Even if that name doesn’t ring a bell, you almost certainly know who he is. Known as the father of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer is one of the most important figures of the 20th century––and now he’s the protagonist of one of the year’s biggest movies from Christopher Nolan, one of the biggest directors working today. Considering Nolan’s filmography––dark superhero epics like “The Dark Knight,” cerebral, twist-filled blockbusters like “Inception”––it might seem odd that he’s tackling a film about Oppenheimer. But the life, work and legacy of the man are more than deserving of a jump to the big screen, says Gretchen Heefner, an associate professor of history at Northeastern University.
His leadership in the Manhattan Project, the top secret operation to develop the atomic bomb before the Nazis, that culminated in the creation of a world-altering weapon is notable enough. His post-World War II disgust in what he had created and fierce attempt to regulate nuclear weapons even more so. But according to Heefner, he was also just “an interesting character” who seems almost tailor-made for the movies.
“He was this really complicated, interesting figure,” Heefner says. “He flirted with communism for a while. He was known to be volatile, difficult to work with yet apparently a good manager when he was at [the Manhattan Project’s] Los Alamos [lab].”