Christopher Nolan cast real scientists as extras in Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Christopher Nolan cast real scientists as extras in Oppenheimer.

"We were in the real Los Alamos and we had a lot of real scientists as extras," Nolan told Entertainment Weekly. "We needed the crowd of extras to give reactions, and improvise, and we were getting sort of impromptu, very educated speeches. It was really fun to listen to."

"You've been on sets where you've got a lot of extras around and they're more or less thinking about lunch," Nolan continued. "These guys were thinking about the geopolitical implications of nuclear arms and knew a lot about it. It actually was a great reminder every day of: We have to be really on our game, we have to be faithful to the history here, and really know what we're up to."

Cillian Murphy stars as J. Robert Oppenheimer, an American theoretical physicist and head of the secret Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II – and the man who developed the atom bomb. He was heavily involved with the Manhattan Project, which is credited with developing the first nuclear weapons used to bomb the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The epic delves into the chaos surrounding communism and the nuclear arms race, as well as Oppenheimer's tumultuous personal life.

"I’m interested in the man and what [inventing the atomic bomb] does to the individual," Murphy told The Guardian last year.

The star-studded cast includes Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock, a psychiatrist and member of the Communist Party of the United States who had an on-and-off affair with Oppenheimer; Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss, chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission; Benny Safdie as Edward Telle, father of the Hydrogen bomb; Josh Hartnett as Nobel Prize winner Ernest Lawrence; Gary Oldman as Harry S Truman; and Tom Conti as Albert Einstein.

Oppenheimer lands in theaters on July 23, 2023. For more, check out our list of the most exciting upcoming movies, or skip straight to the good stuff with our list of movie release dates.

Lauren Milici
Senior Writer, Tv & Film

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more.