Christopher Nolan reveals Oppenheimer's not entirely in black-and-white – and he had to develop a new type of IMAX film for it

Christopher Nolan, Hoyte van Hoytema and Cillian Murphy on set of Oppenheimer
(Image credit: Universal)

Christopher Nolan is returning to cinemas next year with Oppenheimer, and while the trailer and early images were presented entirely in black-and-white, Total Film can reveal that the upcoming movie will also feature sequences in color. The use of black-and-white harks back to Nolan’s earliest films: microbudget debut Following and breakout hit Memento, the latter featuring approximately a quarter in black-and-white.

"I very much loved the structural assistance and the aesthetic charge of shifting between color and black and white that I had on Memento,” recalls Nolan in Total Film (opens in new tab)’s upcoming 2023 Preview issue. "I’d always been looking for a reason to go back to that. And in the case of Oppenheimer and the way in which we tell this story, it’s very subjectively [told], but also with a more objective story strand that intertwines with that. It was really the perfect time to go back to that device that I loved so much." 

Memento was shot on 35mm anamorphic, but after shooting pioneering sequences of The Dark Knight on IMAX cameras, Nolan has been a champion of large-format film. The challenge here being: no one had ever shot on large-format black-and-white film before. "So we challenged the people at Kodak and Fotokem to make this work for us," says Nolan. "And they stepped up. For the first time ever, we were able to shoot IMAX film in black-and-white. And the results were thrilling and extraordinary. As soon as Hoyte [van Hoytema, Nolan cinematographer since Interstellar] and I saw the first tests come in, we just knew that this was a format that we were immediately in love with."

Oppenheimer opens in cinemas on July 21, 2023. Inside the new issue of Total Film, which is on sale Thursday, December 15, Nolan talks in detail about Oppenheimer, which he describes as "a story of immense scope and scale". From casting Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr., to the groundbreaking use of large-format black-and-white film, to the cinematic appeal of Oppenheimer, it’s a thorough primer on a historical biopic like no other.

Total Film’s Oppenheimer coverage kicks off a huge 2023 Preview, looking ahead to the biggest films of the coming year. And the print version of this new issue comes with a special 52-page supplement counting down the best films, must-see moments, and breakout stars of 2022.

Total Film's 2023 Preview and Review of the Year 2022

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Matt Maytum
Deputy Editor, Total Film

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, looking after the long-form features there, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.

With contributions from