Oppenheimer Has 'No CGI,' Director Nolan Claims; Did They Use Actual Bombs?

Oppenheimer Has 'No CGI,' Director Nolan Claims; Did They Use Actual Bombs?
Image credit: Universal Pictures

In short: yes, they did use actual bombs, and yes, there are “zero CGI shots” in Oppenheimer — but there’s still some CGI involved. Are you confused yet?

CGI is so common in the modern movie industry that it’s virtually impossible to imagine a non-slice-of-life movie that doesn’t feature it at all. While superhero movies almost fully consist of computer-created shots, most other genres include those in bunches, too — and the more global the movie, the more CGI it needs.

Oppenheimer, one of the most anticipated movies of 2023, tells the story of the brilliant scientist behind the creation of the world’s first nuclear bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and it obviously has to feature the legendary Trinity test — the first-ever use of the deadliest weapon on the planet… This implies CGI. Right?

Well, it seems like the only way to truly recreate a nuclear explosion without dropping an actual nuke somewhere in the desert — and since there haven’t been serious arms deals reported that are tied to the production of Oppenheimer, we were all assuming that Christopher Nolan would resort to using CGI for the explosion.

Christopher Nolan, however, had entirely different plans: he wanted proper bombs.

In his recent interview, director Nolan claimed that there were “zero CGI shots” in Oppenheimer, and most people were shocked by this revelation. The only logical question that popped up in everyone’s head was, “Did he use actual bombs?”

Long story short, he did. Not the nuclear ones, of course, but still.

Christopher Nolan is famous for his devotion to practical effects — whenever it’s possible, the director avoids involving CGI and VFX. This sets him apart from many colleagues of his scale but creates some technical difficulties: in Oppenheimer, for instance, Nolan chose to explode real bombs out in the desert to capture the test.

But the true nature of the “zero CGI shots” statement is overlooked by the general audience. What Nolan meant was that Oppenheimer features no shots that were completely created on the computer; of course, he had to use CGI to turn his non-nuclear bombs’ explosions into a proper nuclear blast on the screen.

Still, it’s nothing short but impressive that of all options, the director went with the hardest, most dangerous, but also the most realistic one. Christopher Nolan himself explained that he merely wanted his cast to fully grasp the feeling of terror you get when you watch the mushroom cloud rise into the sky, and at that, he succeeded.

Sources: Collider, Empire