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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About "Inception" But Were Afraid to Ask

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The press kit for "Inception" hit our in-box a few minutes ago, and it's loaded with details about the plot and character. We didn't read, just skimmed it for proper line-breaks and stuff like that.

Frankly, we've read enough about the movie and want to go in as fresh as possible, we're too excited to ruin the experience with an overload of info. That said, we hear some folks are into that kind of thing, so we bring you the official synopsis followed by descriptions of the principal characters and included a gallery for more than 40 images from the film for you to gaze at instead of filling out you 27B/6 forms. "Inception" comes out on July 16, try to be strong.

SYNOPSIS: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the best in the dangerous art of extraction: stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible—inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse; their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.

But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.

***

“The film follows a team of very different people, each with singular skills, who are brought together to accomplish a very special task,” Nolan continues. “If any one of them fails, it can spell disaster, so each individual is integral to their success. And we understand everything they’re going through because we are on that journey with them.”

DOM COBB – THE EXTRACTOR Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a master in the art of extraction. The
actor notes, “Cobb has achieved a level of expertise that has made him very well known in the underground black market of individuals who are able to infiltrate people’s minds and extract information.”

“At the beginning of the film,” Nolan says, “we learn that Cobb is the best extractor in the game. He is hired by corporations to steal secrets they would otherwise never have access to. It’s all based on the persistence of an idea, the notion that any concept will stay fixed in the subconscious. It’s impossible to unlearn something, and that forms the basis for what an extractor is able to do in terms of retrieving information.”

The way extraction works is through a process called dream sharing— manufacturing the world of the dream and bringing the subject into that world, which feels completely real as long as they are in it.

But Cobb’s rare skills have also resulted in him being a wanted fugitive who can never go home. Thomas shares, “From the start, we know he is a man with a past that makes it impossible for him to go back to America. But his kids are there and that motivates him more than anything else. He’s willing to take any risk in his work if it means he can get home to what he loves most.”

For that reason, DiCaprio says that the approach he and Nolan took was that “no matter how surreal the dream state, everything needed to be grounded in our connection with the character; everything had to be emotionally charged. From Cobb’s standpoint there is something very real at stake, so all of his choices, his reactions, and how he deals with the people he’s working with is a means to one end: getting back his life.”

Nolan expounds, “Working with Leo early on, we really delved into the emotional life of his character. It was very important to him that that be the guiding thread of the story, and with it he is able to draw the audience through the complex story in a very clear fashion. That’s what great actors are able to bring to a project, and Leo made a massive contribution to the film. I think he is one of our finest actors and his performance in the film is extraordinary.”

ARTHUR – THE POINT MAN Cobb’s longtime and most trusted colleague is Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. While Cobb is the master planner, Arthur takes care of the details. Gordon-Levitt asserts, “Arthur is the organized one, the one making sure everything is in its right place. The way I see it, Cobb is the artist and Arthur is the producer. He’s the one saying, ‘Okay, you have your vision; now I’m going to figure out how to make all the nuts and bolts work so you can do your thing.’ But as fastidious and professional as he is, Arthur didn’t want to apply his organizational skills to being a lawyer or doctor or any of the things he could have been because sharing dreams is fascinating. It’s not just a job for him. I think the technology of dream sharing is something that has inspired him since he first heard about it so, ultimately, it’s not the money he’s doing it for. He wouldn’t risk his life for a good paycheck. He loves it.”

Gordon-Levitt discloses that his character’s fascination with dreams is something they had in common. “I consider myself a creative person and dreams are where we’re all artists. Everything you do in a dream—everything you see, everything you hear, everyone you talk to—is your creation. That’s evidence of how powerful the creative mind could be if we were to let it, so it intrigued me to do a movie about dreams. You could call it a heist film, but I think of it more as a con artist film. I think of our characters as gentlemen thieves, and I identify with them because they are artists, or actors. They’re lying for a living...not just lying but manufacturing truth. They’re creating reality, and that’s what I do, too,” he smiles.

“Joe is a tremendous actor to work with—very charismatic, extremely dedicated, and also physically adept,” Nolan says. “He is a performer who doesn’t just find the internal life of the character but also projects the physical expression of that through his movements and expressions. And that’s good because there was definitely a very physical component to playing Arthur.”

ARIADNE – THE ARCHITECT To manufacture the world of the dream, one of the most vital members of the
team is the architect. Ellen Page portrays Ariadne, a brilliant student of architecture, who is approached by Cobb for a job, which, Page concedes, “isn’t necessarily legal, but she is propelled by an intellectual curiosity that makes her unable to pull herself away from such a unique opportunity.”

That opportunity is to design and build places that could not exist in reality. Page offers, “When Cobb brings Ariadne into his world, so to speak, she immediately displays a natural ability to think outside the box and broaden her mind enough to facilitate what he’s trying to accomplish. She ends up becoming even more involved in the job as she discovers what’s really going on with Cobb and learns about things he can’t control. But, despite the fears that arise, she wants to try and help him in order for the team to succeed.”

Nolan relates, “In writing the script for ‘Inception,’ it was very important to me that there be a conduit for the audience—a character who is being shown this world for the first time and is eager to explore it. That’s how the character of Ariadne was born. It was also very important for the audience to see Cobb through Ariadne’s eyes and get to the core of that character. And when I met with Ellen, she had the perfect combination of freshness and savvy and maturity beyond her years. She is an extraordinary performer with incredible creativity and an innate curiosity of her own and, therefore, naturally infused Ariadne with those qualities. Ellen was able to balance the emotional life of her character with the need for Ariadne to bring the audience in and show them the truth.”

