Meet Emma Thomas, the Woman Behind ‘Dunkirk’

Producer Emma Thomas has been keeping Christopher Nolan’s films afloat since college.

British-American film director Christopher Nolan (R) poses with British film producer Emma Thomas (L) on July 16, 2017, during a photo-call in Dunkirk, ahead of the release of the movie "Dunkirk" on July 19, 2017. (FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Christopher Nolan, the Oscar-nominated director of Dunkirk, Inception and The Dark Knight always seems calm, cool, mature and collected. But Emma Thomas remembers him when he was an eager young filmmaker. She lived above him in a residence hall at University College London in the early 1990s. She remembers him hanging out int eh school’s film society, buying snacks for his short film crews and “facilitating” what would eventually become one of the most remarkable careers of the modern cinema world. Thomas started producing short films for Nolan without “really understanding what she was doing.” The two have a company now, Syncopy Films. Nolan makes logistically complicated movies by relaying on a tight group of collaborators, and Thomas is the consigliere. Not only is she his wife and the mother of their four children, she has produced every one of his films. Thomas is the one who first gave Nolan a book about the Dunkirk evacuation, she is the one who knows when to intervene and when to let the perfectionist do what he wants. The seed of Dunkirk was actually planted during a weekend sailing trip Nolan and Thomas took with a friend across the choppy English Channel about 20 years ago. Nolan was directing corporate videos and Thomas was a production coordinator at the British film and TV company Working Title. The two met high waves, a busy shipping channel and seasickness. Thomas says that it “very much cemented for us what an incredible achievement that evacuation was. We had always heard of it referred to as ‘the miracle of Dunkirk,’ but I think we never really understood quite what a miracle that was until we’d made that crossing.”

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