Christopher Nolan Reveals How He Recreated Nuclear Weapon Explosion Without CGI

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Carson Choate Contributor
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Christopher Nolan has decided against using CGI to film a nuclear explosion in his upcoming film “Oppenheimer,” and has instead opted for the “practical” approach.

The movie focuses on the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who contributed greatly to the development of the atomic bomb. To make the movie as realistic as possible, Nolan had to recreate the Trinity Test – the first detonation of a nuclear weapon — and he did so without using CGI.

“I think recreating the Trinity test without the use of computer graphics, was a huge challenge to take on,” Nolan told Total Film. “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.”

Nolan explained that “Oppenheimer” is “a story of immense scope and scale,” and said it’s likely “one of the most challenging projects [he’s] 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,” Nolan told the outlet. “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.”

“We’re trying to tell the story of somebody’s life, and their journey through personal history and larger-scale history,” he added. “We want to view these events through Oppenheimer’s eyes. And that was the challenge for Cillian that I set him, to take us on this journey; that was the challenge for Hoyte van Hoytema, my designer, my whole team: how do we view this extraordinary story through the eyes of the person who was at the heart of it? All of our decisions on how to make this film were based on that real premise.”

Oppenheimer is set to be released on July 21, 2023. Well known stars that have been cast in the production include Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Gary Oldman, Matt Damon, among others, according to IMDb.

The revelation that Nolan had recreated a nuclear blast became an instant meme on social media.

Nolan is known for his previous films including “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” and “Tenet,” in which he crashed a real Boeing 747 into a building, according to IndieWire.