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SYFY WIRE Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer's "Chilling" Final Scene Came to Christopher Nolan While Lying in Bed

Oppenheimer is now streaming exclusively on Peacock!

By Josh Weiss

Sleep is a funny thing. When you need it the most, your brain suddenly goes into overdrive, replaying embarrassing memories from childhood or, in the case of Christopher Nolan, coming up with ideas for a soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated historical drama. (Speaking of which, Oppenheimer is now streaming exclusively on Peacock alongside a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes!)

Nearly three years ago, the high-concept writer/director/producer behind Inception (also streaming on Peacock), Interstellar, and Tenet was lying in bed, still toying with the idea of making a movie about the man who led the charge to construct the world's first atomic device: J. Robert Oppenheimer. But much like the physics Dr. Oppenheimer studied throughout his lifetime, his project was entirely theoretical. That is until a resting Nolan jumped out of bed and ran to his office, suddenly struck by an epiphany. He could hear the music.

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The Moment Christopher Nolan Knew Oppenheimer Would Work

This moment of realization ultimately took the form of Oppenheimer's final scene, in which the titular scientist (portrayed by Cillian Murphy) speaks with colleague Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) about the apocalyptic horrors unleashed by the Manhattan Project. While the top-secret endeavor didn't ignite the Earth's atmosphere — as some feared it might in the run-up to the Trinity detonation — the success of the Los Alamos team did yield a nightmarish competition between the United States and Soviet Union.

"The chain reaction was nuclear proliferation itself, the never-ending cycle of countries building nuclear arsenals so they can have bigger stockpiles than their rivals," Nolan explains in the official making-of book written by Jada Yuan (now on sale from Insight Editions). "It’s not about the use of nuclear weapons but the threat of using them, and a cycle of fear we’re still living through today. What if the whole movie was leading to that revelation? ... And once I had that, I knew I could write the film."

“I just found that incredibly chilling,” adds Nolan's wife and producing partner, Emma Thomas. “For me, there are so many ups and downs as you’re following the story. Even the triumphs are ambiguous. There were hundreds of thousands of people involved in the Manhattan Project, many of whom didn’t even know what they were doing. It was a miraculous thing to have achieved. But at the same time, there’s such an underlying sense of dread at what they’ve done."

Where Can You Stream Oppenheimer?

Oppenheimer — and a slew of behind-the-scenes featurettes — are now streaming exclusively on Peacock alongside other Christopher Nolan masterpieces like Memento (2000), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2018), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Dunkirk (2017).

Looking for more theatrical action? The Exorcist: BelieverRuby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, and Five Nights at Freddy's are all streaming on Peacock!