Where Was Oppenheimer Filmed?

Based on the 2005 biography ‘American Prometheus’ by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin about arguably one of the most important persons in the history of humankind, J. Robert Oppenheimer, ‘Oppenheimer’ is an epic biographical thriller drama movie. It stars Cillian Murphy as the titular character, a brilliant theoretical physicist who played a massive role in developing the first nuclear weapons and changed the course of history by bringing in the Atomic Age.

The Christopher Nolan directorial is a historical tale revolving around the development and explosive consequences of the atomic bomb, developed by the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team of competent scientists. Besides Murphy, the war movie features several other Hollywood stars, including Emily BluntMatt DamonRobert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey AffleckRami Malek, and Kenneth Branagh. Whether it is the desert landscape in the middle of nowhere or the obliterating explosion scenes, the viewers are bound to wonder where these portions and the rest of the movie were filmed.

Oppenheimer Filming Locations

‘Oppenheimer’ was filmed in New Mexico, California, and New Jersey, particularly in Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Los Angeles County, Berkeley, and Mercer County. As per reports, principal photography for the explosive movie commenced in late February 2022 and wrapped up in May of the same year. Being the first movie to shoot sections on IMAX black and white photographic film, it involved the use of real explosives to capture the explosion of the Trinity nuclear test, discarding the use of CGI. Due to this, the explosions were nowhere as large and impactful as an atomic blast, but they were still quite dangerously large.

The special effects supervisor Scott R. Fisher talked about the ingredients used to create the explosion on camera in a May 2023 interview with Slash Film. He said, “It’s mostly gasoline, propane, any of that kind of stuff because you get so much bang for your buck. But then we also bring in stuff like aluminum powder and magnesium to really enhance the brightness and give it a certain look…We did a bit of that on this because we really wanted everyone to talk about that flash, that brightness. So we tried to replicate that as much as we could.” Now, without further ado, let’s traverse all the locations that appear in the Christopher Nolan directorial!

Los Alamos, New Mexico

The census-designated place of Los Alamos in New Mexico’s eponymous county served as one of the key filming sites for ‘Oppenheimer,’ mainly because it is where the primary research and development facility for the Manhattan Project was situated in real life. Interestingly, the movie utilized some of the original Manhattan Project locations, including the Historic Fuller Lodge, the Women’s Dorm, Oppenheimer’s House and Office, and the United Church. Moreover, the filming unit constructed specialized sets to recreate the historical era.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Image Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures

The significant desert landscapes, which you can spot in the backdrop of the prominent bomb detonation scene and other scenes, were shot in Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. In reality, Oppenheimer also had a residence in the city as it was the headquarters of the Manhattan Project’s administrative offices. So, he frequently commuted between Los Alamos and Santa Fe. All these aspects make Santa Fe a relevant filming site for the war drama movie.

Los Angeles County, California

A significant chunk of ‘Oppenheimer’ was lensed in Los Angeles County, including the city of Santa Clarita. Furthermore, a massive house in Sierra Madre, also a Cultural Heritage Commission-designated historical landmark now, was used to shoot several key portions of the movie. For instance, the filming unit utilized the house’s upstairs bedroom, living room, and the surrounding areas of the property. A few scenes were also shot around 59 West Sierra Madre Boulevard and 70 West Sierra Madre Boulevard in the city.

The iconic scene where Oppenheimer delivers a speech after receiving an award and other important scenes were recorded on the University of California, Los Angeles campus in LA’s Westwood neighborhood. Furthermore, Millennium Biltmore Hotel at 506 South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles was a pivotal production location.

Berkeley, California

The production team of ‘Oppenheimer’ made the most of yet another university campus for shooting numerous prominent sequences — The University of California, Berkeley on University Avenue, and Oxford Street in the city of Berkeley. Apart from utilizing various sites around the campus, the director and his team also redecorated some areas inside the campus, including LeConte Hall, Wheeler Hall, the main library, and the Campanile Way, to lens several scenes. In addition, Edwards Stadium, on the Southwest corner of the UC Berkley campus at 2223 Fulton Street, also served as a key filming site for the movie.

Mercer County, New Jersey

For shooting purposes, the production team of ‘Oppenheimer’ also traveled to Mercer County in New Jersey in the second week of April 2022. Specifically, the cast and crew members were spotted taping various important scenes in the Institute for Advanced Study at 1 Einstein Drive in Princeton as several vintage cars were parked outside Fuld Hall. Bits of shooting also occurred in front of the university’s East Pyne library building. Besides the university, a few streets of New Jersey feature in the movie.

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