Memento is a 2000 psychological thriller starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano. It was written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Memento follows two timelines, one in reverse, chronological order, and black and white sequences playing in order. Audiences follow Leonard Shelby, played by Pearce, who has anterograde amnesia. He is unable to hold short term memories. Leonard is on a mission to find the person who killed his wife. Using a series of polaroid’s, notes and tattoos, Leonard attempts to externalize his memory. The unique time sequence of the film brings the audience into the mental landscape of a man who has no short-term memory. In 2017, Memento was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress. Check out various Memento screen facts below.
Conceived on a Road Trip
When Christopher Nolan was 26, in 1996, he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was a 3,200 km drive. His brother, Jonathan Nolan, joined him. To pass the time, his brother shared story ideas. It was Jonathan that had the idea of following a character who had anterograde amnesia. Christopher then begged Jonathan to make a draft of the idea for months, which Jonathan eventually wrote the short story Memento Mori. This phrase means “remember that you die” in Latin. Christopher would use this story to write his screenplay. Jonathan didn’t have his short story published until a year after Memento was released. This qualified Memento as an original screenplay instead of an adaptation. Even earning the film a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. However, Gosford Park (2001) won the 74th Academy Award.
Brad Pitt Almost Starred
The only A-list actor Nolan wanted for the lead role was Brad Pitt. Pitt was interested in the project after reading the script. However, scheduling conflicts made it impossible for him to do. After Pitt backed out, Nolan only considered lesser-known actors like Thomas Jane and Aaron Eckhart, eventually landing on Guy Pearce for the lead. This allowed for a more evenly distributed budget for the film that costed $9 million to make.
Christopher Nolan Makes an Appearance
Christopher Nolan does not usually appear in his own projects. In this movie, his voice makes an appearance. In post-production, Nolan discovered two words of Joe Pantoliano’s lines wasn’t delivered quite right. Pantoliano wasn’t available to do a voice over to correct the lines. Nolan decided to imitate Pantoliano and record himself saying the two words the way he wanted them done. This recording was used in the final film.
Watch Memento in Chronological Order
Back in 2002, DVDs were a big deal and often had bonus content. Director commentary, behind the scenes content, deleted scenes — these were just some of the bonuses of going out and buying a copy of your favorite movies. For Memento, there was a secret easter egg. If viewers could solve a memory-based puzzle, they could watch the film in chronological order.
Emma Thomas Got the Film Made
Emma Thomas is Christopher Nolan’s wife and now frequent collaborator and film producer. When Memento was being made, she was Nolan’s girlfriend. Thomas brought the script to Aaron Ryder at Newmarket Films. He was impressed and greenlit the project. In the movie, the tattoo parlor is named Emma Thomas, as a shoutout to her.