A major Hollywood studio sent UC Berkeley back to the 1940s at the end of May for a motion picture that was filmed on campus.
Filming for Christopher Nolan's star-studded "Oppenheimer" took over the heart of campus. The biopic, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning "American Prometheus," details the life of physicist Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer taught at UC Berkeley from 1929 to 1943 — his office was on the third floor of Physics North (then named LeConte Hall) — before leaving for Los Alamos in New Mexico, where he helped the U.S. government develop the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project.
The set, which included old cars and costumes, was constructed over two days in an area near Sather Tower, Wheeler Hall and Physics North (formerly LeConte Hall), a 1924 building designed by John Galen Howard.
The film stars Nolan favorite Cillian Murphy in the titular role, Emily Blunt as Kitty Oppenheimer, Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss, Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock and Matt Damon as Leslie Groves.
On Friday, dozens of vehicles trucked in extras and set dressing, including an incredible amount of potted plants and trees to cover up modern additions like bike racks and disabled parking signs. Crews also placed wooden sheds over Cal's large, immovable trash and recycling bins. Extras dressed in World War II-era costumes lounged in the shade by the Valley Life Sciences Building; men in Army uniforms drew particular glances from passersby.
Filming took place primarily up Campanile Way, the road leading to the Campanile and Oppenheimer's old stomping grounds in Physics North. Murphy was seen shooting outside Wheeler Hall and the main library, which was outfitted with new lampposts for the occasion.
By late afternoon, shooting had wrapped, and by Saturday morning, crews were packing up the many plants left scattered around campus.
"Oppenheimer" is expected to hit theaters in 2023.
Other notable major motion pictures that have been filmed on the Berkeley campus include 1967’s The Graduate, directed by Mike Nichols; 1971’s THX 1138, directed by George Lucas; 1998’s Patch Adams, featuring Robin Williams; and 2018’s superhero blockbuster, Ant-Man and the Wasp.