“OPPENHEIMER”, A MAGNUM OPUS FROM CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
Cinema Writer/Film Critic Efe TEKSOY; wrote the biography, drama and history film “OPPENHEIMER”, for America’s Los Angeles-based Internet Newspaper @alaturkanews.
Produced by Universal Pictures, Atlas Entertainment, Gadget Films, and Syncopy with a budget of $100 million, Oppenheimer is an extraordinary biographical drama written and directed by film genius Christopher Nolan. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, the film is in the scientific world; It tells the fascinating story of the famous American physicist and university professor Julius Robert Oppenheimer, who is known as the “father of the first nuclear bomb” or the “Father of the Atomic Bomb”. Told from Oppenheimer’s point of view, this film presents an impressive narrative embellished with provocative and surreal image fragments that sometimes express his inner world mythologically and symbolically. Bringing his most ambitious and groundbreaking film to the big screen, Nolan presents an immersive and epic tension that penetrates deep into the mind of an American genius, accompanied by a visual feast, to the taste of cinema lovers in this new touchstone. Also, one of the greatest poets of 20th century modernist poetry, T.S. Eliot, and Pablo Picasso, one of the most famous names of 20th century art and Cubism, by making references. The Picasso painting visually brings to mind the painter’s famous Guernica painting, especially in the narrative of the movie that develops in the triangle of war, politics, and physics. The Guernica painting, which depicts the bombing of the city of Guernica by bombers against Nazi Germany during the Spanish Civil War, is a monumental work of art. It is a well-known anecdote. During the Second World War, he sees a painting of German General Guernica visiting Picasso in his studio in Paris and is shocked by the painting’s modernist chaos. Did you make this painting?” asks Picasso coldly, “No, you did it!” He answered.” In his movie Oppenheimer, while focusing on the life of the genius scientist behind an invention that will re-establish civilization and shake the world, on the other hand, he conveys to us in a dramatic and political language how cruel the price of his actions and how heavy the consequences are.
Stars; Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Casey Affleck, Kenneth Branagh, Josh Hartnett, Alden Ehrenreich, Benny Safdie, Jack Quaid, and Gary Oldman.
Contrary to social media and internet rumors, Christopher Nolan did not detonate an actual atomic bomb in New Mexico to capture the nuclear fire and mushroom cloud of the iconic Trinity test for Oppenheimer. Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema instead, special effects supervisors Scott Fisher (a Nolan veteran who won Oscars for Interstellar and Tenet) and Andrew Jackson (who won an Oscar for Tenet) to produce the atomic bomb explosion version of the film. Nolan placed a restraint on them. Consistent with the aesthetic preference for applied effects, Nolan told them it couldn’t be a computer-generated image. Nolan says: “I knew from the beginning that the Trinity test would be one of the most important issues for us to solve. I had a nuclear explosion with computer graphics in Dark Knight Rises and it was very successful in that movie. But it also showed me that in a real-life event like Trinity, which was so well documented using new cameras and formats developed to record the event, computer graphics could never give you the sense of danger you see in real-life footage. There is a vivid emotion in those images. It becomes tangible so it can be both perfect and threatening. So it was hard work. It was difficult to find analogue methods for producing effects to recreate the terrifying beauty, horror, and essential menace of the Trinity test.” Jackson and Fisher shot ping pong balls at each other, hurling paint against a wall, arranging luminous magnesium solutions, and more, with small digital cameras at super close-ups at various speeds. Fisher explains: “Then we showed it to Chris and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the right idea. Now figure out how to shoot that with big IMAX cameras.’ (That work required the development of a long, fish-eye, probe lens that could be attached to IMAX and Panavision cameras.) How the actual atomic bomb explosion footage was made for the film is still a top-secret, but it is clear that their making is a Manhattan Project in itself. Also quite fun. Van Hoyteme says: “His entire team was a big science project. I was so jealous that they could play with that kind of thing so much.” Some of the techniques Nolan’s effects team used to create the majesty of nuclear fission were also used to aid in the production of scenes depicting Oppenheimer’s inner world. Nolan prioritized practical effects and avoided computer-generated images. Nolan says: “There is an understanding that computer graphics is the only way, but I didn’t think we were going to get anything intimate and personal to Oppenheimer’s character. We were able to use personal and spooky and beautiful images with a wonderfully original library to represent the thought process of someone at the forefront of exemplary change from Newtonian physics to quantum physics, who looked at boring subjects and saw the extraordinary vibration of energy in everything and how it can be released and what it can bring.”
