Christopher Nolan Reveals He Recreated a Nuclear Weapon Test Without Using CGI for 'Oppenheimer'

Christopher Nolan spoke about how he recreated a nuclear weapon detonation without the use of CGI in his upcoming historical film 'Oppenheimer.'

Christopher Nolan attends screening at the Cannes Film Festival.

Christopher Nolan attends the screening of "Sink Or Swim (Le Grand Bain)" during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival.

Christopher Nolan attends screening at the Cannes Film Festival.

Christopher Nolan said he considers his upcoming film Oppenheimer to be “one of the most challenging projects” he has ever taken on. Of course, the filmmaker isn’t doing himself any favors. 

Nolan revealed in an interview withTotal Film that he recreated the first nuclear weapon detonation without relying on CGI effects. 

“I think recreating the Trinity test without the use of computer graphics was a huge challenge to take on,” Nolan said, referring to the first-ever nuclear weapon detonation, in New Mexico. “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.”

Speaking of “huge practical challenges,” Nolan opted to buy an actual Boeing 747 plane and crash it into a hangar in Tenet, instead of putting the money toward CGI. “We started to run the numbers…it became apparent that it would actually be more efficient to buy a real plane of the real size, and perform this sequence for real in camera, rather than build miniatures or go the CG route,” he explained toTotal Film in 2020.

Oppenheimer tells the story of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), who spearheaded the Manhattan Project, which led to the development of the first atomic bomb. Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Gary Oldman, Matt Damon, and Rami Malek are among the stacked cast.

“It’s a story of immense scope and scale,” Nolan said his latest. “And 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,” the 52-year-old continued. “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.”

Oppenheimer is slated for a July 21, 2023 theatrical release. 

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