Christopher Nolan cut Oppenheimer filming days to prioritise production design budget

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Christopher Nolan cut filming on Oppenheimer to just 57 days so that more budget could be given to the production design team.

According to Deadline, the biopic, starring Cillian Murphy, was meant to shoot for a total of 85 days. Christopher Nolan cut this all the way down to 57 to free up funds for the production designer. The writer/director reportedly wanted the extra budget to go on recreating Los Alamos.

Production designer Ruth De Jong spoke about the decision on the Team Deakins podcast – which is hosted by acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins and his collaborator and wife James Deakins. Here’s what De Jong had to say:

“It felt like a $100 million indie. This is not Tenet [which was shot in 96 days]. 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.

“The producers were asking what I could do on my end to shrink [the budget]. Tom [Hayslip, executive producer] 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.”

While the goal was 55 days, Cillian Murphy revealed (on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast) that the final length of the shoot was 57 days. That’s still an impressively efficient amount of time for a three-hour epic. Especially considering it’s merely two thirds of the shoot’s planned length!

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