Christopher Nolan doesn’t consider Oppenheimer to be a biopic: “It’s not a useful genre”

Christopher Nolan doesn’t consider Oppenheimer to be a biopic, saying that it’s not a useful genre.

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer sits at $942 million at the worldwide box office, which makes it the highest-grossing biopic of all time, but it’s a genre label that the director disputes.

Christopher Nolan recently spoke at a City University of New York event alongside producer Emma Thomas and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kai Bird, who co-wrote the novel on which Oppenheimer is based. When asked why Oppenheimer doesn’t include aspects of the title character’s childhood, Nolan rejected the idea of the biopic.

There is a tendency in biography post-Freud to attribute characteristics of the person you’re dealing with to their genetics from their parents. It’s a very reductive view of a human being,” Nolan said. “If you’re writing a book that’s 500 pages or 1,000 pages, there’s a way to balance that with their individuality and experiences. When you compress and strip down to the necessary simplicity of a screenplay, it’s incredibly reductive.

Nolan continued, “This is where the concept of a biopic fails you completely as a genre. It’s not a useful genre. I love working in useful genres. In this film…it’s the heist film as it applies to the Manhattan Project and the courtroom drama as it applies to the security hearings. It’s very useful to look at the conventions of those genres and how they can pull the audience and how they can give me communication with the audience.

Biopic is something that applies to a film that is not quite registering in a dramatic fashion,” Nolan added, “You don’t talk about ‘Laurence of Arabia’ as a biopic. You don’t talk about ‘Citizen Kane’ as a biopic. It’s an adventure film. It’s a film about somebody’s life. It’s not a useful genre the same way drama is not a useful genre. It doesn’t give you anything to hold onto.

Written for the screen and directed by Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer thrusts audiences “into the mind of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), whose landmark work on the Manhattan Project created the first atomic bomb.” In addition to Cillian Murphy, the film features an all-star cast that includes Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh.

Oppenheimer will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital on November 21st.

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