One of the most anticipated films of the year, though it may be controversial in some countries. Florence Pugh’s Oppenheimer scene has been censored in many countries.
Pugh plays Jean Tatlock, a physicist who has an affair with J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy). In one scene, the two have sexual intercourse and Pugh’s character is nude. In some areas like the Middle East or India, Florence Pugh’s nudity is covered up with a CGI black dress. Nolan is notorious for not using CGI in his films—like the zero-gravity scene in Inception or even making the atomic bomb that’s featured in the film with practical effects.
It was the first time that director Christopher Nolan had directed a sex scene. “Any time you’re challenging yourself to work in areas you haven’t worked in before, you should be appropriately nervous and appropriately careful and planned and prepared,” the filmmaker told Insider. “When you look at Oppenheimer’s life and you look at his story, that aspect of his life, the aspect of his sexuality, his way with women, the charm that he exuded, it’s an essential part of his story.”
In the scene, Tatlock and Oppenheimer are having sexual intercourse. Tatlock picks up the sacred Bhagavad Gita from his bookshelf and asks him to read from it. Oppenheimer recites the famous, “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds” line. Oppenheimer would later use the same line in an interview after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Nolan explained his creative decision to include the personal and private life of J. Robert Oppenheimer. “It felt very important to understand their relationship and to really see inside it and understand what made it tick without being coy or allusive about it, but to try to be intimate, to try and be in there with him and fully understand the relationship that was so important to him.” He also praised Pugh’s portrayal. “I met with her and immediately felt a creative connection. I felt this is somebody who could bring Jean Tatlock to life and have the audience understand the significance of this figure in Oppenheimer’s life.”
The sex scene was edited to pass with a U/A certificate by India’s film certification standards, where movies “can contain moderate adult themes, that is not strong in nature and can be watched by a child below 12 years of age under parental guidance,” according to India’s Central Board of Film Certification.
The scene garnered backlash from the right-Hindu citizens of India. Uday Mahurkar, founder of the Save Culture Save India (SCSI) Foundation, tweeted “The Bhagwad Geeta is one of the most revered scriptures of Hinduism. Geeta has been the inspiration for countless sanyasis, brahmcharis and legends who live a life of self-control and perform selfless noble deeds. We do not know the motivation and logic behind this unnecessary scene on life of a scientist. But this is a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus, rather it amounts to waging a war on the Hindu community and almost appears to be part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces.”
Cillian Murphy also defended the sex scenes with Florence Pugh. “Those scenes were written deliberately,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “He knew that those scenes would get the movie the rating that it got. And I think when you see it, it’s so f—ing powerful. And they’re not gratuitous. They’re perfect. And Florence is just amazing.”
“I have loved Florence’s work since Lady Macbeth and I think she’s f—ing phenomenal,” Murphy continued. “She has this presence as a person and on screen that is staggering. The impact she has [in Oppenheimer] for the size of the role, it’s quite devastating.”
Pugh was in awe of working with Nolan recalling that it was one of her bucketlist items. “I had no expectations, other than the fact that he is probably the director that every single actor would race across the world for and pay for their own plane ticket,” she told Digital Spy. No one could have prepared me for what it was like to work with him because that in itself is the experience. would have been totally happy to never have seen this movie, just like being on that set and watching how that man conducts the set and how he conducts the people around him was thrilling enough. “That was the gift, and it’s also wonderful that he also produces something amazing.”
Despite the backlash, Oppenheimer garnered about $82 million in domestic box office and added $98 million for a global tally of $180 million. Fierce competitor—and other hallmark of the term Barbenheimer— Barbie gained $180 million at domestic box office.
Murphy also praised his frequent collaborator in an interview with The Playlist. “I’ve said this before, I think [Nolan]’s the perfect director. Because he writes his material, he’s incredibly strong visually. There’s nobody who’s presenting movies the way Chris does in that IMAX format and in that immersive way that he presents films. And he’s extraordinary with actors. He is amazing with actors. And I think the reason that his films succeed even though they work with such a massive canvas, is because the performances are so fantastic. And he allows you freedom, he allows you space to find the character, to find the work. And the scenes never, ever, ever feel rushed. The most important thing on a set with Chris is the performances. I know his films are so visually stunning and there are these amazing spectacles in there, but they always come secondary to the performances.”
“I do think that he believed it would be the weapon to end all wars,” Murphy told NME. “He thought that [having the bomb] would motivate countries to form a sort of nuclear world governance. He was naive.”
Murphy described the director’s take on his character. “Chris used this amazing phrase,” he said. “We were talking about Oppenheimer’s arc and he said, ‘You know, he’s dancing between the raindrops morally.’ That unlocked something in my mind when I was preparing.”
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The definitive biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress. In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty-five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer’s life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War. This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative. See why the New York Times says it’s “a work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer’s essential nature… It succeeds in deeply fathoming his most damaging, self-contradictory behavior.”