Christopher Nolan Used Actual Scientists as Extras in ‘Oppenheimer’
It’s been three years since a new Christopher Nolan movie opened in theaters, but the director’s fans won’t have to wait much longer to see his latest work. “Oppenheimer” has become one of the most anticipated movies of 2023 thanks to its star-studded cast and Nolan’s proven track record with WWII subject matter (see: “Dunkirk”).
The Cillian Murphy-led biopic about atomic bomb inventor Robert Oppenheimer is the smallest Nolan movie in years in terms of budget and scale. But it just wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan project without a few anecdotes about the director’s obsessive attention to detail and commitment to spectacle. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Nolan and Murphy spoke about the meticulous effort that the entire cast put in to ensure that each scene was accurate.
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“Every day, you had these phenomenal actors, who are heroes of mine, coming in,” Murphy said. “Every day, you were having to raise your game to work with these legends. Everybody was so unbelievably well-prepared. Every single actor, no matter what size their role or the significance of their character in history, each one of them had this massive depth of knowledge that they could draw on.”
Nolan explained that even the films extras were well-versed in the source material — which was rather easy for them, because he made a point to cast actual scientists as background actors.
“We were in the real Los Alamos and we had a lot of real scientists as extras,” Nolan said. “We needed the crowd of extras to give reactions, and improvise, and we were getting sort of impromptu, very educated speeches. It was really fun to listen to. You’ve been on sets where you’ve got a lot of extras around and they’re more or less thinking about lunch. These guys were thinking about the geopolitical implications of nuclear arms and knew a lot about it. It actually was a great reminder every day of: We have to be really on our game, we have to be faithful to the history here, and really know what we’re up to.”
Universal Pictures will release “Oppenheimer” in theaters on Friday, July 21.
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