Christopher Nolan Says Some ‘Oppenheimer’ Viewers Walk Out ‘Devastated’ and ‘They Can’t Speak’: ‘It’s Kind of a Horror Movie’June 21, 2023
Christopher Nolan has a warning for anyone purchasing “Oppenheimer” tickets: The film might emotionally destroy you. Speaking to Wired magazine in a new interview, Nolan said that some early “Oppenheimer” viewers have had a visceral reaction to the film, which follows theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) as he creates the atomic bomb to end World War II.
“Some people leave the movie absolutely devastated,” Nolan said about early screenings. “They can’t speak. I mean, there’s an element of fear that’s there in the history and there in the underpinnings. But the love of the characters, the love of the relationships, is as strong as I’ve ever done.”
Nolan later added, “It is an intense experience, because it’s an intense story. I showed it to a filmmaker recently who said it’s kind of a horror movie. I don’t disagree.”
“Oppenheimer’s story is all impossible questions,” Nolan added. “Impossible ethical dilemmas, paradox. There are no easy answers in his story. There are just difficult questions, and that’s what makes the story so compelling. I think we were able to find a lot of things to be optimistic about in the film, genuinely, but there’s this sort of overriding bigger question that hangs over it. It felt essential that there be questions at the end that you leave rattling in people’s brains, and prompting discussion.”
One outspoken fan of “Oppenheimer” ahead of the film’s July theatrical release is historian Kai Bird, who co-wrote the 2005 biography “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” with Martin J. Sherwin. Nolan adapted the book into “Oppenheimer.”
“I am, at the moment, stunned and emotionally recovering from having seen it,” Bird said during a recent conversation. “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.”
Starring opposite Murphy in the drama are Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh and more. The film is Nolan’s first R-rated release since 2002’s “Insomnia.”
“Oppenheimer” opens in theaters nationwide July 21 from Universal Pictures.
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