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Jonathan Nolan’s Ending to INTERSTELLAR Made A Lot More Sense

Jonathan Nolan’s Ending to INTERSTELLAR Made A Lot More Sense

Speaking to a theater full of curious physicists, engineers, and students, Jonathan Nolan quietly let slip that his original ending to Interstellar was “much more straightforward.”

Yesterday in Pasadena, California, as a part of a media event surrounding the impending Blu-ray release of the sci-fi blockbuster Interstellar, co-writer Jonathan Nolan and science adviser/producer Kip Thorne addressed a packed theater at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). After going though much of the science of the film, the floor was opened to questions. One of the first was probably the one on everyone’s mind: What actually happened at the end of Interstellar?

“You’ve got the wrong brother,” Nolan quipped.

At the end of the film [SPOILERS], we see Matthew McConaughey’s character jettison himself into the singularity of the black hole Gargantua. He makes the deadly journey in the hopes of characterizing gravity acting at the smallest scales inside, and to send that data back to Earth. He survives the descent, but then finds himself inside a 5th-dimensional “tesseract,” which he uses to peruse the timeline of his life and contact his daughter’s younger self.

That’s the ending that has had audiences and scientists alike scratching their heads. I have my own (probably incorrect) theory of what the heck happened, but I was eager to hear it directly from the script’s original writer.

Jonathan Nolan’s much more straight-forward ending “had the Einstien-Rosen bridge [colloquially, a wormhole] collapse when Cooper tries to send the data back.”

So no tesseract (that was Christopher’s idea), no time manipulation, and no return home. Nolan didn’t elaborate on this point, but we might speculate that the original end to the movie was as dark and unforgiving as space.

If the wormhole collapses, that means there is no way for Cooper to get home (though the data maybe made it back to help the dying Earth), no way to find Anne Hathaway’s character, and likely a one-way trip into a black hole. It would be a classic hero’s sacrifice, which admittedly bends fewer physical laws than gravity waves ripping across worldlines embedded in a 5th-dimensional cube by some “bulk beings.”

That wasn’t the only major change from the script’s initial drafts. The gravitational anomalies that pointed Cooper and his daughter toward the remnants of NASA were initially supposed to be gravity waves emanating from the destruction of a neutron star via black hole. Since the waves could only be produced by something so catastrophic, and we know nothing like that exists in our solar system, the waves detected must be coming out of some wormhole close to us, Kip Thorne explained to the audience.

The waves were also supposed to be detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravity-Wave Observatory or LIGO, the construction of which Kip Thorne spearheaded. “That was very near and dear to me,” Thorne said, “but Chris thought it was too much science for the public to digest at once.”

Despite these compromises, at least the Interstellar remained accurate enough to generate scientific papers. Alright^3.

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  1. David says:

    Does anyone remember when we all went to the movies to have a good time?

  2. Reno911 says:

    I loved the movie, worked in science and enjoyed reading all the comments. Once again, what many scientists don’t understand (don’t you love that) is; The entertainment industry makes movies to make money, first and foremost (unfortunately). Then, if the director is good trying to tell a story, sometimes even trying to stick to real physics and reality. However, just like Jules Verne described fantastic fiction that became science later; A story TODAY might be far fetched but just like Einstein or Tesla had “THEORIES” a story or PLOT could be based on a theory.
    Just because we haven’t discovered everything yet, doesn’t mean that a fantastic sci-fi plot is Bullsh!t.
    That’s the problem with today’s scientists – the sheer lack of imagination – they’re bound too much by what can be measured NOW.

    Here is a good movie, that tried hard to keep it as real as possible and entertaining enough to draw just enough of both crowds in (the average joe “practical folks” and the smarty, thinking scientists “theorists”), to tell a compelling story with a point (SAFE HUMAN RACE) and make some money in the progress.

    I’d say job well done to the Nolan Brothers.

  3. gerretw says:

    It was my understanding from the movie that future humans put the worm hole there to save humanity – if they were that powerful, why not put it closer to earth and save more people? Altho, if Cooper collapsed the worm hole by sending, say, the robot back to earth with the info, a good ending would be for him to meet up with Anne and start a new race

  4. Yeah says:

    How they did reach the NASA base if Cooper didn’t give the coordinates to himself?

  5. Skip says:

    If someone told Galileo about television, he would think that was pseudo-scientific bullshit too.

    Then he’d probably flip shit once you tell him about the giant metal birds.

  6. June says:

    How many articles will you end with “Alright alright alright” Kyle?

  7. Ben says:

    Films aren’t meant to be realistic, that’s what people are missing. If all films were meant to be realistic they’d all be boring. I enjoyed the film and understood the ending enough for it to be entertaining.

