Christopher Nolan compares Oppenheimer to Batman, but says Cillian Murphy’s character is more “ambiguous and paradoxical”

When “Oppenheimer” hits theaters this summer, it will mark the second time Christopher Nolan has directed a film based on a true story. While he had success with the WWII thriller “Dunkirk,” he typically focuses on original and wildly imaginative genre projects. So what prompted him to tell the story of the man who invented the atomic bomb?

In a new interview with Total film, Nolan explained that his interest in Oppenheimer stemmed from his career-long fondness for “protagonists who have ambiguities about them.” Lui said the inventor’s morally ambiguous approach to his work put him firmly in line with other famous Nolan characters, including the Dark Knight himself.

“I think of any character I’ve dealt with, Oppenheimer is by far the most ambiguous and paradoxical. Which, given that I’ve made three Batman movies, says a lot.”

Nolan praised Cillian Murphy’s ability to embody the complex character, saying his frequent collaborator may have been the only actor who could handle the job.

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“Truthfully, there aren’t many actors that you could say, in a first-person approach, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be this guy for three hours,'” he said. “You are making a request of an actor that very few actors in the history of cinema can fulfill. I will say that even with that trust in him, he continually surprised me on set every day. And when we went into the editing suite and were putting the performance together, and seeing the truth, I was absolutely blown away.

Murphy echoed Nolan’s sentiments, adding that his fascination with the character only grew once he got past superficial historical facts and began digging into Oppenheimer’s psyche.

“I think I have Wikipedia-level knowledge of Oppenheimer, as do most people,” Murphy said. “So it was… well, it was just starting from scratch, really. Chris walked me through this. You can only do this one bite at a time. You have to go slow. And luckily we had time.

“Oppenheimer” will be released in theaters on Friday, July 21. Find out more details about the film here.