Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer Script Written in 'First Person'

Oppenheimer arrives in theaters everywhere Friday, July 21.

By Josh Weiss
Oppenheimer Trailer

If there's anyone in Hollywood with a reputation for breaking the traditional rules of cinema, it's Christopher Nolan.

The filmmaker's well-known fascination with time, nonlinear narratives, and the very fabric of reality makes him one of the most interesting storytellers of our generation. There's a reason why Nolan movies are must-see blockbuster events in and of themselves. Not only does the writer-director tell thoroughly engaging and original stories, but he also dares to kickstart the imagination by upending every single expectation an audience has come to expect from a certain genre. 

So it should come as no surprise that for Oppenheimer (opening on the big screen this July), Nolan went completely off script — pun intended, and you'll see why in a second — by writing the screenplay from J. Robert Oppenheimer's first person perspective. This was revealed during a conversation with Nolan and longtime collaborator and Oppenheimer lead Cillian Murphy for Entertainment Weekly.

RELATED: Christopher Nolan says his 'Oppenheimer’ film is 'both dream and nightmare'

"I flew over to Dublin to hand you the script, you read it in my hotel room, I went off to look at the Francis Bacon installation in the Hugh Lane [Gallery], and then came back," Nolan recalled. "I'm actually curious if the fact that the script was written in the first person will have added to the feeling of responsibility that you were going to have taking it on."

Murphy, who had never read a script told in first person, said he needed some time to acclimate to the text (an almost sacrilegious affront to the third person omniscient commandments laid down by the Screenwriting Gods of yore).

"It took me a minute, maybe a bit more than a minute, to figure that out," the actor confessed. "But then it became clear that you wanted it to be completely subjective, that everything was to be seen through the character's eyes as it were, and, again, yeah, that added massively to the terror. [Laughs] But when it's Christopher Nolan, you just have that confidence. You believe 100% in his vision, as I have always done. So it was terribly exciting."

Based on American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer — the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin — the hotly-anticipated biopic tracks the research and testing that led to the creation of the world's first atomic weapons. Murphy leads the historical piece as Oppenheimer, leading scientist behind the Manhattan Project, who later came to regret his nuclear spawn.

Emily Blunt (Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer), Robert Downey Jr. (Lewis Strauss), Florence Pugh (Jean Tatlock), Josh Hartnett (Ernest Lawrence), Michael Angarano (Robert Serber), Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek, Alden Ehrenreich, David Dastmalchian, Dane DeHaan, Jack Quaid, Matthew Modine, Dylan Arnold, and David Krumholtz co-star.

Nolan served as a producer on the Universal Pictures film with Emma Thomas and Charles Roven.

Oppenheimer arrives in theaters everywhere Friday, July 21.

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