‘Oppenheimer’: Christopher Nolan reveals he recreated nuclear explosion without CGI

The filmmaker further revealed that he, along with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, managed to get a custom-made IMAX film stock for the movie

December 13, 2022 04:17 pm | Updated 04:51 pm IST

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan | Photo Credit: Vijay Bate

When Christopher Nolan announced that his next film was based on the story of J Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist who developed the first atomic bomb for the U.S. government, the internet was filled with memes about how Nolan would prefer detonating a real nuclear bomb given his penchant for realism in his action set pieces. The joke seems to have somewhat come true.

In a recent interview with Total Film magazine, Nolan revealed that he recreated the Trinity test (the first nuclear weapon detonation) for Oppenheimer, without using CGI. “I think recreating the Trinity test without the use of computer graphics was a huge challenge to take on. Andrew Jackson — my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on — was looking at how we could do a lot of the visual elements of the film practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself, to recreating, with my team, Los Alamos up on a mesa in New Mexico in extraordinary weather, a lot of which was needed for the film, in terms of the very harsh conditions out there — there were huge practical challenges.”

The filmmaker called the film one of the most challenging projects he has ever taken on and credited his extraordinary crew for stepping up to the challenge. “It’s one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on in terms of the scale of it, and in terms of encountering the breadth of Oppenheimer’s story. There were big, logistical challenges, big practical challenges. But I had an extraordinary crew, and they really stepped up. It will be a while before we’re finished. But certainly, as I watch the results come in, and as I’m putting the film together, I’m thrilled with what my team has been able to achieve.”

For the cinematography of Oppenheimer, Nolan is once again joining hands with his frequent collaborator Hoyte van Hoytema, and the filmmaker has revealed in the interview that they managed to get a custom-made film stock from IMAX. “We challenged the people at Kodak photochem to make this work for us. And they stepped up. For the first time ever, we were able to shoot IMAX film in black-and-white. And the results were thrilling and extraordinary. As soon as Hoyte and I saw the first tests come in, we just knew that this was a format that we were immediately in love with,” said Nolan.

Oppenheimer has Cillian Murphy playing the titular physicist. The film has an ensemble cast that includes Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Gary Oldman, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Benny Safdie, Dane DeHaan, Jack Quaid, James D’Arcy, Kenneth Branagh, and Casey Affleck among others.

The Universal Pictures film is set to release in theaters on July 21, 2023

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