Christopher Nolan has pushed the boundaries of cinematic storytelling to tell epic stories about extraordinary heroes and daring plans about the necessity, morality, and pride of hard work. The brain-burning heist movie Inception transported viewers deep into the dreaming mind, while the glamorous space travel Interstellar took us on a bizarre journey into the fringes and whirlpools of the universe. Nolan used multiple perspectives and time signatures to capture the gruesome experiences of soldiers in Dunkirk trying to survive the deadly fears of war and the loss of humanity. In Tenet, he manipulated and illuminated concepts and time for a metaphysical-science fiction thriller about an attack from the future to the present. Each of his films was made with a passion for classic filmmaking techniques. It also expanded the boundaries of new tools, most notably IMAX cameras, while re-imagining the art of cinema itself. Oscar-nominated writer and director Christopher Nolan now brings to the big screen his most ambitious and groundbreaking film to date. It brings to the screen a gripping and epic tension that penetrates deep into the mind of the genius scientist, an important American genius, behind a world-shattering invention that threatens the entirety of human creativity, the future of humanity, even with its very existence, will recreate civilization and shake the world. Inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, Oppenheimer tells us the life and legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. Nolan; “I wanted to bring the audience into the mind and experience of a person who sits at the very center of history’s greatest change. Like it or not, J. Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who ever lived. For better or worse, it has shaped the world we live in. You have to watch this story to believe it.”
PUSH THE BUTTON
The construction of the atomic bomb was a triumph of human ingenuity that led to innovative learning in countless fields of science and technology. But it also started an arms race with seismic and devastating consequences for the entire world and introduced people from everywhere to a new fear that never left their lives. Nolan’s desire to do Oppenheimer lay in fear of the trouble the Manhattan Project scientists had as they searched for the secrets of fission to build a fission bomb. A fear that Oppenheimer called an ‘awful possibility’. Master director Christopher Nolan says: “On the road to the Trinity test, Oppenheimer and his team were trying not to ignite the atmosphere and destroy the planet, with the very unlikely possibility that when they pressed the button and triggered the first atomic bomb. There was no mathematical or theoretical basis that they could completely rule out this possibility, however small. Yet they pressed that button. An extraordinary moment in human history. I wanted to take the audience into that room, have them have that conversation, and then be there the moment that button was pressed. An incredible moment if you think about it. Incredibly risky. In response to the relationship between science, theory, and reason, and what we can imagine, nature’s way of bringing these abstract ideas into the real world, dealing with them as concrete realities, and all the consequences.” Also, Christopher Nolan‘s interest in ‘awful possibility’ can be seen in his 2020 film Tenet, which references the story. American Prometheus book has been a source of reference, informing and guiding Oppenheimer’s production from every angle. During the screenwriting process, he provided Nolan with rich stories that helped him write what most intrigued him, a critical portrait of Oppenheimer that not only dramatized the formative and landmark events but also questioned the consequences of his actions and addressed his psychology. Nolan says: “Oppenheimer’s story is one of the greatest stories in existence. It’s full of paradoxes and ethical dilemmas, and this is the type of material that has always intrigued me. The film asks if they should have done what they do while helping the audience understand why people do what they do. The film, as a story tool, is well-suited to engaging the audience in a subjective experience, allowing them to judge events as the characters judge them, while also allowing them to look a little more objectively with this character. At various points, we try to get into Oppenheimer’s mind and carry the audience on his emotional journey. That was the hard part of the movie; to tell the story of a person from his point of view who was involved in events that had devastating consequences but were done for a just cause.”
