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The Brilliant Reason Why Christopher Nolan Shortened Oppenheimer Filming By 4 Weeks

One of the greatest pieces of cinematic excellence of the 21st century was filmed in about two months.

By Josh Weiss

Two months isn't a very long time to do much of anything, let alone shoot one of the greatest films of the 21st century. But that's exactly what Christopher Nolan did with Oppenheimer (now playing in theaters everywhere).

His acclaimed, 3-hour spotlight on the father of the atomic bomb (played onscreen by Cillian Murphy) only required about 55 days of principal photography. What's even crazier is the fact that Nolan originally had more time and decided to shorten the schedule! Why? Production designer Ruth De Jong explained during a recent guest appearance on the Team Deakins podcast, describing the down and dirty shoot — which took place across the whole of the United States — as "a $100 million indie."

RELATED: Where Was Oppenheimer Filmed? Discover Christopher Nolan's Authentic Shoot Locations

J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Condon, Leslie Groves, and Kenneth Nichols during a scene in Oppenheimer.

Why Christopher Nolan condensed Oppenheimer's shooting schedule

The production designer's biggest challenge was reconstructing the secret laboratory town of Los Alamos down to the most minute detail. "Chris said, 'Forget the money, forget all that. Let's just design what we want,' which we did," she said, recalling how the initial budget for the town was estimated at a whopping $20 million.

The more prudent thing would have been to take out some buildings from the design in order to save on money, but Nolan, ever the perfectionist, shot down the idea. Rather than compromise on quality, he decided to shave down the projected 85-day shooting schedule.

"[Executive producer] Tom [Hayslip] comes into my office and goes, 'Chris is gonna shoot this in 55 days.' I was like, 'What...? That's a lot of money that we get back.' And then at the point, you feel like, 'I have to deliver above and beyond because he just went and literally gave up his days.' He, more than anyone, knows what he wants to get on every single day and how he wants to get it and he goes from 85 to 55 days? Holy sh**!"

Cillian Murphy tacked on an additional two days while speaking to Marc Maron prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, stating: “We made that movie unbelievably quickly. We made it in like 57 days or something. The pace of that was insane."

How much has Oppenheimer made at the box office so far?

To date, Oppenheimer has amassed over $778 million at the worldwide box office, making it the fourth-highest grossing R-rated movie of all time after Joker, Deadpool, and Deadpool 2. It is also the fourth-highest grossing release of the year so far after Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

When will Oppenheimer be available to watch at home?

Universal Pictures has yet to announce a digital release date for the movie. But who could blame them? Why yank it out of theaters when it continues to clean up at the box office? But when Oppenheimer does come to streaming, look for it to eventually land on NBC Universal's own Peacock streaming service.

Simultaneously grand and introspective, Nolan's explosive masterpiece currently holds a near-perfect score of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (it is tied with Memento and sits just below The Dark Knight as his highest-rated movie). Click here to pick up tickets!

Want more theatrical action? Head on over to Peacock for exclusive access to recent releases like RenfieldThe Super Mario Bros. Movie, and Asteroid City. Fast X joins the party Friday, Sep. 15.

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