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For ‘Tenet,’ Christopher Nolan Says He Built One of the Largest Outdoor Sets in History

Nolan says "Tenet" is the one movie in his filmography that is "most designed for the big screen."

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by M S Gordon/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock (8966691e)Christopher Nolan"Dunkirk" Film - 2017

Christopher Nolan filming “Dunkirk”

M S Gordon/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

Just how big is Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”? We already know the director purchased an old Boeing 747 airplane so that he could blow it up during a massive action set piece, and now comes word from Nolan himself that at one point during the making of “Tenet” his team was responsible for “one of the largest-scale outdoor builds of all time.” Nolan dropped the reveal in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, adding, “It’s colossal.”

The scene in question was filmed last October in the California desert, where Nolan’s team built “an abandoned city of destroyed buildings and rubble” and populated it with “hundreds of extras in military camouflage uniforms.” The location was around 80 miles east of Palm Springs. In typical Nolan fashion, he revealed nothing to Entertainment Weekly about what the scene is about or why the set had to be so humungous.

One thing Nolan did confirm to EW is that he spent the last “six or seven years” fine tuning the “Tenet” script. Cast member Robert Pattinson revealed last month the movie is not about time travel, and the “Tenet” official trailer brought forward the idea of “time inversion.” Nolan doubled down on the film not concerning time travel.

“This film is not a time-travel film,” Nolan said. “It deals with time and the different ways in which time can function. Not to get into a physics lesson, but inversion is this idea of material that has had its entropy inverted, so it’s running backwards through time, relative to us.”

Pattinson stars in “Tenet” as a character named Neil, while John David Washington is known only as the “Protagonist.” The film’s title refers to the espionage organization that Washington’s character gets recruited into. Kenneth Branagh stars as the “villainous Russian oligarch,” and Elizabeth Debicki plays his estranged wife who “has gotten herself into a very tricky situation with her husband.”

“It’s an espionage piece that’s dealing with a global threat to the world,” Branagh told EW. “A nuclear holocaust is not the greatest disaster that could befall the human race. Tenet discusses an even worse possibility, and it is wrapped up in this mind-boggling treatment of time that continues Chris Nolan’s preoccupations in films way back to ‘Memento,’ through ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Inception.’”

In a pre-recorded video address to members of CineEurope this week (via Deadline), Nolan called “Tenet” the one film in his entire filmography that is “most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience.” The director added that Washington “gives the most extraordinary and iconic performance” as the Protagonist.

Warner Bros. is opening “Tenet” in theaters nationwide July 31.

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