Page says, “I was excited that Chris had written an awesome role for a young woman who is intelligent and comfortable in her own skin. She is thrust into this completely new environment and unusual situation and deals with it very eloquently. She can very much hold her own, especially in a group that’s a bit of a boys’ club,” she laughs.

EAMES – THE FORGER Unlike Ariadne, Eames is an old hand at dream sharing and has some history with Cobb, whether as allies or possibly even competitors. Tom Hardy plays the role of Eames, who, he notes, possesses surprising skills as a forger...and not just on paper.

“In the dream world, Eames can project the image of anyone, so he’s actually forging an identity in a physical manifestation and can convince another person that he’s whomever the team needs him to be in order to aid their deception. What’s especially interesting for me about these characters is the idea of the antihero, the fact that what they are doing could be considered dishonorable, but you still root for them. That’s nice because it’s not just black and white; we have a lot of gray area to play in.”

Nolan says that, like his character, Hardy is something of a chameleon. “Tom is an actor who can absolutely jump into the skin of a character and inhabit a role, and he did that very effectively with Eames. He saw the potential of the character right away and brought a wonderfully cheeky quality to his performance, which I was delighted to see come through.”

Emma Thomas adds that there was also some comic relief in the banter played out by Hardy and Gordon-Levitt. “There is a fun dynamic between Eames and Arthur in the movie. Clearly, they have a rivalry that dates back before our story begins, but they also have a grudging admiration, even if they’d never admit it. They are a pretty funny duo to watch as the heist unfolds.”
MAL – THE SHADE Mal, played by Marion Cotillard, is the love of Cobb’s life. “Mal is a tricky one to
describe because she is a mix of so many things,” the actress says cryptically. “But maybe it’s the kind of thing you don’t describe because different people can have different interpretations.”

“Mal is the essence of the femme fatale,” states Nolan. “Marion brought an exceptionally haunting quality to her performance. What she was able to do with just her eyes and her emotional openness is quite beautiful. And she and Leo together portray an incredibly moving couple. Underneath all of the action, I think ‘Inception’ is very much founded on a love story, and these two actors found the truth of that in a most remarkable way.”

“Leo is such a gifted actor. I have always been a great fan of his work, so it was amazing to work with him,” Cotillard says. “His commitment is total and his intensity is unlimited. You can see it in his eyes. When you share a scene with him, you can trust everything he does because he’s so authentic.”

DiCaprio has equal praise for his co-star. “It was wonderful to act alongside Marion. She can be strong and vulnerable and hopeful and heartbreaking all in the same moment, which was perfect for all the contradictions of her character.”

SAITO – THE TOURIST Ken Watanabe portrays the role of Saito, a rich and powerful business magnate,
who offers Cobb a very special job with a promise of payment more valuable than money. Simply put, if Cobb can give Saito what he wants, Saito will get Cobb home. There is only one condition: Saito wants to accompany Cobb’s team on the job to be sure he gets what he’s paying for. Thomas says, “We refer to him as ‘the tourist’ because he has no expertise, but uses his financial influence to join the group.”

Watanabe observes, “At first, it’s only a business relationship, but as the story continues, Saito and Cobb develop an understanding and a respect. They need each other.”

Nolan says that he created the role of Saito with Watanabe in mind. “I wrote the part specifically for Ken because I wanted to work with him again. I enjoyed directing him so much on ‘Batman Begins,’ but his role was smaller and we didn’t have a lot of time together. This time I made sure he had a bigger part. Ken is an extremely charismatic performer, a true movie star. He is a consummate actor who knows how to get the most out of every scene. It’s just a pleasure to watch him work.”

ROBERT FISCHER – THE MARK The target of Saito’s business proposition is Robert Fischer, who is about to
inherit control of his dying father’s multibillion-dollar empire. Cillian Murphy, who plays the part of Fischer, points out, “Despite his vast wealth, Robert is riddled with all sorts of insecurities, as one might expect of someone who has lived his entire life in the shadow of a hugely powerful individual. It doesn’t help that he has a very strained relationship with his father. So here you have a person who is about to inherit the world and is lacking for nothing except, perhaps, the thing he wants most: a proper relationship with his father.”

Thomas comments, “We were so happy to work with Cillian again. He’s a fantastic actor and he brought so much to his role. I think the character of Robert Fischer is especially interesting, because in a heist movie the mark isn’t always so multifaceted. But Robert becomes a very large part of the story’s emotional heart and a great deal of that is found in Cillian’s performance.”

YUSUF – THE CHEMIST One of the keys to carrying out Cobb’s operation is the use of a drug compound
that enables multiple people to share different dream states. Dileep Rao appears as a chemist named Yusuf whom the actor describes as “an avant-garde pharmacologist, who is a resource for people, like Cobb, who want to do this work unsupervised, unregistered and unapproved of by anyone. Yusuf obviously has a monetary interest in helping Cobb, but he is also motivated by a burning curiosity. He has been experimenting with this stuff for so long and now he wants to see what it’s like.”

“The role of the chemist was particularly tough because you don’t want him to seem like some kind of drug dealer. He’s absolutely not,” says co-producer Jordan Goldberg. “He’s someone who is committed to the art of dream sharing and making it work in ways it hasn’t before. We needed Yusuf to be funny and interesting and obviously smart, and Dileep (Rao) is all of those things.”

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