Having previously explored World War II for 2017’s Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan will delve into a different aspect of that conflict for his follow-up to the time-twisty Tenet. The filmmaker is making a biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who played an integral role in developing the atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project. Based on the book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, this will be Nolan’s first movie since Insomnia that’s not being housed at Warner Bros., with Universal Pictures instead financing and distributing the biopic.
We are closely approaching the highly-anticipated release of Oppenheimer on the big screen, for which Nolan and his team have assembled a top-notch cast. Let’s go over the actors who have been brought aboard for the biopic, starting with the man who was selected to play the title character.
Cillian Murphy (J. Robert Oppenheimer)
Cillian Murphy and Christopher Nolan go way back, with the former starring as Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow, in 2005’s Batman Begins. In addition to Murphy briefly reprising Crane in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, he also appeared in Inception as Robert Michael Fischer, followed by Dunkirk as a shell-shocked shivering soldier. Now he gets to take center stage for a Nolan movie by playing J. Robert Oppenheimer, who’s been called the “father of the atomic bomb.” Outside of Nolan’s sphere, along with leading the TV series Peaky Blinders, Murphy was also recently seen as Emmett in A Quiet Place Part II, which is where he worked with the next actor on this list.
Emily Blunt (Katherine Puening)
In the role of Oppenheimer’s wife, Katherine Puening, we have the second actor announced to star in the biopic, Emily Blunt, who previously played a woman heavily involved in a war in the classic time loop movie, Edge of Tomorrow. Her character of Evelyn Abbott and her children crossed paths with Murphy’s character during the chaotic events of A Quiet Place Part II, but if horror isn’t your thing, maybe you’ve seen the actress in Disney flicks like Mary Poppins Returns and Jungle Cruise, or in 2006 in her breakout performance in The Devil Wears Prada.
Robert Downey Jr. (Lewis Strauss)
While it was initially unclear whom Robert Downey Jr. would play when his casting was reported, we’ve since learned he scored the role of Lewis Strauss – the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Chairman who frequently clashed with Oppenheimer post-World War II over a number of issues to the point where he questioned the scientist’s patriotism and got his security clearance revoked in 1954. Anyone who follows along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is a fan of Iron Man, especially, doesn’t need to be told who this Oscar nominee (for Chaplin) is, but others may recognize him from Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies and should keep an eye out for his upcoming Max original series, The Sympathizer.
Matt Damon (Lt. General Leslie Groves)
At the same time Downey’s casting was announced, Matt Damon (who had a surprise role in Interstellar) was revealed to be joining the Oppenheimer cast and eventually confirmed to play Manhattan Project director, Lt. General Leslie Groves, who was one of the few people confident in the titular scientist’s abilities. The Academy Award winner (for co-writing Good Will Hunting) has kept a steady presence on the film front in recent years with Ford V. Ferrari, No Sudden Move, Stillwater, The Last Duel, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (the latter of which saw him reprising his Dogma character Loki), and Amazon Prime’s Air.
Florence Pugh (Jean Tatlock)
Cast in the role of Jean Tatlock – a Communist Party member Oppenheimer had a romantic connection to – is Florence Pugh. In recent years, the Midsommar actress has been getting more on-screen attention than ever as Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (which earned her an Oscar nomination), Yelena Belova in the MCU, and leading the Don’t Worry Darling cast alongside Harry Styles.
Benny Safdie (Edward Teller)
According to Deadline, acclaimed writer and director Benny Safdie stars in Oppenheimer as Edward Teller – a theoretical physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and is known as the “father of the hydrogen bomb.” Arguably best known for making movies like Uncut Gems with his brother, Josh, he’s also been assembling an acting resume that includes playing opposite Robert Pattinson in Good Time (which he and Josh also co-wrote and helmed), Licorice Pizza as politician Joel Sachs, and Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi cast in the brief role of a Jedi in hiding.
Dylan Arnold (Frank Oppenheimer)
Playing Robert’s younger brother, Frank Oppenheimer, is Dylan Arnold. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, maybe you’ll recognize him as Cameron Elam in 2018’s Halloween and its sequel, Halloween Kills, or from his recurring stints in the short-lived The Purge series and Nashville, or his starring role in the You Season 3 cast for Netflix.
Michael Angarano (Robert Serber)
Playing Robert Serber, another member of the Manhattan Project, in his biggest movie in a long time (or, arguably, ever) is Michael Angarano. Those of you who were kids/teens in the 2000s likely remember him as Will Stronghold from Disney's non-Marvel or DC superhero movie, Sky High. Others may remember him better in his younger years recurring as Elliot on Will & Grace or from his more recent work, which includes starring in Cinemax’s The Knick and Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, along with recurring on This is Us.
