In fifteen days
 Inception arrives, redeeming this shitty summer at the movies. For the next two weeks I’ll be running sporadic feature articles counting down to this occasion; some will be directly related to Inception while some will be conceptually related. I’ll try to remain as spoiler-free as possible. And I’m not trying to make the two week wait unbearable… but that could be one side effect of this series.

16 Days to Inception: Dancing on the Ceiling

You have caught glimpses of the remarkable zero G fight in Inception‘s trailers and ads, but nothing you’ve seen has fully prepared you for the full breadth of that scene. On its own the fight would be one of the most stunning cinematic action scenes in memory, but in context – as part of an extended, reality-spanning, cross-cutting sequence – it’s breathtaking. What might be best about it, though, is how it was achieved – using wires and a set built on a gimbal. When you see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character of Arthur bouncing from floor to wall to ceiling as gravity goes wonky and the world goes topsy-turvy, that’s really Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

“We had a stunt guy who looks exactly like Joe made up perfectly… and he stood there three weeks on-set and didn’t do a thing,” Nolan said at the recent Los Angeles press day for Inception. “Joe insisted on doing absolutely everything himself, apart from, as I’ve been reminded one shot. One shot where the stunt guy performed. Everything else he did himself, and he just did the most incredible job with these bizarre rigs and these bizarre sort of torture devices.”

Levitt didn’t play down the physical discomfort that went with filming the fight. “It was just about the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set; it was also, probably, the most pain I’ve ever been in on a movie set, physically. But you know, pain in a good way, like in the way I guess athletes must get when they have to put on their pads and they tape up their ankles and they get a little beat up throughout the day. That’s just part of slamming yourself into walls and jumping around all day.”

The technique used to spin the world around Levitt is an old one, most famously used almost 50 years ago in Royal Wedding, where Fred Astaire dances up walls and across a ceiling. Kubrick used it for 2001‘s zero gravity moments, and Lionel Ritchie appropriated it for his Dancing on the Ceiling video. Inception does contain a similar technique, and it’s sort of how Sesame Street and Star Wars both use Jim Henson puppetry,” Levitt said. “It’s a similar technique, but to very different effect.”

Here’s the Fred Astaire dance. You’re going to have to wait until July 16th to see all of the amazing zero G Inception fight, though.