Christopher Nolan does not think Oppenheimer should be classified as a biopic. The film tells the tale of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s efforts on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. On a budget of just $100 million, it was an incredible box office success thanks to a star-studded cast and social media appeal, grossing nearly $950 million.
Speaking at the Graduate Centre for the City University of New York with producer Emma Thomas and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Kai Bird, who co-wrote the novel Oppenheimer. When questioned why Oppenheimer doesn’t feature details of the title character’s childhood, Nolan dismissed the biopic idea.
“There is a tendency in biography post-Freud to attribute characteristics of the person you’re dealing with to their genetics from their parents. It’s a very reductive view of a human being,” Nolan said. “If you’re writing a book that’s 500 pages or 1,000 pages, there’s a way to balance that with their individuality and experiences. When you compress and strip down to the necessary simplicity of a screenplay, it’s incredibly reductive.“
Nolan continued, “This is where the concept of a biopic fails you completely as a genre. It’s not a useful genre. I love working in useful genres. In this film…it’s the heist film as it applies to the Manhattan Project and the courtroom drama as it applies to the security hearings. It’s very useful to look at the conventions of those genres and how they can pull the audience and how they can give me communication with the audience.“
“Biopic is something that applies to a film that is not quite registering in a dramatic fashion,” Nolan added, “You don’t talk about ‘Laurence of Arabia’ as a biopic. You don’t talk about ‘Citizen Kane’ as a biopic. It’s an adventure film. It’s a film about somebody’s life. It’s not a useful genre the same way drama is not a useful genre. It doesn’t give you anything to hold onto.“
Oppenheimer is a film written for the big screen and directed by Christopher Nolan. “into the mind of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), whose landmark work on the Manhattan Project created the first atomic bomb.” Kenneth Branagh, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, and Cillian Murphy are among the film’s notable cast members.
On November 21st, Oppenheimer will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital.