The Book Behind Oppenheimer Tops Bestseller Lists as Christopher Nolan Film Opens
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It was in 2021 that Christopher Nolan first read “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” Martin Sherwin and Kai Bird’s sweeping biography about the physicist dubbed the father of the atomic bomb. As Nolan is known for his epic and often extreme films, it makes sense that the prolific director was determined to adapt the explosive story, which had been optioned numerous times in Hollywood but never made it past development.
Two years later and Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” one of the most anticipated films of the year, is finally out.
The film, starring Cillian Murphy as the eponymous scientist, pulls straight from the 700-page biography, which traces Oppenheimer’s life starting with his time at Cambridge, where he earned a reputation as an intellectual prodigy. As a physicist, Oppenheimer made significant contributions to quantum mechanics and theoretical physics, earning him great respect among his peers.
The narrative takes a dramatic turn with the onset of World War II, when Oppenheimer was appointed as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret government initiative aimed at developing the first atomic bomb. His leadership and organizational skills were instrumental to the project, which culminated with the devastating nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over 200,000 Japanese people.
When Bird read Nolan’s screenplay, he was “struck by how faithful it was to the book, capturing what was always most important to Sherwin: the paradoxes at the heart of Oppenheimer’s character and the intimate details that dovetailed with enormous plate shifts of world history.”
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