Skip to main content

Tenet: Christopher Nolan explains why they crashed a real 747 instead of using CG

Christopher Nolan and John David Washington on set of Tenet.
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Tenet promises to be a truly cinematic spectacle. That's pretty much all we know about Christopher Nolan's upcoming spy-thriller, which remains on track to become the first major movie release of the Summer. However, Total Film can reveal a little more about one of Tenet's biggest set-pieces – one that required the production team to purchase and then crash a real 747 into a hangar. 

You read that correctly. That's not a partial fibreglass replica of a jet. Not CGI. This is a real aeroplane, bought by the production. 

“I planned to do it using miniatures and set-piece builds and a combination of visual effects and all the rest,” Nolan tells TF. However, while scouting for locations in Victorville, California, the team discovered a massive array of old planes. “We started to run the numbers... It became apparent that it would actually be more efficient to buy a real plane of the real size, and perform this sequence for real in camera, rather than build miniatures or go the CG route.”

Call it a spur-of-the-moment purchase. “It’s a strange thing to talk about – a kind of impulse buying, I suppose,” laughs Nolan. “But we kind of did, and it worked very well, with Scott Fisher, our special-effects supervisor, and Nathan Crowley, the production designer, figuring out how to pull off this big sequence in camera. It was a very exciting thing to be a part of.”

Robert Pattinson also remembers the plane sequence with a laugh. “You wouldn’t have thought there was any reality where you would be doing a scene where they just have an actual 747 to blow up! It’s so bold to the point of ridiculousness... I remember, as we were shooting it, I was thinking, ‘How many more times is this even going to be happening in a film at all?’”

Tenet adorns the cover of the new Total Film magazine (here's a pre-order link), which includes extended interviews with Nolan, Pattinson, John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh. Total Film subscribers will get an exclusive cover featuring John David Washington's protagonist, and the newsstand cover features Washington and Robert Pattinson. Check them out below.

Total Film's Tenet subscribers' cover

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Total Film)

Total Film's Tenet cover

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Total Film)

The issue is available in shops from Friday, and will also be available digitally for your tablet from wherever you get your digital mags. You can start a Total Film subscription beginning with issue 299 (the Tenet issue) by heading to MyFavouriteMagazines.

Tenet is scheduled to open in cinemas on July 17, 2020.