The story of Oppenheimer’s years after the Manhattan Project offers others’ perspectives on his work and legacy while examining the characters and motives of important people who have influenced his life. Lewis Strauss, at the center of that story, is another important character who shaped America’s nuclear policy after World War II. In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Strauss for the post of Secretary of Commerce. Nolan didn’t put much thought into his directing and production concerns when writing screenplays, often for fear of limiting his creativity. But at Oppenheimer, he needed to define his visual strategies on paper while presenting a complex story for his colleagues and the studio that constantly oscillates between subjective and objective experience and two different hearings held at two different times. Nolan’s colorful scenes, with provocative, surreal image segments that are sometimes told from Oppenheimer’s point of view, symbolically express his inner world from time to time (he also wrote those scenes in the first person, with an unusual preference for the script). Scenes with Strauss in the center would be black and white. Nolan has this to say about his unusual preference for first-person writing; “Strange choice. But he made it clear to everyone who read the script that the audience was with Oppenheimer on this journey. We look over his shoulder, we’re in his head, we go everywhere with him.” Producer Emma Thomas says she was impressed with what Nolan did when she first read the script. “Oppenheimer’s script definitely feels like a Chris Nolan script that has always been fascinated by subjectivity and objectivity, and it’s a story told from different perspectives. But he did something in the script that I’ve never seen before. Episodes with Oppenheimer in the story are told in the first person. An incredibly compelling and efficient style for portraying the inner world of a character that we in the production, including Chris, had to bring to the screen. I think it’s one of the best screenplays I’ve ever read.” Auteur director Nolan wrote the script in the summer of 2021, after which Universal Pictures immediately approved the first collaboration with Nolan. Thus began a creative task akin to the Manhattan Project, in which an exceptionally talented group and a unique director came together in a remote corner of the world (including the Los Alamos lab) to harness and test their key talents for big business.
CONSTRUCTION DESIGN AND LOCATIONS
The task of building Oppenheimer’s world was given to production designer Ruth De Jong, whose work included films such as Nope, Us, and Manchester By The Sea. De Jong and Christopher Nolan spent weeks in search of developing an aesthetic that was original but not blindly tied to the source. Nolan prefers a timeless look in his movies. Even for a movie like Oppenheimer set in a certain historical period. Nolan encouraged De Jong not to be too detailed and meticulous about the period details. He liked the idea of pushing modernism, using cars, phones, and other technological pieces at the moment. It was an appropriate choice for the story told through the eyes of a man chasing the future. De Jong laughs and says: “Chris would always say, ‘Ruth, I’m not making a boring documentary.’ It’s always helpful to hear that or I’d be too caught up in research. Our process was instead to see the real event, understand the gist of it, and then get ourselves out of shape and make our movie.”
In 2021, De Jong began working with Nolan, producer Emma Thomas, and executive producer Thomas Hayslip on a design that would give them everything they needed with maximum efficiency. (The film was shot in five main locations, Nolan shot most of it in New Mexico.) His first assignment was to develop the Los Alamos version of Oppenheimer, which featured the Manhattan Project. Thomas Hayslip says: “Chris used to call it ‘our little Western town’. All you would see would be a few small buildings and two musketeers. But Los Alamos was not small at all. Much of our job was to create the illusion of the location while recreating it.”
- Nolan decided to shoot the movie in the actual Los Alamos, where some of the structures built for the Manhattan Project are still preserved. But the current location no longer matches the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos. It would be too costly to exclude modern buildings such as Starbucks in the location from the shooting or to exclude them with digital technology.
- De Jong drew a detailed recreation of Los Alamos. It was physically prepared in the pre-production facility as a 3D white model. The model has grown so much that she had to hide in the backyard of the production office. It began to shrink as the filmmakers realized it would be too costly to build a full-scale replica of Los Alamos with its interiors and exteriors.
- A new strategy emerged as the producers modified their plans. They would build the Los Alamos exteriors at the 8,500-acre Ghost Farm in northern New Mexico, and shoot the interiors at the actual Los Alamos. This approach has also been energizing for the players. He also allowed Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt to shoot the scenes where the Oppenheimers lived. Producer Charles Roven says: “Chris wants everything to feel authentic, whether it’s shots where he actually lives on the Manhattan Project or something built from the ground up. He also wants movies to feel like handmade rather than studio-made or computer-generated images. You feel it throughout the movie. Especially in applied effects, such as placing snow on the ground or creating ripples in the pond, which is a recurring motif in the movie, or the approach to the first atomic bomb explosion.”
TRINITY TEST SITE
- Nolan’s crew received permission to shoot at the White Sands Test Site, where the Trinity test took place. But because the location was still an active military base, the production could not afford to take a break of six to eight hours each day while the army was conducting bomber flights and radar tests.
- Nolan built his own version of the Trinity test site, the most important feature of which is a 30-foot steel tower, and the remote bunker in Belen, New Mexico, where Oppenheimer watched the explosion.