  8. Jay says:

    Doesnt set it self up as well for a sequel like the original ending does tho 

  9. No Spam says:

    “and scientists alike scratching their heads.”

    If Kip Thorne and Neil Tyson had no problem understanding and explaining that ending, then I don’t think any physicists worth a damn were scratching their heads.

  10. Sum Fan says:

    “…but Chris thought it was too much science for the public to digest at once.” Chris, Chris, Chris…

    • scott says:

      That was probably the most talked about “convenience” between my friends and I. Nasa is in this guy’s backyard, and they don’t know he exists?  All of the sudden HE is the pilot?Chris, directors cut. Please.

  11. Jon says:

    or MAYBEHe did die after going through the black hole and the last portion of the movie is just the last thoughts of his dying mind trying to rationalize his life and existence

  12. Devektra says:

    I am just a regular Advanced Physics student and I really enjoyed the whole movie. But I feel that the originally thought ending would’ve killed the buzz of the whole movie.
    I mean just think about it. Wasn’t this the first time when scientists and astronauts were portrayed as emotionally thinking persons? Like Cooper who just wanted to go back to his daughter, Amelia who wished to see Edmunds again, Dr.Mann who could endanger anyone just to live and Brand lying to get Plan B successful. 
    I think it would’ve been wrong to not end the movie in a little emotional way. 
    Besides we’re all being hypocrites by not liking the end saying that the tesseract scene was unrealistic whereas everyone loved Star Trek even though we all know Warp and stuff is just as unrealistic. 

    • Lostthoughts says:

      meh…..i much prefer the original ending to the one used…..although i have always preferred the sad happy ending….the mission was a success but everyone died. or he finally got to say what he wanted but only with his dying breath….entirely “happy endings” just dont feel right….life rarely if ever works that way. i’m reminded of the matrix movie, how the robots originally made a utopia matrix for humans, but they’re minds rejected it. Humans need some bad to appreciate the good. 

  13. Professor says:

    I want Kip Thorne to explain the whole idea of humans surviving, to go into the future in order to build an Einstein-Rosen bridge to somehow slip outside of Saturn for us “out of luck” humans to launch ourselves into.  It’s referred to as a non-causal loop.  It’s an awful lot like lifting yourself up by your boot laces!

  14. yo says:

    If you wanted a darker ending, you should have suggested that McConaughey’s character should have died at launch because the rocket exploded leaving the earth hopeless.

  15. Steve says:

    Weyland:  Building better worlds

  16. Kristian says:

    Instead he is sent across the galaxy to LV-426… what a twist!

  17. Milford says:

    Einstein is spelled wrong.!!!

  18. Major says:


  19. stephen says:

    i like turtles

    • philip says:

      I love turtles and you’re wrong. (the second part is to comply with the rules of internet commenting even though we basically agree on turtles being awesome)

  20. Kurt says:

    And yes, I know the rest of the science in the movie wasn’t exactly sound, but at least it was somewhere in the realms of reality. That is up until the part where we “evolved to live in another dimension” I mean come on.

    • Will Rooks says:

      Right? How hard would it have been to make an ending like that still hold emotional weight? The answer is: not at all. Slap a third rendition of “do not go gentle into that good night.” This time maybe said by cooper to the backdrop of increasing static and fading signal. An intense Hans Zimmer piece plays, pan out to show the black hole, then silence. Cut to black after a few seconds. Boom.
      An ending without the dumb pseudoscience CLEARLY meant to for the cheap happy ending cliche. 

      • Alex b. says:

        The love part was pseudoscience, the tesseract is theoretically possible, as is gravity crossing time and dimensions.

        • Will J says:

          Yes… A tesseract is possible, gravity crossing dimensions is possible…
          A 3 dimensional man floating around 3 dimensional space, inside a 4 dimensional tesseract created by 5 dimensional “people”, manipulating gravity with his fingertips, through the walls of several time shifted versions of the same room that somehow are tied to the 4 dimensional tesseract… Then somehow floating back through time and space to end up back at home….  Is all bullsh*t…  And not very good bullsh*t. The movie was good until this crap.  

        • pSynrg says:

          Will J, you seem to have confused this science fiction fantasy movie for a documentary. You weren’t watching Cosmos by any chance recently?
          Try, let go of your prejudice for entertainment, sit back and enjoy the fervent imagination of writers and movie makers. It’s fun!

        • Simone says:

          pSynrg, if a movie presents itself as a whacky sci-fi fantasy romp, fine with me. I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and it made no sense whatsoever scientifically speaking. If a movie presents itself as a serious and grounded in real science sci-fi drama, then I hold it to its standard.

          Most peoples seems to not realize this simple thing. The beginning of a movie sets the tone. It tells you if what you’re watching is serious or comedic, realistic or fantastic, and so on. After that, any changes in this tone better have a damn good reason, or they’ll feel just like the writers running out of ideas compatible with their original intention and cheating their way out.

