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SYFY WIRE Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer Star Emily Blunt Says Nolan's Latest Is a Thriller Disguised as a Biopic

"I was completely arrested by the story, the portrait of this man, and, I guess, the trauma of a brain like that."

By Josh Weiss
Oppenheimer Trailer

You know when someone says "It's not rocket science" to denote a task isn't very difficult? Well, when it comes to Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer (opening on the big screen July 21), the phrase doesn't really apply.

Jutting up against a 3-hour runtime, the hotly-anticipated biopic chronicling the life and career of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) attempts to capture the indescribably complex mathematics and calculations that went into the development of the world's first atomic weapons. To help the intensity of the science go down a little easier, Nolan — who wrote, directed, and produced the film — plays up the ticking clock element of the Manhattan Project, emphasizing how its main goal was to beat Nazi Germany to the nuclear punch.

RELATED: Nolan on How Oppenheimer’s A-List Cast is a Throwback to 'Event' Movies Like Superman '78 and JFK

"The script was so emotional, and it reads like a thriller. It's almost like [Nolan] Trojan-Horsed a biopic into a thriller," Emily Blunt (playing Oppenheimer's wife, Kitty) noted during an interview with Total Film for the magazine's latest issue (now on sale). "It's really pulse-racing, the whole thing. I was completely arrested by the story, the portrait of this man, and, I guess, the trauma of a brain like that."

She later added: "I wouldn't just call this movie a biopic. This is a pulse-racing thriller — a big event movie. It's an overwhelming experience. I felt like my bones would shatter watching it."

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer (2023)

A botanist by trade, Katherine "Kitty" Oppenheimer (née Puening) joined her husband at the Los Alamos laboratory town for the duration of the wartime project. She briefly pitched in as a lab technician and often held cocktail parties for the wives of other scientists to distract from the immense pressure environment of the classified assignment. More importantly, Kitty served as an important sounding board for her beleaguered spouse. 

"She was a pretty monumental presence in his life as a confidante, and as a real scientific brain herself," Blunt explained. "But she was, you know, a very big personality. Not necessarily one to confirm to a housewife ideal of the time. A very big character."

Falling into a comfortable rhythm with Murphy was rather easy after sharing the screen in A Quiet Place Part II. "If actors have worked together, and it's gone well, and they're friends, something happens on screen," Murphy said. "And that journey that these characters in Oppenheimer have to make is kind of an extraordinary one. I think it benefits in two ways, because Emily is one of the greatest actors around, and then we have this history together already."

Oppenheimer hits the big screen Friday, July 21.

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