Movies & TV

Oppenheimer Borrowed Veep’s Oval Office Set

Veep and Oppenheimer

Veep’s Sue Wilson evidently found time to pencil the crew of Oppenheimer into President Selina Meyer’s packed schedule because the Christopher Nolan film spent an entire day shooting in the HBO show’s Oval Office set.

This peek behind the curtain of Oppenheimer‘s production came curtesy of production designer Ruth De Jong, who recently told Variety the story behind Veep‘s unexpected role in the film. Oppenheimer‘s White House scene between Cillian Murphy’s titular scientist and Gary Oldman’s President Harry Truman was originally slated to shoot at The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, but an unforeseen issue on the library’s end led to cancelation. Limitations in Oldman’s schedule left a tight window to accommodate for this change, which is when De Jong reached out to supervising art director Samantha Englander, who suggested the resurrection of Veep’s Oval Office.

De Jong disclosed the set had become worn down due to some disuse (Veep concluded its run in 2019) and, therefore, took five days of around-the-clock work to transform into Oppenheimer‘s final product. While the Veep set required a face-lift, the Oppenheimer team likewise had to build up the surrounding lobby and cabinet room to accompany it. De Jong mused that Oldman was none-the-wiser to the fresh nature of the set, with the paint still drying in places while he tackled the presidential role.

Fortunately, despite the flairs inherent to every political show’s take on the Oval Office, the basic bones remain the same whether used for a drama like The West Wing or a Saturday Night Live cold open. However, Veep’s specific place in political television history offers an amusing juxtaposition when considering the meeting between Oppenheimer and President Truman happened in the same room that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer launched “C**tgate”.  

As one of the year’s biggest films (and one-half of the Barbenheimer phenomenon), Nolan’s J. Robert Oppenheimer biopic continues to garner attention long after its summer release. Nolan is just one of many acclaimed directors to expand their filmography in 2023, with other entries including Martin Scorses’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (and short film The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar), David Fincher’s The Killer and anticipated upcoming films such as Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things. Though inarguably a banner year for movie lovers, this spells stiff competition for Nolan’s Oppenheimer in the upcoming awards season. However, perhaps borrowing the set from one of HBO’s most award-winning comedies will prove a good luck charm.  

About the author

Tara McCauley
Nerd at large, Tara McCauley's happiest playing or writing about tabletop role playing games. In addition to The Escapist, Tara has gushed about her favorite pop culture topics at CBR, MXDWN, and Monstrous Femme. When she's not writing or rolling dice, Tara can be found catching up on her favorite sitcoms, curled up with a horror comic, or waxing poetic about the WNBA.