Nolan has always been a resourceful filmmaker devoted to keeping his movies as practical as possible, so much so it’s hard not to speculate that he would’ve set off an actual nuclear explosion just to avoid having to use a CGI one in “Oppenheimer” (had there been a safe way to do so). It’s also why he barely even blinked before trimming the film’s shooting schedule to ensure De Jong could rebuild Los Alamos the way they wanted. There were other benefits as well, like how this made it easier for Nolan to shoot in the real-world locations where the film takes place. De Jong explained:
“[Thomas Hayslip], the executive producer, said, ‘Ruth, you can’t go to Berkley, you can’t do this.’ But we have to go to Berkley. That is ‘Oppenheimer’! 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.”
In a year that’s seen multiple studios trying and failing to spend their way into profitability at the box office, it’s refreshing to hear about filmmakers squeezing every drop they can from the figurative oranges that are their budgets instead. That Nolan has been rewarded for his efforts with one of his highest-grossing films ever (and an R-rated, three-hour adult drama at that) just makes the outcome that much sweeter.