Thanks to its impressive ensemble cast, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated war drama, Oppenheimer, is already one of the most explosive films of 2023. The movie revisits the development of the atomic bomb and portrays the people who played a vital role in this historical event. Nolan has previously discussed the challenge of directing a biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
“It’s a story of immense scope and scale,” Nolan told Total Film in December 2022. “It’s one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on, both in terms of its scale and in terms of encountering the breadth of Oppenheimer’s story.”
The cast includes big names like Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., and Florence Pugh. Below, we will see how these talented actors compare to the historical figures they portray on screen:
Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer
Cillian Murphy plays the titular theoretical physicist in Christopher Nolan’s long-awaited film. Murphy spoke to the Associated Press about his role in May and described it as “a huge responsibility” since Oppenheimer “was complicated and contradictory and so iconic.” Murphy underwent physical and mental challenges to prepare for the role, including losing weight to appear as emaciated as Oppenheimer.
Emily Blunt as Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer
Emily Blunt portrays Oppenheimer’s wife, who worked with a physician to assess the danger presented by radiation. Blunt spoke to PEOPLE about her relationship with her co-star Cillian Murphy, saying that they are “like thick as thieves” and have a lot of trust between them.
Matt Damon as Leslie Groves
Matt Damon plays Lieutenant General Leslie Groves in the historical drama. Damon expressed his excitement about working with Christopher Nolan again and shared that he promised his wife he’d take time off work unless Nolan offered him a role.
Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss
Robert Downey Jr. portrays Atomic Energy Commissioner chairman Lewis Strauss, who worked closely with Oppenheimer during the development of nuclear weapons. Downey praised the film during its London premiere, calling it the best film he has ever been in.
Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock
Florence Pugh plays Oppenheimer’s mistress, Jean Tatlock, whose associations with the Communist Party placed the physicist in a precarious position during the investigations of his political affiliations. Pugh complimented Nolan’s directing approach and said that working on Oppenheimer gave her an incredible adrenaline rush.
Josh Hartnett as Ernest Lawrence
Josh Hartnett plays Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Lawrence, who played a key role in the Manhattan Project.
Casey Affleck as Boris Pash
Casey Affleck portrays military intelligence officer Boris Pash, who interrogated Oppenheimer and others about their possible affiliations with the Communist Party. Pash concluded that Oppenheimer wasn’t a spy and should remain a part of the nuclear development efforts.
Kenneth Branagh as Niels Bohr
Kenneth Branagh plays quantum physicist Niels Bohr, who supported Oppenheimer’s efforts on the Manhattan Project. Bohr’s hopes for nuclear development aligned with Oppenheimer’s despite their knowledge of the impact it would have on international affairs.
Benny Safdie as Edward Teller
Benny Safdie portrays Edward Teller, who was the only member of the scientific community to testify against Oppenheimer at his security clearance hearings. Nolan cast Safdie after seeing him in Good Time and Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2021 indie film, Licorice Pizza.