February 21, 2024

Christopher Nolan on Why Sex Scenes Were ‘Necessary’

  • Christopher Nolan never made a sex scene in one of his films until “Oppenheimer.”
  • Nolan told Insider that it’s “an essential part” of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s story.
  • Due to an affair with a Communist, played by Florence Pugh in the film, he lost his security clearance.

You probably know J. Robert Oppenheimer as the father of the atomic bomb.

After seeing “Oppenheimer,” you’ll know him as a ladies’ man, too.

Christopher Nolan’s latest film tells the story of Oppenheimer’s work in the The Manhattan Projectbut it also reveals that the famous physicist had many affairs while married, including one with a Communist, which got him into hot water.

Because of this side of Oppenheimer’s life, Nolan showed something he had never done before in his film: sex scenes.

“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 told Insider about the choice to include sex scenes.

One woman in particular plays an important role in the “Oppenheimer” story.

Jean Tatlock, played by Florence Pugh, is someone Oppenheimer is completely smitten with before the Manhattan Project.

Their love affair continues after Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy, marries Kitty, played by Emily Blunt.

Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt standing next to each other

Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt in “Oppenheimer.”

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal



But Tatlock is also a Communist. Because of her political affiliations, Nolan said his relationship with her had “enormous consequences for his later life and ultimate destiny”.

Basically, ten years after Oppenheimer successfully tested the atomic bomb, his security clearance was revoked after a security hearing in 1954 in which he was accused of having Communist ties.

Nolan said he wanted the sex scenes between Oppenheimer and Tatlock to show why the relationship transcended politics.

“It felt very important to understand their relationship and really see inside it and understand what made him tick without being condescending or allusive about it, but to try to be personal, to try to be there with him and fully understand the relationship that was so important to him,” he said.

Nolan also answered whether he is nervous about how audiences will react to sex scenes in one of his films.

“Anytime you’re challenging yourself to work in areas you haven’t worked in before, you should be appropriately nervous and take appropriate care and plan and prepare,” he said.

Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock i "Oppenheimer."

Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock in “Oppenheimer.”

Universal Pictures



Nolan gave all the praise to his actors: Murphy, with whom he has worked on several films, and Pugh, who he wants to work with.

“I met her and felt an immediate creative connection,” he said of the famous “Little Women” actress. “I felt that this was someone who could bring Jean Tatlock to life and make the audience understand the importance of this figure in Oppenheimer’s life.”

“Oppenheimer” opens in theaters Friday.

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