Oppenheimer historian still ‘emotionally recovering’ from Christopher Nolan’s film

Historian Kai Bird authored book on which Nolan’s film is based

Tom Murray
Tuesday 20 June 2023 06:55 BST
Oppenheimer trailer

Kai Bird, the historian who wrote the 2005 J Robert Oppenheimer biography that inspired Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming film, has shared his thoughts on the movie.

Oppenheimer stars Cillian Murphy as the “father of the atomic bomb” and is due to be released on 21 July.

Bird, who co-authored American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, said in an academic talk this week: “I am, at the moment, stunned and emotionally recovering from having seen [Oppenheimer].”

The Pulitzer winner continued: “I think it is going to be a stunning artistic achievement, and I have hopes it will actually stimulate a national, even global conversation about the issues that Oppenheimer was desperate to speak out about – about how to live in the atomic age, how to live with the bomb and about McCarthyism – what it means to be a patriot, and what is the role for a scientist in a society drenched with technology and science, to speak out about public issues.”

While showing new footage of the film at CinemaCon in Las Vegas earlier this year, Nolan told the crowd: “Like it or not, J Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who ever lived. He made the world we live in, for better or for worse.

“I know of no more dramatic tale with higher stakes, twists and turns and ethical dilemmas. The finest minds in the country were in a desperate race against the Nazis to harness the power of the atom in World War II.

“Picture those same minds realising the possibility that they might set fire to the entire world, yet they went ahead and pushed the button. I wanted to be there and see what that might be like.”

Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer'
Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer' (Universal Pictures)

Fans were recently surprised to learn that the film had been given an “R” rating in the US, meaning that anyone under the age of 17 will require a parent or adult guardian to accompany them if they wish to see the film in cinemas.

The news means that Oppenheimer will be Nolan’s first R-rated film since 2002’s Insomnia.

For the film, Nolan, who has become known for shunning CGI in favour of pulling off practical stunts, recreated a nuclear weapon detonation in New Mexico without using any special effects.

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Oppenheimer will be led by Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robery Downey Jr and Florence Pugh.

The film’s cast also includes Matthew Modine, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Dane DeHaan, Benny Safdie, David Krumholtz, Jack Quaid, and Alden Ehrenreich.

Its release date on 21 July marks the same day as Greta Gerwig’s Barbie release, which stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

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