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Film director Christopher Nolan says he owes a debt to his old university — because it’s where he met his future wife on his first day as a student.
The creative force behind recent hit Dunkirk paid tribute to University College London as he picked up an honorary doctorate alongside the graduating class of 2017 and PhD students. The Hollywood high-flier, who was president of UCL’s film society, spoke passionately about his alma mater.
Nolan, 47, met Emma Thomas on his first day in Ramsay Halls, Bloomsbury. He said: “We have four children. We have a body of work that we have made together. So the moral of the story is: pay a lot of attention to who you meet on your first night at your halls of residence.”
Both Nolan and Thomas graduated in English literature in 1993. The couple now run the production company Syncopy together. Collectively, Nolan’s 10 films — which include Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Interstellar and Dunkirk — have grossed $4.7 billion (£3.5 billion) and garnered a total of 26 Oscar nominations and seven wins.
He told the students: “The attitude that permeates UCL when you study here is something that you carry forward. This attitude of not accepting things as they are, not accepting the status quo, but looking to improve things, looking for a better way, looking to advance things in all fields.
“This is something that you carry with you after you leave here.” As president of the film society, Nolan spent much of his time in UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre making short films.
He also came back to use UCL as a location in a number of his major movies, including Inception and Batman Begins, where the Senate House was used as part of Gotham City. Following the ceremony on Friday, both Nolan and Thomas returned to visit the theatre, which is now undergoing a major refurbishment, and met current film society members.
UCL’s president and provost, Professor Michael Arthur, said: “Chris and Emma are great, longstanding friends of UCL and we are delighted to welcome them back and show them how proud we are of them. They are a great example of what university education is all about — trying new things, pursuing your passions, seizing opportunities and meeting the people who become lifelong friends and collaborators. They took every opportunity UCL had to offer, and I think they are still feeling the benefit of that effort and energy many years later.” @_annadavis
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