The Irish actor, 47, leads Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated biographical drama as “the father of the atomic bomb”, Robert J Oppenheimer, whose World War II invention changed the nature of war forever.
Pugh, 27, stars opposite Murphy as psychiatrist Jean Tatlock, known for her romantic relationship with Oppenheimer.
Over the weekend, ahead of the film’s cinematic release on 21 July, an ongoing debate has taken hold as critics have condemned the 20-year age gap between the two actors, calling it a “miscast”.
Meanwhile, a recent report, which claimed that the movie would feature Pugh and Murphy in scenes of “prolonged full nudity” together, only added fuel to the fire.
“If you’d told me that between Barbie and Oppenheimer, one would start online discourse about on-screen age gaps and the other would lead to international controversy rooted in 1940s Asian geopolitics, never in a million years would have I guessed which one would yield which,” one person joked, referencing the Barbie movie’s ban in Vietnam.
“Catering to male fantasy,” a second posited.
However, many people have responded in defence of the age gap, noting that “Tatlock was 22 years old when she started dating Oppenheimer and 29 when she died”.
“How is getting a 27-year-old actress to play her a miscast?” one asked.
Addressing “everyone freaking out about the age gap”, a second rebutted: “Florence Pugh is 27 years old. She is not a child. Power dynamics are important to discuss when appropriate but this is a MOVIE and Pugh is a grown woman. No need to infantilise her and remove her agency.”
“If you’re griping about the age gap between Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh then you are in fact s***ty to women,” another added. “Pugh is a 27-year-old actress who is an absolute master of her craft and you’re relegating her to a child because you suck & are a brainwashed robot.”
Someone acknowledged that while there are “not enough stories for older women and too many icky age gap romances” – as films often cast younger women alongside older male actors – they pointed out that both “issues” weren’t applicable to Oppenheimer.
“The on-screen age gap discourse is very valid but this isn’t the film for it cuz Oppenheimer & Tatlock had a 10-year age gap,” another agreed. “So Cillian & Florence Pugh are perfect casting.”
Oppenheimer debuts in cinemas on 21 July, the same day as Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. Eager fans are already planning on buying tickets to see both films back-to-back. The viral trend, dubbed “Barbenheimer”, has become so popular that even Murphy, Margot Robbie and Tom Cruise have publicly supported it.
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