Danny Deferrari (Enrico Fermi)
Another important member of the Manhattan Project who will be present in Oppenheimer is Enrico Fermi – creator of the world’s first nuclear reactor and nicknamed “the architect of the nuclear age” – whom Danny Deferrari has been tapped to play. Some may remember him as Andrew Madoff in ABC’s 2016 miniseries, Madoff, the acclaimed 2021 indie Shiva Baby, or appearances on Chicago Med, Blue Bloods, and Ray Donovan: The Movie.
Josh Peck (Kenneth Bainbridge)
In Oppenheimer, Peck will play Kenneth Bainbridge, who worked on cyclotron research and directed the Manhattan Project’s Trinity nuclear test in 1945, which was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon. A good chunk of you reading this likely grew up watching him on The Amanda Show and/or Drake & Josh on Nickelodeon in the 2000s or remember him as the voice of Eddie in the Ice Age movies. He more recently starred in short-lived shows Grandfathered and Turner & Hooch, landed a recurring role alongside Hulu’s How I Met Your Father cast, and other big and small screen projects.
Emma Dumont (Jackie Oppenheimer)
Emma Dumont will appear in Oppenheimer as Jackie Oppenheimer, a UC Berkeley economics student and Communist Party member who marries Frank Oppenheimer, despite the protests of his older brother. If you’re an X-Men fan, you might have seen the actor bring Lorna Dane, a.k.a. Polaris, to life in the short-lived Marvel TV show, The Gifted, or play Brenda in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza.
Gustaf Skarsgård (Hans Bethe)
Another scientist who will be represented in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is Hans Bethe, who was head of the Theoretical Division at the Los Alamos laboratory, where he helped in calculating the critical mass of the atomic weapons and developed the implosion method used at the Trinity test and the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Bethe will be played by Gustaf Skarsgård, whom Vikings fans will recognize as Floki. Skarsgård also recurred on five episodes of Westworld and played Merlin in the short-lived Netflix series, Cursed.
Devon Bostick (Seth Neddermeyer)
Devon Bostick is slated to appear in Oppenheimer as Seth Neddermeyer, the physicist from the Manhattan Project who discovered the muon elementary particle and later championed for the Implosion-type nuclear weapon. In his younger years, Bostick starred in three of the live-action Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies as Rodrick Heffley and, on TV, he chiefly impressed as Jasper Jordan four seasons on The CW’s The 100.
Rami Malek (David Hill)
Working with Nolan for this first time is Rami Malek as physicist David Hill in Oppenheimer. Along with having starred as Eliot Anderson in the TV series Mr. Robot, Malek has impressed with his Academy Award-winning performance as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, as well as for antagonizing Daniel Craig’s James Bond as Lyutsifer Safin in No Time to Die.
Josh Hartnett (Ernest Lawrence)
Playing Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist and close friend of Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence (according to The Daily Mail), finally gives Josh Hartnett the opportunity to work with Nolan after he turned down the role of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. The actor is no stranger to war movies, having appeared with Ben Affleck in 2001’s Pearl Harbor and led the cast of Black Hawk Down, but film fans may also recognize him from Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, the Sin City cast, or as Ethan Chandler/The Wolf Man in Penny Dreadful.
Dane DeHaan (Kenneth Nichols)
As Kenneth Nichols -- District engineer of the Manhattan Project -- we have Dane DeHaan, who first broke out as Andrew Detmer in the acclaimed found footage thriller, Chronicle, before playing Harry Osborn/The Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The actor would more recently build up a crime and horror following thanks to projects like A Cure for Wellness, The Stranger, and Lisey’s Story. DeHaan more recently starred in Max’s The Staircase cast, but Oppenheimer marks his first movie since starring as Billy the Kid in the 2019 Western, The Kid.
Jack Quaid (Richard Feynman)
Jack Quaid confirmed on his Instagram that he is playing theoretical physicist Richard Feynman in his first Nolan Project. The son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, who got his start in the first Hunger Games movie cast, is another Oppenheimer star with superhero cred thanks to playing Hughie Campbell in The Boys, as well as a Scream King for playing Richie Kirsch in the fifth Scream movie, and a sci-fi veteran having voiced Brad Boimler in Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Matthew Modine (Vannevar Bush)
According to ScreenRant, Matthew Modine is playing the head of the U.S. Department of Research and Development, Vannevar Bush, in his first collaboration with Nolan since playing Peter Foley in The Dark Knight Rises. He rose to fame by starring in movies like Full Metal Jacket and Pacific Heights, but fans of Netflix’s Stranger Things cast will recognize him as Dr. Martin Brenner.
Olli Haaskivi (Edward Condon)
If you didn’t catch Olli Haaskivi’s recurring roles on shows like The Sinner, The Deuce and Manifest, maybe you’ll know him as the face of Dr. Wilfred Nagel, the man who recreated the Super Soldier Serum, in the MCU series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Haaskivi is also set to play Phil Knight in HBO’s Winning Time, but fingers crossed that his role as Edward Condon in Oppenheimer paves the way for him to appear in more high-profile movies.