          Yes, Interstellar had every right to end how it did. It could also have ended with Gandalf riding a mechanical T-Rex coming out of the black hole and magically removing the curse placed on Earth by Voldemort. Doesn’t mean it would also have been a GOOD ending.

      • Dan P. says:

        Will, that ending would have generated a loss of 150 million rather than a profit of 500 million. That’s a 650 million dollar swing. Nobody spends 200 million making a movie with an ending that your average audience will hate. It’s ok to do it with a 10 million budget. The critics and people such as yourself will love it, it will make a little money, but then you still lose the ability to make the 500 million.

    • No Spam says:

      I agree but that’s a trope used in lots and lots of hard science fiction. It’s as ubiquitous to the genre as “the matrix”-type structures are to cyberpunk.

    • Dan P. says:

      Kurt, so you don’t think manipulating or sending messages through gravity is scientifically possible? Nobody can know whether it is or it isn’t. The what, how, and why of gravity is still more theoretical than known fact. Also, did they really evolve to live in another dimension or were they just utilizing other dimensions (space,time,gravity) for travel and communication purposes. 

  21. Kurt says:

    I enjoyed the first two thirds of the movie thoroughly, and then that ending… As a scientist, I can’t stand touchy feely pseudoscience for the sake of a happy ending. I would much have preferred him not making it home, perhaps with his last goodbye being sent to her in the form of a video message.

    • Stephen says:

      I bet it is hard for you to enjoy anything outaide of the lab huh haha

    • Alex b. says:

      You need to read more theoretical physics. The ending is theoretically possible from what we know of physics…save for maybe the issue of harmful radiation from the black hole.

      • Will J says:

        There is a HUGE difference between REAL theoretical physics and the mess that they threw together at the end of that movie.  And most likely the extreme amount of gravity ripping his body apart would have been worse than the radiation. 

        • Mal says:

          Eh, guys……You do realise this was a science fiction movie, yeah ?

        • Dan P. says:

          REAL theoretical physics? Seriously? It can’t be known as real if it’s just theoretical. Anyone can produce theories, including the ones postulated at the end of the film. It’s also a movie who’s purpose is to entertain and make a profit. It’s not a physics class although it’s closer to one than just about any other science fiction movie ever made. 

      • Simone says:

        Will J, no, the black hole is a gigantic one, it’s been said again and again, such a supermassive black hole has tiny tidal forces and won’t rip you to shreds until you’re way inside the event horizon already. 

        Personally I think the “touchy feely” bit was him managing to find his daughter in the tesseract because POWER OF LOVE! whereas the 5-th dimensional beings who did this all still couldn’t do it and needed his help. I don’t mean that you should underplay the importance of human emotion, just leave it to its natural realm: it was already a good enough display to show how caring for his daughter and planet pushed the hero to potentially sacrifice his life for their sake.

    • No Spam says:

      Him not surviving isn’t more scientific than him surviving. You’re letting your touchy-feely emotions interfere with your perception of what science is. That’s pseudoscience.

    • G says:

      good thing youre a scientist and not a film maker

  22. otis says:

    that alternate ending sucks. it totally kills the climax. they do all that work and OOPS! the wormhole just collapses for no reason. that’s not a sacrifice, that’s just a failure.

    • John says:

      Sounds more like real life. No reason.

      • Derek says:

        And it also sends the message that we won’t be moving to another planet anytime soon so we better get working on saving this one.

        • Alex b. says:

          Earth will be here no matter what we do.  When we say save the planet, we should really say save the human race. That was the point of the film.

        • GediKnight says:

          Well we’re meant to be starting to populate Mars by 2025

    • Anonymous1a says:

      Actually, Dr. Brand would survive and they could easily make it so that she is seen re-populating Edmund’s planet. Admittedly, the people back on Earth would be entirely dependent on if Murphy could figure stuff out but, even if she didn’t, it wouldn’t all be in vain.

    • Simone says:

      It’s not “no reason”. Technically speaking, that is what wormholes should do if you push stuff through them. Granted, they had already passed through once, so the assistance from the mysterious 5-th dimensional beings would have been in propping the thing open until the humans managed to complete their mission. After that, they just let it do what it would naturally do – aka collapse on itself and close down.

      Either way, I see it more likely that there WAS an external hand than a wormhole spontaneously opening between Saturn and a potentially habitable solar system, for no discernible reason, being also small enough in size as to not screw up completely either system’s gravitational equilibrium.

      • Martin says:

        I agree it’s likely what would happen if you pushed stuff through them, although they could have just had it a rotating bridge that had the stability for a small amount of data but once enough was through it could then collapse.  Seems like they could have done something with this.