It’s only been a week since talk of Christopher Nolan’s untitled film about J. Robert Oppenheimer’s role in the development of the atomic bomb started swirling around the internet, but we’ve already learned quite a bit. Just a few days ago it was reported that after being shopped around to several studios, the film has found financing and distribution with Universal Pictures. But what else do we know? Let’s break it down.
Over the last week or two director Christopher Nolan met with various executives from traditional studios like Universal and Sony, as well as streamers like Netflix and Apple. They visited Nolan’s home in the Hollywood Hills (where the director often does some pre-production and post-production tasks) to read the script and discuss the needs of the project. Reportedly Nolan wanted total creative control, a minimum 100-day theatrical window, an approximate $100 million production budget with a marketing budget to match, 20% of first-dollar gross, and a blackout period where the chosen studio would not release any other movies for 3 weeks before or after Nolan’s. Altogether these are a unique set of requests that not many filmmakers can ask for, and not many studios can easily agree to. In the end, Universal was eager to play ball with one of the world’s most sought after filmmakers.
Now that the film has a home with Universal Pictures, production is believed to begin in the first quarter of 2022. We don’t know about specific filming locations yet, but we do know some important locations in the Oppenheimer story. New Mexico in particular is a significant location as it was the home to the Los Alamos Laboratory where Oppenheimer was the director during the development of the atomic bomb. In addition, the infamous Trinity test where the first detonation of a nuclear device occurred was conducted in middle of the Jornada del Muerto desert in New Mexico as well. It seems likely we’ll also see locations for various events from the war in the Pacific and Japan.
Initially Deadline reported that Cillian Murphy was in talks for a role in the film. However, they seem to have backed away from that stance in the time since the first report. Nolan and Murphy have worked together on Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Dunkirk, making Murphy the director’s most frequent acting collaborator aside from Sir Michael Caine. Speculation is that the scope of the project is large enough for there to be several sizable roles. And while we’re on the topic of speculation, we’ll mention that we were the first to point out that Robert Pattinson gave Nolan a book of Oppenheimer speeches at the Tenet wrap party. Does this indicate a common interest in the subject matter, and perhaps an inclination for further collaboration between the two? Perhaps.
With production on Nolan’s untitled Oppenheimer film starting in early 2022, a 2023 release seems the most logical. However, some reports have mentioned a possible 2024 release date instead. It has even been speculated an extended post-production timeline is possible as the film could be VFX heavy. Others have wondered if the 3 week release blackout that is rumored to be part of the Universal deal is pushing the film to a less crowded summer. Or perhaps a more stable summer in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. What we find curious is whether or not the film will be a summer release, like most of Nolan’s movies have been, or if it will be a more awards season focused release happening late fall or holiday 2023. When we do get a release date, it may give us a better clue as to the type of film Nolan is making.
All and all we’re pretty excited about this project — to no one’s surprise. We find the Oppenheimer/atomic bomb story to be a fascinating one filled with ripe opportunity for one of Nolan’s hallmark morally ambiguous and conflicted protagonists. As we learn more about this project, we’ll keep you updated. If you want to be the first to know, there is no better place to keep up to date than our forums page. Truly. I recommend subscribing to the Oppenheimer – Updates Thread which will only send out email alerts if fresh news is published. Stay tuned!