Alden Ehrenreich (Senate Aide)
Alden Ehrenreich made his first big splash in Hollywood as Hobie Doyle in 2016’s Hail, Caesar!, but more people undoubtedly know him as young Han Solo in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. Since then, Aldenreich has starred in Peacock’s Brave New World series, appeared in Elizabeth Banks’ 2023 horror-comedy, Cocaine Bear, and is, sort of, taking a cue from his Oppenheimer co-star, Robert Downey Jr., by joining the Ironheart cast for Disney+'s upcoming Marvel TV show.
David Krumholtz (Isidor Isaac Rabi)
David Krumholtz shared an Oppenheimer still of himself with the caption “Isidor Isaac Rabi” on Instagram, indicating that he is playing the Nobel Prize-winning physicist known for discovering nuclear magnetic resonance. Some of you may know the actor best as Head Elf Bernard from the first two Santa Clause movies, while others may be more familiar with him as Charlie Eppes on CBS’ Numb3rs or remember him fondly as Goldstein from the Harold & Kumar movies. Regardless, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the man’s resume, with some of his other notable TV credits including Serenity, This Is The End, The Good Wife, The Deuce and The Plot Against America.
Kenneth Branagh (Niels Bohr)
For his third time working with Christopher Nolan, having previously starred in Dunkirk and Tenet, Kenneth Branagh stars as Danish, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Niels Bohr. From early work like Henry V to his outings as Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, Branagh has taken part in all sorts of cinematic endeavors, both in front of and behind the camera. Regarding the latter, he won the 2022 Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama, Belfast.
David Dastmalchian (William L. Borden)
Christopher Nolan is an especially important person in the professional life of David Dastmalchian, who plays executive director of the United States Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, William L. Borden, in Oppenheimer. The director cast him as Thomas Schiff in The Dark Knight, his first movie, where he shared screen time with Christian Bale’s Batman and Aaron Eckhardt’s Harvey Dent. Since then, Dastmalchian has racked up major credits like Prisoners, the first two Ant-Man movies, Blade Runner 2049, The Suicide Squad, and Dune.
Jason Clarke (Roger Robb)
As Roger Robb -- an attorney who participated in a hearing regarding Oppenheimer's security clearance -- we have another person who’s working with Nolan for the first time: Jason Clarke. You’ll recognize him from movies like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Terminator Genisys, Mudbound, Chappaquiddick, First Man, the Pet Sematary remake, Netflix’s The Devil All the Time, and HBO’s fact-based basketball drama, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.
Louise Lombard (Ruth Tolman)
As American psychologist Ruth Tolman, we have Louise Lombard, who was arguably best known film-wise for 2004’s Hidalgo, but now fans of the After movies are well acquainted with her as Trish Daniels from the last three installments. Her TV resume, on the other hand, is much longer, with some of the bigger shows including the BBC’s The House of Eliott, CSI, Grimm, and Lethal Weapon. Now she’s taking part in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which is unquestionably her biggest cinematic appearance yet.
James D'Arcy (Patrick Blackett)
As British physicist Patrick Blackett, we have James D'Arcy, whom Marvel fans will remember as Edwin Jarvis in the Agent Carter TV series and Avengers: Endgame, while others may know him better from shows like Broadchurch, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and The Hot Zone. Oppenheimer marks the actor’s second time being paired with Nolan, with the two of them first working together on Dunkirk, in a career that also includes movies like Cloud Atlas, Hitchcock, Jupiter Ascending, and The Snowman.
David Rysdahl (Donald Hornig)
Starring as chemist and explosives expert Donald Hornig is David Rysdahl, whom fans of the Hulu horror movie No Exit will recognize as Lars -- one of the four suspects at the rest lodge. Rysdahl also made a name for himself in the independent film world with appearances in Nine Days and Dead Pigs, the latter hailing from Cathy Yan, who would go on to direct Birds of Prey. Oppenheimer is a major cinematic credit to add to his filmography and, perhaps, will open the door to him appearing in more mainstream fare.
Guy Burnet (George Eltenton)
Fans of the Chicago Fire cast might remember Oppenheimer's George Eltenton actor, Guy Burnet, for his recurring role as Grant back in Season 5, while others might know him from multiple episodes of shows like Hand of God and Counterpart. On the film side of things, Burnet has appeared in Asher, Mortdecai, Pitch Perfect 3, and the 2022 horror flick, Bed Rest, starring Scream’s Melissa Barrerra.
