Christopher Nolan Cut ‘Oppenheimer’ Filming To 57 Days To Recreate Los Alamos

Christopher Nolan gave up filming time for Oppenheimer in order to increase the budget for the production designer and recreate Los Alamos.

The Cillian Murphy-starring film was originally planned to be filmed for 85 days but instead, it wrapped up in 57 days.

During an appearance on the Team Deakins podcast, Oppenheimer production designer Ruth De Jong opened up about how Nolan opened up the budget so Los Alamos could come alive.

“It felt like a $100 million indie,” De Jong said. “This is not Tenet [which was shot in 96 days]. Chris wanted to shoot all over the United States…just plane tickets alone and putting crew up all over the place [is expensive]. Not to mention I have to build Los Alamos, it doesn’t exist. That’s where I really felt like it was impossible.”

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She continued, “Chris said, ‘Forget the money. Let’s just design what we want.’ So that’s what we did, and when construction first budgeted my town it was $20 million. Chris was like, ‘Yeah, no. Stop.’ We had this huge white model and I started pulling buildings out of it, not to mention we want to shoot in New York and New Jersey and Berkeley and Los Angeles and New Mexico.”

At one point, executive producer Tom Hayslip told De Jong that they would not be able to shoot in Berkley with the production designer adding, “But we have to go to Berkley. That is Oppenheimer!”

“The producers were asking what I could do on my end to shrink [the budget]. Tom then comes into my office and says, ‘Chris is going to shoot this in 55 days.’ That is a lot of money we get back,” she said “At that point you feel like I have to deliver above and beyond because he just went and gave up his days. He, more than anyone, knows what he wants to get in every single day and how he wants to get it and he goes from 85 to 55 days.”

Murphy had previously talked about how fast Oppenheimer was shot saying that “the pace of that was insane.”

“We made the movie unbelievably quickly. We made it in 57 days. The pace of that was insane,” Murphy said on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast. “The sets are huge, but it feels like being on an independent movie. There’s just Chris and the cameraman — one camera always, unless there’s some huge, huge set piece — and the boom op and that’s it. There’s no video village, there’s no monitors, nothing. He’s a very analog filmmaker.”

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