If it’s not one debilitating condition for Christopher Nolan, it’s another. The 31-year-old writer-director made hay out of amnesia — and spun it into box office gold — with last year’s ”Memento,” earning critical hosannas, the support of peers like Steven Soderbergh (who is an executive producer of this film), and an Oscar nomination. So what to explore for an encore? Sleep deprivation, naturally, via a remake of a 1998 Norwegian thriller. In Nolan’s version, Pacino steps into the Stellan Skarsgard role to play a Los Angeles cop — and acute sufferer of the titular malady — called to a tiny Alaskan town to help track down a murderer played by Robin Williams. Yes, that Robin Williams.
”His character isn’t a serial killer. He is somebody who has transgressed and is thinking, Where do I go from here?” says Nolan of the grave role he gave the comic. ”I had never seen him do something this substantially dark. People think of him as two different actors — they forget his serious work.” The director rounded out the cast with Oscar winner Swank (”Boys Don’t Cry”), who plays a sharp-witted local cop. ”It was a nice role for me,” says the actress. ”I’m not playing a boy. My breasts aren’t strapped down or pushed way up. I don’t have a mullet. I don’t have a black eye. It was almost a challenge playing someone normal.”
Of course, that task was nothing compared with Nolan’s moving from the indie world to a $50 million studio picture starring three Oscar winners. Is the pressure keeping him up at night? ”Well, quite unexpectedly I wound up finishing the film just as my wife and I were having a baby. I wasn’t sleeping at all,” says Nolan, laughing. ”It actually worked out quite nicely. I did a last bit of research as I was wrapping it up.”