- Oppenheimer was filmed at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, where Oppenheimer and Einstein worked together after World War II. The IAS building, where Oppenheimer is the director, was used.
- Oppenheimer’s old office has been renovated and looks too modern. But Einstein’s old office has been preserved, and the production crew has been given permission to use it and dressed as Oppenheimer’s office. Nolan also shot interior and exterior shots of the pond and surrounding areas of the director’s house, where Oppenheimer and Kitty worked at IAS.
Oppenheimer is the fourth film collaboration (along with Tenet, Interstellar, and Dunkirk) of Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. Van Hoytema’s filmography also includes notable films such as Her, Specter, Ad Astra, and Nope. Hoytema says: “The biggest challenge at Oppenheimer is that it’s very different from the other work I’ve done with Chris. There is an emphasis on action in Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Tenet. Oppenheimer is more like a psychological thriller. It reflects on the faces of their characters.”
- Nolan says: “The image style that Hoyte and I adapted for this film was very simple yet very powerful. There are no barriers between the world of the film and the audience, no stylization outside of the black-and-white scenes. But we wanted unadorned, plain, natural images that showcase many textures of the world, especially in colorful scenes. You’re looking for real-world complexity or detail, whether it’s costumes, sets, or locations.”
- Oppenheimer only with large format cameras, Panavision® 65mm and IMAX® 65mm. Taken with. Nolan says: “What large format images give you is clarity first. It is a format that allows the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the story and experience the reality that you are actually talking to them. Oppenheimer is a large-scale, long-term story. But I also wanted the audience to feel like they were there with everything that was going on and having conversations with these scientists at these crucial moments.”
- Black and white scenes required a new kind of blank film. Hoytema says, “We called Kodak first. We asked, ‘Do you have 65 mm black and white film?’ Of course, they didn’t, because they’ve never done it before. We asked, “Can you do it?” ‘Maybe,’ they said. Then we fed them like little kids. Fortunately for us, they endured the challenge. They provided us with a newly produced prototype film with handwritten labels on it. We were very impressed when we first saw it. It was very special and very beautiful.”
- Filmmaking has become a passionate experiment in making a human-centered drama with the world’s largest cameras. Hoytema says: “IMAX® is a show format often used to present perspective and convey magnificence. But I’ve always wondered from the very beginning to discover if it’s just as powerful when used in close-ups. Can we shoot psychology? Can we use it as an intimate tool? There was an evolution in Oppenheimer. It was the first movie where I had to use my money to make it happen because the story wanted it that way.”
- The fact that the film is in large format and both black and white and color has caused the difficulties of making Oppenheimer in two different genres to continue in post-production with the editing, color correction, IMAX® printing, digital, and standard presentation stages of the film.
Legendary costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, who first worked with Christopher Nolan, features famous films in her award-winning 40-year career. (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Wall Street, The Greatest Showman, and Basic Instinct) Mirojnick says: “I love the kind of stories he tells. I love the way you describe them. I love how she takes things apart and puts them back together with surgical complexity, surprise, and heightened pomp. This electricity’ radiates energy that fills your imagination and curiosity with boundless excitement. What I found interesting about Oppenheimer’s story was how, through experimentation with fission and fusion in an unknown space, they both matched their genius, both literally and figuratively.”
- Mirojnick made Cillian Murphy’s Robert Oppenheimer costumes to reflect a man whose taste is defined by his clothes. His look is accentuated by the choice of blue hues used in his shirts that reflect his piercing, blue eyes. Oppenheimer kept the same appearance throughout his life. In her research, Mirojnick learned that the only thing that affected her appearance was her “weight gain during the period of the explosion and bombing”. “But his style hasn’t changed from start to finish.”
- The most important feature of Oppenheimer’s appearance was his hat. It took a while for Mirojnick and his team to get to the source. Mirojnick reached out to hatters in New York and Italy to ask them to recreate the famous shape. But it was the legendary Hollywood hatter, Baron Hat, who made the hat perfectly.
- Oppenheimer’s hat had different lines and Nolan knew every line. How the edge is actually curved, and what the shape of the top is. Mirojnick says: “But Chris had the ability to shape it. It was magic when Chris touched it. He was turning it, turning it over, pinching the edge a little, and giving it the shape he saw in his mind.”
