Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” has generated a lot of headlines due to its nudity and sex scenes, the first of the director’s career. Cillian Murphy, who plays the title character in Nolan’s biographical drama, was recently asked by GQ UK to weigh in on all of the buzz surrounding the “Oppenheimer” sex scenes, to which Murphy said they were “vital” to the film. The film depicts sex between Oppenheimer and Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh), a physician with whom Oppenheimer had a romance with before and during his marriage to Katherine Puening (Emily Blunt).
“I think they were vital in this in this movie,” Murphy explained. “I think the relationship that he has with Jean Tatlock is one of the most crucial emotional parts of the film. I think if they’re key to the story then they’re worthwhile. Listen, no one likes doing them, they’re the most awkward possible part of our job. But sometimes you have to get on with it.”
Nolan shared similar thoughts in an Insider interview that published before the film’s theatrical opening. The film’s sex scenes are one of the reasons “Oppenheimer” is rated R — the first Nolan movie to receive that rating since 2002’s “Insomnia.”
“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,” Nolan said. “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.”
Another divisive scene in the movie arrives early on when Oppenheimer is a university student and injects cyanide into an apple that is on the desk of his professor, physicist Patrick Blackett (James D’Arcy). The moment arrives after a scene in which Blackett is tough on Oppenheimer in class and forces him to stay behind as the group goes to see a lecture by Niels Bohr (Kenneth Branagh), one of Oppenheimer’s personal heroes. Oppenheimer sneaks out anyway to see the lecture and then poisons the apple on Blackett’s desk. Later on, Oppenheimer walks into the classroom to see Bohr and Blackett chatting and Bohr is about to eat the apple. Oppenheimer snatches it away just in time.
Although the poisoned apple is lifted from “American Prometheus,” the Oppenheimer biography that serves as the source of Nolan’s screenplay, the book also makes it clear there’s no historical proof that Oppenheimer actually tried to kill his teacher. This is why Charles Oppenheimer, the grandson of J. Robert Oppenheimer, would’ve preferred the scene not make it into Nolan’s film.
“Sometimes facts get dragged through a game of telephone,” Charles told Time magazine. “In the movie, it’s treated vaguely and you don’t really know what’s going on unless you know this incredibly deep backstory. So it honestly didn’t bother me. It bothers me that it was in the biography with that emphasis, not a disclaimer of, this is an unsubstantiated rumor that we want to put in our book to make it interesting.”
Charles, who Nolan invited to visit the “Oppenheimer” set during filming, added, “I definitely would have removed the apple thing. But I can’t imagine myself giving advice about movie stuff to Nolan. He’s an expert, he’s the artist, and he’s a genius in this area.”
“Oppenheimer” is now playing in theaters nationwide from Universal Pictures.
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