big metal equipment at los alamos

Here’s What Oppenheimer’s Los Alamos Actually Looked Like


“We wanted to de-gloss all of it and deglamorize all of it in a way, just have it be honest and raw and truthful and gritty and natural. I think even the way he doesn’t put a lot of makeup on all the actors [speaks to that]. Everyone loved that drive up to Ghost Ranch, our Los Alamos, because you are in the middle of nowhere, there’s no modernity anywhere as far as the eye can see,” De Jong says. “You pass base camp for a second, and then you’re just in the set. We didn’t allow any modern cars on set; everyone had to come to work in costume, except for the crew of course. The whole ‘show up in puffy coats and Ugg boots and rehearse’ thing [didn’t happen]. It kept everyone in the film and in the world that they were making.” 

The real Los Alamos featured a lot of distracting equipment that ultimately would have been cost prohibitive to reproduce and, additionally, would have done little for the nuanced storytelling Nolan was aiming for. Instead, De Jong focused her energy on the design of the bomb specifically, giving the dynamic object room to breathe amidst the otherwise less-is-more backdrop.  In a film with such commanding performances, the understated, thoughtful sets allow the work of the actors to speak all the more clearly. 

A look at a Cyclotron in use at Los Alamos Laboratory

Photo: Historical/Getty Images

While this isn’t a photo from Los Alamos, similar security signs were reportedly on display there during World War II. 

Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images



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