Christopher Nolan Reacts to ‘Oppenheimer’ Leading Oscar Nominations: “We Never Imagined This Level of Success”

Following Oppenheimer‘s leading 13 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, writer and director Christopher Nolan is still “somewhat amused” by the film’s level of success, given it’s an R-rated, three-hour black-and-white biopic about nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

“We’ve clearly caught a wave with the film and that’s something we’re very grateful for,” Nolan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We never imagined this level of success. But we did have faith that it was a great story. You know, certainly audiences going to it in the summer, I think it was the strength of the story itself, this great piece of American history that was driving things for us. Also, for a film that came out in the summer to be recognized by the Academy at the end of the year or beginning of next year, it’s just a very rewarding thing to wake up to. Frankly, it’s not really what we expected when we set out with this project and it’s a wonderful surprise.”

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Nolan’s producing partner and wife, Emma Thomas, lauds the many nominees of the film. After all, the film was nominated in best picture, best directing, best lead actor, best supporting actress, best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay, best cinematography, best costume design, best makeup and hairstyling, best original score, best production design, best editing and best sound. Notably, it marks Nolan’s first time landing both directing and writing nominations for one of his films, and it is also Nolan’s most nominated film ever. (2008’s The Dark Knight, 2010’s Inception and 2017’s Dunkirk each received eight.)

“That’s massively gratifying to us to see their work being recognized in that way,” Thomas says, adding that it’s especially exciting for her to see Emily Blunt be nominated for best supporting actress, given that this is her first Oscar nomination. Ellen Mirojnick’s nomination for costume is also something Thomas and Nolan are extremely delighted over. For Nolan, though, one specific nomination stood out.

“For me, to be recognized for the screenplay adaptation is a very unique thrill,” he says. “The book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin was an incredible authoritative tome. It’s 700 pages of intensely researched academic history and Martin Sherwin in particular, he worked on it for 25 years, and he passed on before I could share the script. I hadn’t quite finished the script when he died, and so to be recognized in this particular category for adapting their work, that’s very special for me.”

In terms of best directing — for which he was nominated alongside Justine Triet (Anatomy of a Fall), Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things), Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon) and Jonathan Glazer (The Zone of Interest) — Nolan says it is a very rewarding honor. Nolan was previously nominated in the category for Dunkirk (2017).

A win in the category, says Nolan, “would mean the world to me.

“I grew up loving Hollywood movies,” he continues. “I grew up watching the Academy Awards as a kid, it’s always stood in my mind for the highest form of recognition in a field that I love, and it’s the recognition of people who work in the industry alongside you. So, yeah, it would mean the world to me, but I’m at the moment just counting how lucky I feel to be nominated, and to have a film that that I worked on have the breadth of nominations, it’s really staggering and really rewarding.”

For a story on the making of Oppenheimer, click here.

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