aversion to automated dialogue replacement (ADR), the common practice of having an actor dub their own performance with dialogue recorded in a sound booth instead of on set.
“I like to use the performance that was given in the moment rather than the actor revoice it later,” explained Nolan. “Which is an artistic choice that some people disagree with, and that’s their right.”
Of course, Nolan doesn’t always avoid ADR. The director famously re-dubbed dialogue in The Dark Knight Rises after the fan outcry to a preview of the movie. The preview showed the scene in which Tom Hardy’s Bane destroys a plane while capturing a scientist, and while the visuals left everyone in awe, the sound also left them frustrated. Hardy reportedly re-recorded his dialogue in ADR, so that his lines didn’t sound completely muffled behind the face mask.
But since then, Nolan has been more or less defiant about his refusal of traditional dialogue mixing. When Interstellar was met with the same critiques, the director took to The Hollywood Reporter to explain his decision… sort of. “We made carefully considered creative decisions,” Nolan insisted. “There are particular moments in this film where I decided to use dialogue as a sound effect, so sometimes it’s mixed slightly underneath the other sound effects or in the other sound effects to emphasize how loud the surrounding noise is.”
Even then Nolan acknowledged that this choice is “a little unconventional for a Hollywood movie.” But as Oppenheimer‘s continued box office success shows, the break from convention seems to be working, at least in his case.
Oppenheimer is in theaters now.