Christopher Nolan kicked off Universal’s CinemaCon presentation this afternoon in Las Vegas, taking the stage to talk about his upcoming thriller Oppenheimer which releases in July. Cillian Murphy stars as the titular J Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist whose work on the Manhattan Project led to the creation of the atomic bomb.
Said Nolan, “I’m here with a story in the story of J Robert Oppenheimer. I know of no more dramatic tale with higher stakes, twists and turns and ethical dilemmas… The finest minds in the country were in a desperate race against the Nazis to harness the power of the atom in World War II. Picture those same minds realizing the possibility that they might set fire to the entire world, yet they went ahead and pushed the button. I wanted to be there and see what that might be like.”
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The filmmaker continued that he wanted to “really try to take the audience into the mind and the experience of a person who sat at the absolute center of all the most important movements in history in his lifetime.”
“Like it or not,” declared Nolan, “J Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who ever lived. He made the world we live in, for better or for worse. His story has to be seen to be believed. This is a cinematic tale, this is an experience of this extraordinary individual. The story poses the most unsettling questions, it’s both dream and nightmare. There are no easy answers but the most fascinating paradoxes.”
Nolan also showed what he called “sights and sounds” of the film, in black-and-white and color from conference room to control room and in between as Oppenheimer and team race against the Nazis in a secret laboratory in the middle of nowhere.
The footage opened in black-and-white with Robert Downey’s Jr character Lewis Strauss walking into a posh hotel dining room where a meeting is taking place. The Russians have a bomb. “We’re supposed to be years ahead of them,” says Downey Jr. The scene changes to Los Alamos where a town is being built, clearly the site where the A-bomb tests will take place. Matt Damon is a high ranking military official, Leslie Groves, who is pressuring Murphy’s Oppenheimer to lean on his team to get the bomb built. “Is there a chance when we push the button that we destroy the world?” Groves asks Oppenheimer.
Nolan also quipped he could “neither confirm or deny” that “in two weeks we’ll have a full trailer out on Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Directed and written by Nolan, Oppenheimer is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin.
Other cast members include Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Benny Safdie, Josh Hartnett, Dane DeHaan, Jack Quaid, Matthew Modine, Dylan Arnold, David Krumholtz, Alden Ehrenreich, David Dastmalchian, Olli Haaskivi, Jason Clarke, James D’Arcy, Michael Angarano, Guy Burnet, Danny Deferrari, Matthias Schweighöfer, Gary Oldman, Harrison Gilbertson, Emma Dumont, Devon Bostick, Olivia Thirlby, Trond Fausa, Christopher Denham and Josh Zuckerman.
Nolan, Emma Thomas and Charles Roven are producers. Universal begins international rollout on July 19 with the IMAX-shot thriller hitting North America on July 21 in Nolan’s preferred corridor.
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