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How Christopher Nolan and his university sweetheart Emma Thomas ‘fell in love at first sight’ on their first night in halls of residence – and went on to become an unstoppable filmmaking duo

They are one of the most prominent couples in the film industry, working together on Tenet, Oppenheimer and The Prestige.

And after winning a string of awards, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas can now add knighthood and damehood to their list of achievements.

But beyond their lucrative careers in Hollywood, the couple shares a love story that could be a feature film in itself.

The British-American director, 53, who now lives mainly in Los Angeles, married his college sweetheart Emma Thomas in 1997, and the couple have four children.

The director-producer power duo have gone from their teenage years together to major wins at the BAFTAs last month, when Oppenheimer scooped six awards, earning them both knight and queen status for their services to the industry.

Despite Hollywood stardom, the two remain loyal to each other, and in his moving speech at the BAFTAs, Christopher paid tribute to his ‘incredible producer’ wife – who has worked on all his major productions – and said: ‘I love you.’

Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan have established themselves as stars in the film industry. But behind all the glamor lies a humble love story (seen together in 2002)

Born in London to a British father and an American mother, Nolan studied English literature at University College London (UCL) and chose the school for its filmmaking facilities.

Little did he know that UCL would lead him to the love of his life: Emma Thomas, who was born in London but lived for a time in the Middle East as a child as a result of her father’s work in the government.

Despite taking different courses (Emma studied ancient history), it was in their dorm that set the stage for their romance.

They were placed in the same student halls of residence in 1989 and began arranging film screenings as part of their work with UCL’s Film Society.

In 2017, the director received an honorary doctorate and told graduates: ‘We have four children. We have a body of work that we created together.

‘So the moral of the story is: pay attention to who you meet on your first night in your student house.’

During his 2008 Desert Island Discs interview, Christopher said, “I’ve come to believe in the concept of love at first sight because I realize it really happened to me.”

Their journey into filmmaking began in 1998 when Nolan developed the idea for his first feature film, Following, after a burglary occurred at his London flat.

It was at their residence at University College London that the couple first met (seen in 2005)

It was at their residence at University College London that the couple first met (seen in 2005)

With a shared passion for filmmaking, the couple soon set up film screenings together at university (seen in 2016)

With a shared passion for filmmaking, the couple soon set up film screenings together at university (seen in 2016)

Together, the couple has achieved an incredible amount, in addition to raising four children (seen in 2024)

Together, the couple has achieved an incredible amount, in addition to raising four children (seen in 2024)

The film features a young writer traveling around London following strangers for material inspiration, but who enters the city’s criminal underbelly when he meets a thief.

Christopher wrote, directed, photographed and edited Following, while Emma co-produced it. The duo made the film on weekends for a year.

Despite only having a budget of £2,000 and hiring friends to star in the feature, the pair scooped a plethora of awards for Following and it wasn’t long before Nolan established himself in the industry as a director to watch .

“As British filmgoers reel under the onslaught of subpar homegrown films created by the flood of funding currently available, it’s a relief to see a genuine original come to market,” wrote The guard at the time.

The pair’s success with Following led them to develop Nolan’s next big hit and breakthrough film: Memento.

The couple notoriously keeps their lives out of the public eye, but one thing has remained clear: their love for each other

The couple notoriously keeps their lives out of the public eye, but one thing has remained clear: their love for each other

The film, co-produced by Emma, ​​followed a man with short-term memory loss as he tried to track down his wife’s killer.

According to MovieWeb, it managed a budget of $9 million (approximately £7.1 million) and raked in an impressive $40 million (approximately £31 million) – it was the start of a stellar career for the couple.

In 2001, the couple welcomed their daughter Flora together – just a year before the critically acclaimed film Insomnia, starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, hit the screens.

The same year they became parents, the couple opened their own production company, Syncopy Films.

In 2003, a conversation with Warner Bros led Nolan and Thomas to create Batman Begins, catapulting the pair from small-time indie film makers to some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

It was a project that defined the rest of their lives and the film created a springboard for developing films with their own creative license.

It led to some of the most respected films of the 2000s, including Interstellar and Inception.

The couple is pictured at the Batman Begins Los Angeles Premiere with, from left, Gary Oldman, Charles Roven, producer, Warner Bros' Jeff Robinov, Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Katie Holms, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Christopher Nolan , director and Emma Thomas

The couple is pictured at the Batman Begins Los Angeles Premiere with, from left, Gary Oldman, Charles Roven, producer, Warner Bros’ Jeff Robinov, Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Katie Holms, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Christopher Nolan , director and Emma Thomas

Although the couple is very private, they have shed light on their relationship in previous interviews.

They shared four children together: Flora, Magnus, Rory and Oliver, and they all starred in the films.

In an interview with VarietyEmma gushed about her husband’s most ‘underrated’ quality.

She replied, “He’s funny! People think he is dead serious, they accuse his films of being just as serious.

“Even in Oppenheimer there are moments that I find funny, even in the actor’s expressions. There’s humor in his films, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for that.’

In an interview with Screen daily in 2018, Emma shed light on their creative partnership, explaining how she often gives her husband books that she thinks could be adapted to the screen.

Christopher lovingly kisses his wife's cheek during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theater on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California

Christopher lovingly kisses his wife’s cheek during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theater on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California

Christopher and Emma shared four children together, including Rory (far left), Oliver (left) and Flora (right) (seen at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party)

Christopher and Emma shared four children together, including Rory (far left), Oliver (left) and Flora (right) (seen at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party)

She joked, “Yes, I will continue to give him books and he will remain unexcited by some of them.”

In 2018, Christopher said he enjoys working with Emma and writing scripts with his brother because their “only agenda is to make the best movie possible.”

During his performance op Desert Island Drivesthe director – who was promoting Dunkirk at the time – said the key to his success was “surrounding yourself with people who understand and support what you’re trying to do, but who aren’t afraid to criticize… You’re looking for honest feedback without agenda.’

Additionally, Christopher has previously credited his wife with the “correct answer” about the ending of the 2010 film Inception.

Appearing on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Christopher explained how he was constantly asked if Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb was still dreaming at the end when the movie first came out.

Christopher praised his wife’s interpretation, saying: ‘I think it was Emma who pointed out the correct answer. Basically that’s the character, Leo’s character – the point of the shot is that the character doesn’t care at that moment. It’s not a question I answer easily.’