‘Oppenheimer’ Special Effects Supervisor Reveals How The Film Recreates The Trinity Nuclear Explosion

Oppenheimer poster

Oppenheimer Special Effects Supervisor Scott R. Fisher recently revealed how the upcoming Christopher Nolan directed film recreates the Trinity nuclear explosion.

OPPENHEIMER, written and directed by Christopher Nolan

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Speaking with Total Film Magazine as reported by Slash Film Fisher explained, “It is like an old-school technique. We don’t call them miniatures; we call them big-atures. We do them as big as we possibly can, but we do reduce the scale so it’s manageable.

He continued, “It’s getting it closer to camera, and doing it as big as you can in the environment.”

OPPENHEIMER, written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Fisher then detailed how he used gasoline over other fuels such as propane, “It’s mostly gasoline, propane, any of that kind of stuff, because you get so much bang for your buck. But then we also bring in stuff like aluminum powder and magnesium to really enhance the brightness, and give it a certain look.”

“We did a bit of that on this, because we really wanted everyone to talk about that flash, that brightness. So we tried to replicate that as much as we could,” he explained.

OPPENHEIMER, written and directed by Christopher Nolan

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Nolan had previously detailed to Total Film back in December that he was recreating the nuclear explosion using only practical effects and would not be using CGI.

He said, “I think recreating the Trinity test [the first nuclear weapon detonation, in New Mexico] 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,” Nolan relayed.

Not only did they use practical effects to recreate the nuclear explosion, but Matt Damon recently revealed in a new interview with Vanity Fair that Nolan and his production designer Ruth De Jong rebuilt Los Alamos, New Mexico.

He detailed, “Ruth [De Jong], our production designer, basically rebuilt the town, so we had an active kind of town to work in. It reminded me of shooting [Saving] Private Ryan in the sense that [Steven] Spielberg would rebuild these areas and we had carte blanche—we could go anywhere we wanted to go. So, Chris had the flexibility to shoot as he wanted and needed to all around the town. It was fully immersive.”

In fact, Damon admitted they could see the original site from the production’s recreation, “You could see over the horizon the actual testing site and where the original town was.”

OPPENHEIMER, written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Oppenheimer is based on the book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin and tells the story of “the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it.”

The film stars Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Emily Blunt as his wife, biologist and botanist Katherine ‘Kitty’ Oppenheimer. Matt Damon plays General Leslie Groves Jr. director of the Manhattan Project. Robert Downey Jr. plays Lewis Strauss, a founding commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

Florence Pugh plays psychiatrist Jean Tatlock, Benny Safdie portrays theoretical physicist Edward Teller, Michael Angarano plays Robert Serber and Josh Hartnett depicts nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence.

Other members of the cast include Dane DeHaan, Dylan Arnold, David Krumholtz, Alden Ehrenreich, and Matthew Modine.

OPPENHEIMER, written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Oppenheimer arrives in theaters on July 21, 2023.

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