'A Terrible Tragedy Has Befallen Him': Robert Downey Jr. Jokes About How Oppenheimer's Massive Success Has Impacted The Introverted Christopher Nolan

 Robert Downey Jr. and Christopher Nolan at 2024 Golden Globes for Oppenheimer.
Robert Downey Jr. and Christopher Nolan at 2024 Golden Globes for Oppenheimer.

When one becomes a filmmaker like Christopher Nolan, you don’t necessarily sign up to become famous – that’s the job of the actors. There are surely a ton of storytellers out in the world you’ve consumed movies and TV from, but couldn’t pick out of a lineup if your life depended on it. That is, however, not the case for Oppenheimer’s Christopher Nolan, as one of his stars, Robert Downey Jr. recently poked fun at while presenting him with another award for the atomic bomb origin story and biography.

Christopher Nolan has been a leading name in the award season this year in particular after making one of the best movies of 2023 with Oppenheimer, and he’s been picking up accolades left and right for it. On Thursday, Nolan earned another at the Sundance Film Festival. While introducing Nolan as the winner of the Utah festival’s Trailblazer Award, Robert Downey Jr. said this (via Entertainment Weekly):

Confidentially, he needs his spirits lifted. He's a bit blue because a terrible tragedy has befallen him. I don't mean to bring this up, and I know it's very personal: He has become recognizable on the street. He recoils as though from a hot flame from this new and most unwelcome reality.

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Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer
Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer

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As Robert Downey Jr. hilariously quipped during the industry event, a “terrible tragedy has befallen” Christopher Nolan now that he’s reached a new wave of success for Oppenheimer. Apparently he’s become recognizable on the street and therefore something of a celebrity in his own right, not unlike what Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese have become as well. It doesn’t happen to every famous director, but as RDJ noted, the status has now been bequeathed to Nolan, and considering he’s an introvert, it’s not something he’s necessarily welcoming.

Following Downey’s funny introduction, Christopher Nolan took the stage at the Sundance Film Festival to accept the award. He thanked the festival for helping him get his start as a filmmaker when 2000’s Memento was part of the festival back in the day. Nolan has been on award stages quite a few times this month, between being among the 2024 Golden Globes winners and this past weekend’s Critics Choice Awards. Nolan won Best Director at both events, along with Oppenheimer earning a ton of other awards.

Along with Christopher Nolan’s award season sweep, he’s also gone viral a few times, such as when he told a story about his Peloton instructor badmouthing Tenet, which led her to respond to the filmmaker. Of course, Nolan has been a huge name for years, especially with his work on the Dark Knight trilogy, but somehow he’s just gotten bigger! You can catch Oppenheimer with a Peacock subscription when the movie arrives on the platform February 16. It’s also available to rent and buy now on Amazon.