- Contrary to Oppenheimer’s simplicity, Robert Downey Jr.’s Lewis Strauss character was always manicured and dressed in the latest fashion. All of her outfits are custom-made. Handmade, special costumes and ties with his initials on them are made exactly from photographs. All are designed to highlight wealth, prosperity, and success.
- In a scene from Lewis Strauss’ senate confirmation session, Strauss is wearing a tight, dark striped suit, white shirt, navy blue, wide striped yellow tie. Nolan wanted Downey Jr. to wear the same outfit in the movie’s session scene. Mijornick and his team made each piece exactly as in the photo, even though the scene was black and white.
- Except for a few portraits, there are no visual references for Florence Pugh’s Jean Tatlock character. So Mirojnick made the costumes for the character according to his personality and the style Pugh wanted to portray him. Mirojnick says: “Jean had a burning passion. We took care of what he needed to express his character movements.”
- Emily Blunt’s character, Kitty Oppenheimer, transforms from a Bay Area socialite and intellectual to an isolated, seedy housewife in the desert. To evoke a weak, languid spirit, Mirojnick designed a composite look for Kitty of Los Alamos. She used a combination of trendy and casual pieces that show that Kitty cares about how she looks.
- Mirojnick’s hardest part was dressing the many extras on the Los Alamos stages. Because many different types of costumes were required to help the viewer quickly understand the border town nature of this secret military research laboratory. Mirojnick says: “Over a period of several years there were scientists, soldiers, mothers, workers, and children in all shapes and sizes. The team was also tasked with giving an accurate representation of each season while paying attention to actors filming outside in the cold New Mexico winter.”
MUSIC AND SOUND PALETTE
Christopher Nolan turned to Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther films), who also composed the music for Tenet, to produce Oppenheimer’s music. Nolan says: “Ludwig’s work on the film is both deeply personal and historically comprehensive. It captures the effect of constructing an emotional world to accompany the visual world designed by Ruth De Jong and shot by Hoyte van Hoytema, drawing the viewer into the characters’ emotional dilemmas and interactions with the broad geopolitical situations they face.”
- Nolan says he has no preconceptions about the film’s soundtrack, but offers Göransson an idea as a starting point. “I suggested that the violin should be the basis of the music. There is something about the violin that I think is very fitting for Oppenheimer. Its harmony is very subtle and depends entirely on the role and emotion of the actor. One moment it can be beautiful, and the next it can be frightening or painful. So I think there’s a tension in the music that fits with the emotion and intelligence of Robert Oppenheimer.”
- Inspired by Nolan’s suggestion and inspired by the vivid imagination he witnessed in the early stages of pre-production, Göransson embarked on a creative exploration that harnessed the touching potential of the violin. Göransson’s creative endeavors emerged in a series of compelling experiments with an unwavering desire to capture the delicate intersection between beauty and fear. The technique of incorporating microtonal transitions has been masterfully used to expand the sound palette and add a spiritual quality to the music. Collaborating with respected musicians from the Hollywood Studio Orchestra, Göransson began to shape Oppenheimer’s musical world with his special violin performance and captured the essence of the character. As the story unfolded, the choir grew larger, adding a quartet, an octet, and finally a large ensemble of strings and brass instruments. This progressive orchestration reflects the deep complexity of Oppenheimer’s journey, enriching the musical texture with each new addition.
- Göransson was determined to preserve the vitality of the violin and strings throughout the early stages of the composition process and did not rely solely on modern production techniques. He says: “The pulse of the music beats with a live orchestra with a human touch.”
- In addition to Oppenheimer’s music, other musical motifs are used, with certain characters and music following the same system. For example, the love of Kitty Oppenheimer and Robert Kitty is emphasized by the haunting piano melody. As the music progressed, Göransson found strategic opportunities to add other modern production elements. An otherworldly atmosphere was created for the Los Alamos motif by using synthesizers, especially to highlight the eerie consequences of Oppenheimer’s creation and the impending doom.
- During the post-production phase of the movie, the recording of the music was completed in an intense five-day period. Inspired by his artistic vision, Göransson pushed the limits of both himself and his musician colleagues’ technical competence. It was extremely challenging to achieve a full, uninterrupted recording, especially of the montage scene. It took a lot of repetition and effort for perfection.
