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Oppenheimer Stars Explain Why Working with Christopher Nolan Is an "Instant Yes"

Oppenheimer's Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, and Matt Damon explain the excitement of collaborating with director Christopher Nolan.

By Caitlin Busch

Christopher Nolan, the legendary director behind mindbending blockbusters such as Inception, Interstellar, and Tenet, is known to attract plenty of A-list talent. The same can be said for his latest project, Oppenheimer, which boasts perhaps his most impressive list of top-tier Hollywood actors yet: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Rami Malek ... and many more.

Murphy, who embodies the titular inventor of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, is a frequent Nolan collaborator, but Oppenheimer marks his first time as his leading man.

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"[Nolan] called me up — he didn't tell me he was writing it or anything like that," Murphy told NBC Insider of when he first found out about the part. "That's the way he works. It's [a] very kind of understated, English manner. He just called me up and said, 'I'm going to do this movie, I'd like you to play Oppenheimer.'

"It's an instant yes for me whatever the size of the part with Chris," he continued. "But this was ... it was a huge and brilliant shock, you know?"

Matt Damon, who plays the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers Brigadier General who recruited Oppenheimer for the Manhattan Project, Leslie Groves, was also quick to sing Nolan's praises as a director and collaborator. 

"I'll do anything with Chris Nolan," Damon, who previously worked with Nolan on Interstellar, said. "It was great — amazing, really, to get a call for this one because it is the biggest story of the last 100 years if not the history of our species, right? — when atomic weapons and eventually nuclear weapons were created. So to have what's at stake there kind of told by Chris Nolan at really the height of his ability, it's a real privilege to be a part of it." 

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And it's not just the director himself but the environment he creates on set. Emily Blunt, who plays Oppenheimer's wife and biggest advocate, Katherine "Kitty" Oppenheimer, called Nolan's sets "pulse-racing."

"It's so immersive," she said.

"It's as fun as it gets," Damon agreed. "Everybody knows they're lucky to be there. Every single department, all the way down, everybody is very, very happy to be there and you feel that. You can totally feel that, all day, every day."

Oppenheimer arrives exclusively in theaters everywhere on Friday, July 21.

Reporting by Stephanie Gomulka.

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