Christopher Nolan Let Oppenheimer Actor Change Script for Shocking Scene

One of the most shocking lines in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” was not scripted by the writer-director himself. It arrives during a scene where Cillian Murphy’s Oppenheimer is meeting with U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson and other government officials about where to drop the atomic bombs in Japan. Stimson tell the group to avoid bombing Kyoto because that’s where he and his wife honeymooned. It’s a stomach-churning line given Stimson’s off-hand delivery and the way he frames the atomic bombs’ destructive repercussions around his own interests.

During an interview with The New York Times, Nolan revealed that it was James Remar, the actor playing Stimson, who created that shocking line of dialogue. Because “Oppenheimer” features such a sprawling cast and Nolan’s script is mostly told through his main character’s perspective, the filmmaker encouraged his supporting actors to do their own thorough research on their roles. That’s where Remar discovered Stimson honeymooned in Kyoto.

“There’s a moment where James Remar… He kept talking to me about how he learned that Stimson and his wife had honeymooned in Kyoto,” Nolan said. “That was one of the reasons that Stimson took Kyoto off the list to be bombed. I had him crossing the city off the list because of its cultural significance, but I’m like, ‘Just add that.’ It’s a fantastically exciting moment where no one in the room knows how to react.”

“Each actor was coming to the table with research about what their real-life counterpart had been,” Nolan said earlier in the interview. “They had tons of homework to do. They had a great resource with ‘American Prometheus.’ They then did their own research and what it meant for me, which isn’t something I’d ever really been able to do in the past. So, for example, with the scene in the section classroom with all the scientists, we would be able to improvise the discussion. The script is there, but they could come into it with passion and knowledge based on all of their own learning.”

“Oppenheimer” has become a box office powerhouse for Universal Pictures since its July 21 release date. The film crossed the $180 million mark at the domestic box office in less than two weeks, and it’s already soared past $412 million worldwide. Considering “Oppenheimer” is a three-hour, R-rated biographical drama, these numbers are staggering.

Head over to The New York Times’ website to read Nolan’s interview in its entirety.

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