Christopher Nolan’s screenplay for Oppenheimer required a large cast to play dozens of characters representing some of the most important figures shaping the 20th century. Nolan didn’t want to use composite characters to simplify things. He thought it would be wrong to dedicate the important ideas and innovations of a single famous figure to someone else. He wanted his characters to appear in front of the audience and stay fresh in their minds, as his characters jumped in and out of the story in fast-paced scenes, and sometimes in important small roles. Nolan says: “Cillian Murphy, who plays Oppenheimer, was at the center of the movie. But I also knew that Cillian would need a great cast around him. To very good players who will challenge and challenge him. In a movie with many different faces, each one is different and believable. That’s why the extensive cast of casting director John Papsidera made a great movie together. It is very important for the audience to understand who is doing what and who is important in that respect. These actors came to the set each day knowing their characters’ roles in the events, what they contributed to the Manhattan Project, and what they brought on a particular day to a particular meeting, experiment, or discussion. So every day on the set, I was surrounded by actors who knew what was going on from their point of view much better than I did. That’s what you’re really looking for as a director.”
J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER – CILLIAN MURPHY
To portray the father of the atomic bomb, Christopher Nolan chose someone who has appeared in five of his films (Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Dunkirk) but has never played the lead role. It chose Irish star Cillian Murphy, who has appeared on screen and in theater in such productions as 28 Days Later, Quiet Place II and the global TV hit Peaky Blinders from the UK. Nolan says: “I was lucky enough to work with some of the very important players early in their careers. Cillian is one of them. He was very new to everything when I first worked with him but it was clear that he had an extraordinary talent and we bonded personally, professionally and creatively. That’s why I’m always looking for ways to work with Cillian. Pick up the phone and say, ‘This is it. This is the movie, it’s your time to play the lead, you’re going to play a character that will use your talent to every level and challenge you in a way you’ve never met before.’ So that’s great. And he was ready for it. It was a dream come true for both of us.” For Murphy, that call from Chirtopher Nolan was unforgettable. Murphy, who first met Nolan when auditioned for the role of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins audition, was eventually chosen for Christian Bale. “It’s been 20 years since I met Chris. But even at that point, I was a fan because I had watched Memento and Insomnia. It was very important for me to meet Chris for that movie, which personally was an absurd idea for me to play Batman. What I’ve felt since then is that if Christopher Nolan asks you to do something, no matter the size, accept it. I didn’t expect him to call me and ask me to play Oppenheimer. But he did. When I hung up the phone, I just sat there, bewildered. Then we got to work.” Murphy says the glamor and challenge of playing Oppenheimer does justice to the physicist’s brilliant mind and moral challenge. “We are always chasing after Oppenheimer’s complexity. Having such a great mind can be a burden. Those kinds of people work on a completely different plane from us mortals, and that has its own complications and challenges in their personal and moral lives. One of the hardest things was to draw Oppenheimer’s moral journey in this story. Because, for the most part, unexpected events happen. It’s where he stood morally at his job on the Manhattan Project, where he stood years later in terms of nuclear policy in World War II, how it changed, and how evolving situations brought him into conflict with other people.” To prepare for the role, Murphy read several other books with American Prometheus, and spent hours watching footage of Oppenheimer’s interviews and lectures. Working with Nolan and costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, they perfected Oppenheimer’s distinctive look. Like his deep look, his posture, his pipe hat. Murphy says: “I’m not trying to make him look like Robert Oppenheimer. An Oppenheimer purged of the Oppenheimer we saw in historical material and met in Chris’ screenplay. It was a long process leading to a synthesis of description and interpretation.” Murphy consulted the famous physicist Kip Thorne to learn about his profession and the concepts of fission. But he did not pressure himself to fully understand the science and philosophy that came easily to Oppenheimer. Murphy says: “The majority of the population does not and cannot think like Oppenheimer about human existence, the structure of the world, and our place in the universe. He certainly does not see paradoxes with his appreciation and confusion and through the lens of Quantum mechanics. So it would be futile for me to spend six months trying to perceive them all. What you had to do was try to take the vague, conceptual handle on it, and then try to extract the most important thing for our movie, humanity. It’s a big story thematically but told in a very human way. Change a history lesson, not didactic or prescriptive. He doesn’t say to people, ‘This is what you have to learn from this. But it’s clear that people can draw parallels and think about the frightening events that are happening in our world today. Filmmaking is a big part of the cinematic landscape, and I think Chris always does it in an interesting and provocative way.”