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Not to be outdone by the method actors, Christopher Nolan recreated a nuclear explosion without CGI

Christopher Nolan, whose film Oppenheimer premieres July 21, 2023, called the practical effect "a huge challenge to take on"

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Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain (Getty Images)

Pack it up, every other director (and also probably everyone living within a 100-mile radius of New Mexico): Christopher Nolan built a nuclear bomb.

Okay, not really. But in what we can only imagine is a mad bid to out-discourse his own personal Joker—Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie, premiering the same day as his explosive OppenheimerNolan has announced that he found a way to recreate a nuclear blast using only practical effects. While he hasn’t revealed what these methods actually are, we’re almost positive they don’t involve actually just building a bomb. Like, 95% sure.


“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,” the director told Total Film in a recent interview.

He continued: “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.”


While we may never know the exact nature of these challenges (acquiring the world’s largest fog machine?), practical effects are not exactly new for the Tenet director. Remember, this is the guy that flipped over an 18-wheeler (with a real person inside!) and blew up a whole 747. His latest move to become death, the destroyer of worlds doesn’t seem that far off.

While Nolan may be cosplaying Oppenheimer behind the camera, the infamous physicist will be portrayed by Cillian Murphy in the film. Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr. Emily Blunt, Gary Oldman, Matt Damon and Rami Malek round out the film’s stellar cast.

Oppenheimer premieres July 21, 2023.