What does the first look at Cillian Murphy in Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer tell us?

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

A first look at Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer, the lavish new drama from Christopher Nolan, has been unveiled - and you can see him above. 

Murphy will lead the way in the film, which is a biopic of scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer. It will chart Oppenheimer's role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. He led the Manhattan Project, a research and development undertaking that came together during World War II, which ultimately ending up producing the first nuclear weapons.

Nolan is directing, working alongside his producing partner Emma Thomas. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Production is now underway in New Mexico, and, as you can see, it's charting new territory for Nolan. 

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What does the first look at Oppenheimer tell us?

Firstly, Murphy, already a slight fellow, has slimmed down even more than usual to capture Oppenheimer's rake-like physique. 

Secondly, Nolan won't feel cowed by any pressure from a major studio to avoid Oppenheimer's habits. The cigarette in the corner of Murphy's mouth is typical of Oppenheimer, who was a life-long chain smoker. 

Finally, and most intriguingly, the still is in black and white, which fits with a new announcement from Universal Pictures, which reveals that the movie is being shot on a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format film. 

According to Universal Pictures' press release, this will be the first project ever with sections in IMAX black and white analogue photography. Nolan is an IMAX devotee and has used the technology throughout his career. 

Now the use of the word "sections" implies that there will be some colour in the film, but just how much we don't know? Would Universal Pictures sign off on a black and white blockbuster? If anybody could make them say yes, it'd be Christopher Nolan. 

Is the Oppenheimer cast now set?

Not just yet. 

As well as a first look at Murphy in the role, Universal Pictures has also confirmed a swathe of new casting announcements for Oppenheimer, including the return of a Christopher Nolan regular.

Kenneth Branagh, who has worked with Nolan on his last two movies, Dunkirk and Tenet, is a new addition to the cast. As well as Branagh, there are also new additions in the shape of Alden Ehrenreich, David Krumholtz and Michael Angarano.

They join the previously announced Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Rami Malek, Josh Hartnett, Matthew Modine, Dane DeHaan, Jack Quaid, Dylan Arnold, Olli Haaskivi and Benny Safdie. It's one hell of a cast. 

Who is playing who in Oppenheimer?

Murphy will play Oppenheimer himself with Emily Blunt portraying his wife, Kitty. Matt Damon will play Lieutenant General Leslie Richard Groves Jr, a United States Army Corps of Engineers officer who directed the Manhattan Project, while Robert Downey Jr. will be playing former United States Secretary of Commerce, Lewis Strauss.

Florence Pugh is booked to play Jean Tatlock, a member of the Communist Party of the United States who had an affair with Oppenheimer, and Safdie will offer up a portrayal of Hungarian physicist Edward Teller, now known as the father of the hydrogen bomb. Dylan Arnold will play Oppenheimer's brother Frank and Harnett will portray pioneering nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence. 

The roles Malek, DeHaan, Haaskivi, Ehrenreich, Krumholtz, Angarano, Branagh, Quaid and Modine will be playing are yet to be confirmed. 

When will we see Oppenheimer?

Production on the movie is now underway, with the planned of a theatrical release date for July 21, 2023. 

The film is Nolan's first for Universal Pictures after his nine-movie run with Warner Brothers came to an end with the release of Tenet in 2020. 

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…