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SYFY WIRE Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan Says Fellow Filmmaker Described Oppenheimer As “A Kind Of Horror Movie”

A bomb capable of wiping out entire cities is pretty terrifying.

By Josh Weiss
Cillian Murphy smoking a pipe in Oppenheimer (2023)

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

The ominous quotation taken from Hindu tradition that famously occurred to physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer immediately after the detonation of the first atomic bomb in 1945 continues to echo throughout human history like a soothsayer's warning of doomsday.

A weapon capable of wiping out entire cities is a rather terrifying concept and it's something writer-director Christopher Nolan seeks to drive home again and again in his upcoming World War II-era thriller: Oppenheimer (exclusively hitting the big screen July 21).

"It is an intense experience, because it's an intense story," the filmmaker admitted during a recent interview with WIRED. "I showed it to a filmmaker recently who said it's kind of a horror movie. I don't disagree."

RELATED: Explore the Real Life Town Where the First Atomic Bomb Was Born in Oppenheimer Online Experience

Nolan didn't specify who the filmmaker was, though he did reference a recent conversation with Steven Spielberg earlier in the interview while on the topic of how he — and many other directors who came of age in the latter half of the 20th century — were constantly aware of the fact that a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union  could break out at any moment.

"There are times in human history when the danger of nuclear warfare has been so palpable and tactile and visible to us that we're very aware of it," said Nolan, who also produced the biopic alongside Emma Thomas and Charles Roven. "And then we can only be worried for so long, and we move on. We worry about other things. Um, the problem is that the danger doesn't actually go away."

Had Oppenheimer been produced, say, a decade ago, audiences may have held the material at arm's length. But now, in a time when America isn't exactly on the best terms with Russia — and the latter's own president makes thinly-veiled allusions to potentially using nuclear devices in its war against Ukraine — the movie emits a bright and searing flash of geopolitical relevancy.

"Some people leave the movie absolutely devastated. They can't speak," Nolan said of those audience members who attended early screenings. "I mean, there's an element of fear that's there in the history and there in the underpinnings. But the love of the characters, the love of the relationships, is as strong as I've ever done."

Oppenheimer will unleash terrors untold Friday, July 21. Click here for tickets!

Jonesing for another thriller based on true events? A Friend of the Family is now streaming on Peacock.