Oppenheimer: everything we know about Christopher Nolan's atomic epic

We're already looking ahead to July 2023, and in particular, the release of Christopher Nolan's new Atomic-era epic Oppenheimer. The director of The Dark Knight and Inception returns with a sure-to-be disquieting and engrossing account of the scientist who singlehandedly pushed mankind into a frightening new era of conflict.

Scroll down to find out more about the movie.


What is the story behind Oppenheimer?

Oppenheimer takes as its basis the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, better known as the father of the atomic bomb. The movie will explore Oppenheimer's involvement in the secretive Manhattan Project, and the development of the most frightening force the world had ever seen up to that point. Upon seeing the destructive power of his creation for the first time, Oppenheimer famously quoted Hindu scripture: "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

Christopher Nolan adapts the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. With his characteristic eye for verisimilitude, not to mention his sweeping sense of directorial scale, there's no denying that Nolan is singularly cut out to do this story justice.

Interestingly, this is also the first biographical drama tackled by the director, although he has delivered fact-based dramas before with the likes of Dunkirk. The latter movie was personal for the director, given that Nolan's grandfather served in the Air Force during World War II. How this biographical slant will inform the texture of Oppenheimer remains to be seen.


Who stars in Oppenheimer?

Who isn't starring in Oppenheimer is the question. When Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., is but one player in the overall tapestry, you know you've got a stacked ensemble on your hands.

Downey Jr. is just one of the A-list players supporting star Cillian Murphy, who plays Oppenheimer himself. Murphy is one of Nolan's regular collaborators, having chilled as the Scarecrow in the Dark Knight trilogy. He also appeared in Inception and Dunkirk. A Quiet Place star Emily Blunt appears as Oppenheimer's wife Katherine, making this her first project with Nolan. (She appeared opposite Murphy in A Quiet Place: Part II.)

Take a deep breath, because we're not done yet. Also appearing: Bohemian Rhapsody Oscar winner and No Time To Die villain Rami Malek, The Last Duel's Matt Damon (who starred in Nolan's Interstellar) as United States Army engineer Leslie Groves, Black Widow's Florence Pugh, Scream's Jack Quaid, Stranger Things' Matthew Modine (another Nolan collaborator, having appeared in The Dark Knight Rises) and Licorice Pizza's Benny Safdie. There's also room for A Cure for Wellness' Dane DeHaan and a resurgent Josh Hartnett, whom 1990s nostalgics will remember for the likes of Halloween: H20. 

Pugh is portraying Communist Party member Jean Tatlock, with whom Oppenheimer had an affair, while Safdie is set to portray Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb. And that's still not all. British thesps Kenneth Branagh and Gary Oldman are also on board (the latter rumoured to be portraying U.S. President Harry S. Truman).

The best ensemble cast of 2023? We're calling it right here.


What has Cillian Murphy said about Oppenheimer?

Says Murphy (via The Guardian): "I’ll always turn up for Chris, whatever the size of the part. Chris will call me up and I’m there. "Isn’t it wonderful that filmmakers are still making challenging, demanding films within the studio system, shot on film rather than Imax? I think he’s flying the flag. Him, Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, are fantastic filmmakers making interesting work on a massive scale."

On the subject of his preparation, Murphy says he has been doing "an awful lot of reading". He adds: "I’m interested in the man and what [inventing the atomic bomb] does to the individual. The mechanics of it, that’s not really for me – I don’t have the intellectual capability to understand them, but these contradictory characters are fascinating."

Here's the dramatic Oppenheimer poster that teases Murphy's explosive new role.

Oppenheimer movie poster Cillian Murphy


Which of Christopher Nolan's key crew members are involved in Oppenheimer?

Returning from Nolan's mind-melting Tenet: Oscar-winning composer Ludwig Goransson, who will no doubt be delivering more propulsively moody atmosphere, and Oscar-winning cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who brought breathtaking scale to Nolan films both fantastical (Interstellar; Tenet) and altogether more grounded (Dunkirk).

Hoytema has lensed Oppenheimer with IMAX cameras, as per his previous collaborations with Nolan. There's no denying the sense of immersive scale that will be brought to Oppenheimer, and the mind boggles at the thought of the atomic test sequence in IMAX.

Tenet editor Jennifer Lame will be on hand to sculpt Nolan's latest opus into an arresting and engrossing morality tale. Nolan's wife Emma Thomas will, as ever, be producing via the duo's Syncopy label. One can already credit Nolan's regular casting director John Papsidera, with whom he has worked since Memento, for assembling such a remarkable tapestry of A-listers. And working with Nolan for the first time: renowned costume designer Ellen Mirojnick (Basic Instinct). We can't wait to see how she spins some natty 1950s fashion threads from this cautionary tale.

There is, however, one major personnel change. Oppenheimer is Nolan's first movie without distributor Warner Bros since 2002's Insomnia. The director has now pitched up with Universal Studios, who will no doubt be eager to capitalise on the filmmaker's enviable, blockbusting track record. Few other contemporary directors are able to draw audiences on the basis of their name alone, so will Oppenheimer continue Nolan's run of success?


Are there any further images for Oppenheimer?

Yes, scroll down to check out the stills of Nolan, Murphy, Blunt and Downey Jr, all of which hint at the pivotal moment when 20th-century warfare was reborn in flames.

Oppenheimer movie Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt

Oppenheimer movie Cillian Murphy

Oppenheimer movie Robert Downey Jr.

Oppenheimer movie Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy

Is there a trailer for Oppenheimer?

Yes, the new Oppenheimer trailer has been released (check it out below), teasing an arresting mixture of monochrome visuals and fiery explosions. This follows on from the first trailer released in 2022, which presented itself as a live stream ominously counting down to the film's release date.

When is Oppenheimer released in cinemas?

Oppenheimer is released on July 21st. Excited about the movie? Let us know @Cineworld.