‘Oppenheimer’s Christopher Nolan: “A Wonderful Finish”

“It’s very important to me, it’s really a wonderful finish to what’s been an incredible year,” Christopher Nolan told press backstage at the Academy Awards in the wake of winning both his Best Director Oscar for Oppenheimer, along with the biggest prize of the night: Best Picture.

“It means I can do curls, they’re very heavy,” Nolan joked of his new collection of statuettes for his film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist behind the atom bomb. In Oppenheimer, longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy enacts the history of a man who changed our world forever, with Robert Downey Jr. as his jealous nemesis Lewis Strauss — both of whom won Oscars for their lead and supporting performances respectively. Emily Blunt starred as Kitty Oppenheimer and was nominated in the Supporting Actress category. The film took home seven Oscars in total, including Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score.

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“There was something about seeing Cillian with the hat on, and Robert Downey Jr. with his hair shaved back and Emily Blunt in old-age makeup,” Nolan said of his standout moments. “The first test, we shot it on the very first black-and-white IMAX film ever made. We projected it on an IMAX screen at the Citiwalk Universal. And that was a very special moment, especially to realize what the actors were going to do and the thing was going to work, and to see that technical side of things.”

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Nolan also addressed the the film’s handling of the moral and ethical questions behind the creation of the atomic bomb. “I don’t like to speak to specific messages, because I feel that if cinema is didactic, it tends not to work dramatically so well.”

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He said that his teenage son had initially suggested to him, ahead of making the film, that young people aren’t particularly concerned about nuclear weapons. But nevertheless, Nolan felt that the film supports a reduction in such weaponry and that was important. “As far as any kind of message, the thing that I would like to point out is the film ends on what I consider a dramatically necessary moment of despair,” he said. “It’s very important that rather than despair in reality, people are looking at advocacy. They’re supporting organizations who are working to pressure politicians and leaders to produce the number of nuclear weapons on our planet and make it safer.”

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Nolan’s producing partner — and partner in life — Emma Thomas said there were many moments to treasure in the making of Oppenheimer, including when she first saw the first half of the film. “I think it was the moment where I truly understood that this really worked”, and I felt very good about the fact that it told a story that I felt was going to move audiences,” she said. “You never quite know until you get to that point. And I think for me, that was the moment where I’ll always remember the feeling at the end of that screening, relief and excitement.” She added that she is “very proud to work in film that has so many fantastically talented women on it.”

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Oppenheimer producer Charles Roven said of giving Nolan the book that inspired him to make the film, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin: “Well, the book is a brilliant book. I won a Pulitzer Prize, but it was still a challenging piece of material. I brought it up to Chris and Emma because I just knew, or felt very strongly, that if they were interested, that Chris could write a great screenplay that would add dimension to the characters, give them heart and soul and flaws and genius.”

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