Since it opened in 2010, Nolan’s critically acclaimed science fiction thriller, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the mind-infiltrating Dom Cobb, has left a score of fan theories, essays and debates dedicated to its final scene: was Cobb’s happy family reunion reality—or a dream? According to Caine, 85, who plays Professor Stephen Miles and DiCaprio’s father-in-law, it was all real.
“When I got the script of Inception, I was a bit puzzled by it, and I said to [Nolan], ‘I don’t understand where the dream is,’” he told Esquire during a recent screening in London. “I said, ‘When is it the dream and when is it reality?’ He said, ‘Well, when you’re in the scene it’s reality.’ So, get that — if I’m in it, it’s reality. If I’m not in it, it’s a dream.”
Audiences—who were led to believe reality could only be determined by whether DiCaprio’s weighted token would keep spinning or topple—were left in the dark when film ended as the token seemed to be losing its balance.
The question fueled further speculation when the movie’s script surfaced, revealing the scene’s stage directions. According to Cinemablend, the text read, “Behind [Cobb], on the table, the spinning top is STILL SPINNING,” which details the final on-screen moments.
In the past, Nolan had been purposefully vague about the movie’s gripping ending, telling Princeton University graduates in 2015 that “all levels of reality are valid,” leaving it up to personal interpretation. “I want to make the case to you that our dreams, our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with, they are subsets of reality,” he said.
However, Nolan’s secondary explanation to The Dark Night star has provided the conclusion viewers were hoping for. There you have it folks—it was not all just a dream.