Christopher Nolan is in talks with multiple Hollywood studios about producing his 12th film, a biopic about one of the leading developers of the first atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer.
According to individuals with knowledge of the talks, Warner Bros. is among the contenders for the project; but if Nolan goes elsewhere, it could bring an end to the 18-year partnership that the acclaimed filmmaker has had with the Burbank studio.
Since “Insomnia” in 2002, Warner Bros. has produced or co-produced all of Nolan’s films, including the “Dark Knight” trilogy, Best Picture Oscar nominees “Inception” and “Dunkirk,” and most recently the sci-fi mind-bender “Tenet.” The latter film was released exclusively in theaters last year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, months before a vaccine was approved, at the behest of Nolan who wanted to provide a film to support struggling movie theaters.
Though “Tenet” struggled at the U.S. box office, its global gross of $363 million still stands among the top five highest-grossing Hollywood films released since theaters first shut down worldwide in March 2020 and is currently just $9 million less than Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow,” which was released in theaters and as a Disney+ premium title this past July.
But when Warner Bros. announced last December that it would release all of its 2021 films in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, Nolan was one of the most outspoken critics of the plan. In an interview with NPR, he called the day-and-date shift “a sign of great danger” for working class crew members in Hollywood.
“What they see here is an opportunity to promote HBO Max using the slate of movies for next year. And there is a danger with that that needs to be addressed through appropriate negotiation with unions, with talent and all the rest,” Nolan said. “There are enormous number of questions that come out of that about the economic structures that allow working people in Hollywood to maintain their lives and raise their families and have health care and all the rest. And I’m saying these are all things that haven’t yet been thought through and they need to be.”
While Warner Bros. has since recommitted to releasing films exclusively in theaters starting next year via shortened window deals with theater chains, Nolan now seems to be considering taking his “Tenet” follow-up to another studio. Nolan and his production company, Syncopy, have never signed a first-look production deal with Warner Bros. but have simply remained with the studio out of personal loyalty.
The project talks were first reported by Deadline.