A Major Oppenheimer Moment Was Saved By The Set Of A Completed HBO Series


De Jong explained that the crew was initially choosing backup locations that they had not considered prior, such as a location scouted during the pre-production days that was glossed over in the chaos of location-jumping. When De Jong told Nolan about the Oval Office problem, he suggested building the set from scratch, but the production designer decided to exhaust other practical options before committing to such a sudden, daunting task:

“Thankfully, my supervising art director, Samantha Englender, was smart enough to have put one [location] on hold. […] It was the ‘Veep’ Oval Office. It was flat-packed. Which was kind of great, but when we called the storage unit, they said, ‘Oh, it’ll take about four or five days to pull it out.’ I said, ‘I don’t have four or five days. I’m sending a crew over, they’re going to help you pull it out. It has to come over. We’re going to go get a stage now at Universal.'”

This allowed the project to move in a more practical direction, and with the help of construction coordinator Jonas Kirk, the crew pulled it off by working on set redressing for five consecutive days. They were lucky enough to book a stage in spite of limited vacancies, and additional shoots in the White House Lobby and cabinet room were carried out with fresh construction drawings. Set designer Jim Hewitt made this possible by getting the drawings to construction as soon as he could, and the impossible was accomplished, wet paint notwithstanding.

“I don’t think any of us actually believed we could do it, not because we weren’t capable, but just the clock. And we did,” De Jong concluded, chronicling the hectic, stress-inducing last-minute mishap that almost derailed one of the most pivotal scenes in “Oppenheimer.” 

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