Speaking on the Team Deakins podcast, production designer Ruth De Jong discussed Nolan re-allocating the budget from 30 planned filming days to production design.
“It felt like a $100 million indie,” De Jong said. “This is not Tenet. 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.
“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.”
Then, as De Jong revealed, Nolan did “the most incredible thing” by re-allocating the funds “to achieve all of the desired looks and designs,” telling De Jong: “I’ve got to go do my homework.”
“Tom, the executive producer, said, ‘Ruth, you can’t go to Berkeley, you can’t do this.’ But we have to go to Berkley. That is Oppenheimer!” she revealed. “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!
“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.”
Elsewhere, Oppenheimer has topped the worldwide box office in its sixth week of release, surpassing Barbie for the first time.
Since both films were released on July 21, Greta Gerwig’s fantasy comedy has remained ahead of Oppenheimer at the global box office. On the weekend of August 25-27, however, Nolan’s historical drama topped the chart.
In a five-star review of Oppenheimer, NME wrote: “Not just the definitive account of the man behind the atom bomb, Oppenheimer is a monumental achievement in grown-up filmmaking.
“For years, Nolan has been perfecting the art of the serious blockbuster – crafting smart, finely-tuned multiplex epics that demand attention; that can’t be watched anywhere other than in a cinema, uninterrupted, without distractions. But this, somehow, feels bigger.”