Harrison Gilbertson (Philip Morrison)
Looking over the resume of Harrison Gilbertson -- a student of Oppenheimer's whom he recruited onto the Manhattan Project -- among the big things that pop out are his role as Pete Coleman in 2014’s Need for Speed, as well as playing Travis McKean in Netflix’s adaptation of the Stephen King/Joe Hill story, In The Tall Grass. Also prior to being brought into the Oppenheimer family, Gilbertson recurred alongside The Peripheral cast for Amazon’s sci-fi series hailed from Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan (Christopher’s brother) and Lisa Joy.
Matthias Schweighöfer (Werner Heisenberg)
As influential German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg, we have Matthias Schweighöfer, who popped up in the Tom Cruise-led political thriller Valkyrie back in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2021 that a lot of American moviegoers got to know him. Schweighöfer starred as Ludwig Dieter in Netflix’s Army of the Dead cast for writer and director Zack Snyder, and months later, reprised that role for the prequel, Army of Thieves, which he also directed. He is keeping his run with the streaming platform going with Gal Gadot’s 2023 Netflix movie, Heart of Stone.
Alex Wolff (Luis Walter Alvarez)
Prior to being cast in Oppenheimer as Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Luis Walter Alvarez, Alex Wolff hit the entertainment scene in his youth as one of the leads of Nickelodeon’s The Naked Brothers Band, and younger moviegoers will recognize him as Spencer Gilpin from the recent Jumanji movies. As far as Wolff’s more “adult” work goes, his film appearances include, Hereditary (one of the best A24 horror movies), The Cat and the Moon, Bad Education, Pig with Nicolas Cage, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Old.
Gary Oldman (Harry S. Truman)
The Dark Knight Trilogy’s James Gordon actor, Gary Oldman, is reuniting with Christopher Nolan to play President Harry S. Truman in Oppenheimer, according to Esquire. This will be the second time the chameleonic actor has portrayed a notable WWII-era political figure after his Academy Award-winning turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.
Trond Fausa (George Kistiakowsky)
Playing Ukrainian chemist George Kistiakowsky is Trond Fausa, whose credits largely consist of Norwegian productions, but some might know him from Lilyhammer -- the Norwegian-American TV series Netflix provided as its first exclusive offering in North America. Fausa also lent his talents to the later Netflix series, The Innocents, which only lasted a season.
Christopher Denham (Klaus Fuchs)
According to The Digital Fix, Klaus Fuchs – a German scientist who shared information from the research effort with the Soviet Union as a spy, as a New York Times article recalls – will be portrayed in Oppenheimer by Christopher Denham. Fans of the Showtime series Billions will recognize the actor for playing Oliver Dake, while on the movies side of things, he’s popped up in Shutter Island, Argo, and, most recently, the Being the Ricardos cast, to name a few. Coincidentally, Oppenheimer won’t be Denham’s first time acting in a project focused on the Manhattan Project, as he played Jim Meeks in the short-lived WGN series, Manhattan.
Josh Zuckerman (Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz)
The majority of Josh Zuckerman’s acting work before playing American physicist Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz in Oppenheimer has been on TV, from guest stints on series like House and The Big Bang Theory, to recurring on shows like Desperate Housewives and 90210. That being said, you might recall Zuckerman appearing in Austin Powers in Goldmember as a young Dr. Evil, the independent sci-fi horror comedy, Useless Humans, or Paramount+’s The Offer cast (which chronicles the making of The Godfather).
Olivia Thirlby (Lilli Hornig)
As Czech-American scientist and feminist Lilli Hornig, we have Olivia Thirlby, whom some may also recognize as Judge Anderson in Dredd. In more recent years, the Juno star appeared on TV in shows like Goliath and The L Word: Generation Q, had role in the Y: The Last Man cast for its short time on FX, and starred alongside Oppenheimer co-star Jason Clarke in another historical drama called Chappaquiddick.
Tom Conti (Albert Einstein)
We know from a recent teaser for Oppenheimer that Albert Einstein will be depicted in the film and we know from a Variety article that the influential German scientist is portrayed by Tom Conti. The Academy Award-nominated actor (for 1983’s Reuben, Reuben) previously worked with Nolan when he played one of Bruce Wayne’s fellow prisoners of the Pit in The Dark Knight Rises.
Casey Affleck (Boris Pash)
Reuniting with Nolan on Oppenheimer for the first time since he appeared in Interstellar is Casey Affleck as Boris Pash, who was put in charge of security at Los Alamos. The actor is best known for starring alongside his brother, Ben -- whose marriage to J. Lo he missed, unfortunately -- and fellow Oppenheimer star, Matt Damon, in Good Will Hunting and his Academy Award-winning performance in the 2016 drama, Manchester by the Sea.
Can you recall another movie with an ensemble this large and exploding with renowned, high-profile names? The stacked Oppenheimer cast is just one of the many reasons why Nolan’s latest became one of the biggest 2023 movies.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.