Everything We Know About Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ So Far

Just don’t call it a biopic

Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer" (Universal Pictures)

Christopher Nolan’s first biopic “Oppenheimer” is set to hit theaters in July 2023. Bit by bit, the project has come together to include an impressive ensemble of actors and actresses in varying roles and capacities and a unique approach to one of history’s most important stories.

Led by Cillian Murphy, who will portray the father of the atomic bomb, other stars like Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Emily Hunt and more will bring his life story to the big screen, marking Nolan’s first new film since 2020’s “Tenet.”

Here’s everything we know about Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer”:

It’s based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book

Written and directed by Nolan, the film is based on the book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” written by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin and published in May 2006. The book won $10,000 in prize money along with the Pulitzer for Biography in 2006.

The book followed Oppenheimer’s life story from his education at Harvard and Cambrige to Germany where he studied quantum physics, to Berkeley, California where he led an American school of theoretical physicists. It was in Berkeley where Oppenheimer met many social justice advocates, whose associates were communists.

Oppenheimer believed that atomic materials needed control and regulation. He was also against the building of the hydrogen bomb. Those that supported nuclear weapon buildup ensured that Oppenheimer wouldn’t have access to all of America’s nuclear secrets.

The cast is wildly impressive

Cilian Murphy will star as J. Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist known for spearheading the invention of the atomic bomb through the Manhattan Project. Emily Blunt will play Oppenheimer’s wife, biologist and botanist Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer. Robert Downey Jr. fills the role of Lewis Strauss, the Atomic Energy Commission chairman who started out on Oppenheimer’s side, but then turned tail at the dangerous implications of Oppenheimer’s work. Florence Pugh plays Jean Tatlock, a Communist woman who had an affair with Oppenheimer. Matt Damon will portray Leslie Groves, Jr., the U.S. Army colonel in charge of the Manhattan Project, which was the code name for the United States’ effort to develop an atomic weapon during World War II.

Other performers set to appear in the film include Rami Malek, Jack Quaid, Josh Hartnett, Josh Peck, Devon Bostick, Dane DeHaan, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman, Alex Wolff, Matthew Modine, Tony Goldwyn, Matthias Schweighöfer, David Rysdahl, Jason Clarke, David Dastmalchian, Alden Ehrenreich and David Krumholtz.

It’s not necessarily a biopic

While the film’s title may suggest otherwise, “Oppenheimer” is not a biopic, and instead is officially described as an “epic thriller” that “thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it.”

Filming began in February 2022 in New Mexico

Production began in February in New Mexico, and other locations include New Jersey and California.

It was shot with IMAX cameras

As Nolan has been doing ever since “The Dark Knight,” “Oppenheimer” was shot with IMAX cameras. Under the direction of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (who also shot Nolan’s “Interstellar,” “Dunkirk” and “Tenet”), the movie was shot with a mixture of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format photography — including, for the first time ever, sections in IMAX black and white analogue photography.

Nolan plans to use practical effects for nuclear explosion scenes

Nolan is known for favoring practical effects over CGI, and he will double down on this preference to portray nuclear explosions “without computer graphics.”

“I think recreating the Trinity test [the first nuclear weapon detonation, in New Mexico] without the use of computer graphics, was a huge challenge to take on,” Nolan told Total Film. “Andrew Jackson – my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on – was looking at how we could do a lot of the visual elements of the film practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself, to recreating, with my team, Los Alamos up on a mesa in New Mexico in extraordinary weather, a lot of which was needed for the film, in terms of the very harsh conditions out there – there were huge practical challenges.”

The first poster arrived a year before the film’s release

The one-sheet may not be exactly what many are expecting from a movie about the man who invented the atomic bomb – and yet it’s also in lockstep with Nolan’s approach to genre.

It comes out the same day as “Barbie”

“Oppenheimer” is set for release in theaters on July 21, 2023 — the same day that Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie is also due to hit theaters.

Teaser footage has arrived

Tied to the release of Jordan Peele’s “Nope” in theaters July 22, Universal Studios released a teaser clip of Cillian Murphy appearing as “the man who moved the earth. You can watch it below: