Fans were surprised to find out that the explosion scene in Oppenheimer was not CGI. So, did Oppenheimer use a real nuke?
Did Oppenheimer Use CGI?
In a cinematic era during which the use of CGI is common and even expected a lot of the time, fans were surprised to hear that Christopher Nolan didn't rely on CGI to create the effect of the atomic bomb detonation.
According to comments made to Collider, Nolan confirmed that Oppenheimer "has a focus on practicality, but it contains no CGI shots."
This isn't the first time Christopher Nolan expresses a cinematic vision that doesn't rely on CGI for viewership and thrills.
While the detonation of an actual nuclear bomb for the purpose of filming a movie is, of course, highly unlikely, a few Nolan fans jokingly wondered if an actual nuclear device would be used.
So, what exactly happened?
Did Oppenheimer Use a Real Nuke?
Thankfully, the biographical thriller -- which focuses on the scientist who helped create the first atomic bomb -- was filmed without the use of an actual atomic bomb.
After all, it is highly unlikely that a film director or producer would ever obtain permission to perform an actual nuclear explosion.
Εven to create a biopic about the man known as the "Father of the Atomic bomb," using an actual nuke would simply be too dangerous.
That being said, the explosions we see on screen did happen in the studio, albeit at a much smaller scale than a real atomic explosion and with much less dangerous materials.
While not nearly as destructive as a real atomic explosion would be, this sounds quite dangerous!
How Did Nolan Create the Atomic Explosion Effect Without CGI
Since using a real nuke for Oppenheimer wasn't an option, of course, less harmful explosives had to be found; we imagine it took some experimentation, given that a nuclear explosion's 'mushroom cloud' is pretty distinct.
In a June 2023 interview with Total Film, Oppenheimer's Special Effects Supervisor Scott R. Fisher, commented on the process of recreating the Trinity nuclear test without CGI.
As far as materials are concerned the Oppenheimer team mostly relied on gasoline and propane. These were mixed with aluminum powder and magnesium, to better replicate the flash of a nuclear explosion.
Since the explosions had to be much smaller scale than an actual atomic explosion, miniatures were used.
Fisher playfully refers to them as "big-atures."
While nowhere near the size of the real deal, the explosions were still made as large as possible for optimal effect.
This ensures not only striking visual imagery but also authentic reactions from the cast.
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