Christopher Nolan: 'Oppenheimer' test could have 'set fire to the atmosphere'

Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan produce Nolan's film "Oppenheimer." File Photo by James Atoa/UPI
1 of 5 | Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan produce Nolan's film "Oppenheimer." File Photo by James Atoa/UPI | License Photo

July 10 (UPI) -- Universal Pictures released a behind the scenes feature on Oppenheimer Monday. Director Christopher Nolan explains a troubling detail about the film's historic basis, and highlights his crew's accomplishments.

Nolan co-wrote, with Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, the story of the Manhattan Project. Nolan says his longtime interest in J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) solidified in a story when he learned one specific detail of the atom bomb test.


"In the leadup to the trinity test, they were dealing with the very small possibility that when they pushed that button, it would set fire to the atmosphere of the Earth and destroy the entire planet," Nolan says. "And yet they pushed that button."

Nolan also discusses his preference for capturing special effects in camera. That meant creating a kind of explosion that IMAX cameras could capture, and safely.

Cinematography Hoyte Van Hoytema explains how IMAX film delivers 18K resolution, "by far more than any digital camera." That's also more than quadruple a 4K TV.

Nolan also speaks about his preference for real locations. Production Designer Ruth De Jong walks viewers through the construction of the Los Alamos set at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.


Murphy also recalls filming in Oppenheimer's actual house and other historic locations. Tom Conti plays Albert Einstein and recalls double takes of passersby on the Princeton campus.

Oppenheimer opens July 21 in theaters.

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