By Kathleen Bangs, CNN, Updated 12:46 PM EDT, Tue September 12, 2023
It’s one thing standing in line to watch the blockbuster film “Oppenheimer.”
It’s another thing entirely queuing up in a remote desert to experience the location of the film’s most pivotal scene.
But if you’re a fan of atomic history and can swing central New Mexico this October, your pilgrimage through the Jornada del Muerto (Dead Man’s Journey) will be so worth the effort.
Saturday, October 21, presents a rare opportunity to visit not just one but two scientifically significant and movie-famous destinations on the same day – each occupying opposite ends of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Editor’s Note: One part of my screenplay-in-progress is set at the Trinity Site in New Mexico…
Christopher Nolan will finally make his biopic. The famous director had a stunted attempt to mount one two decades ago when he penned a screenplay about aviator Howard Hughes, which he later described as the best screenplay he’s ever written. The project died when Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator went into production first. Now, Nolan is working on a film about the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer.
However, Oppenheimer may very well break conventional biopic expectations. Nolan took his script to Universal after a rift with longtime collaborators Warner Bros. regarding the studio’s new policies of distribution via streaming, and Universal is describing the film as an epic thriller about an enigmatic man.
Cast in the lead role, Cillian Murphy has stated that “the story is there, everybody knows what happened, but Chris is telling it in a different way, as with Chris you would expect. That’s all I can say.”
The picture has amassed a formidable cast and crew. The script is by Nolan, adapted from the Pultizer-winning book American Prometheus. Ludwig Goransson will write the music, Hoyte Van Hoytema will work as the film’s cinematographer, Emily Blunt will play Oppenheimer’s wife, Matt Damon will be the director of the Manhattan Project, which was responsible for the bomb’s development, and Robert Downey Jr. will be the chairman of a commission that questioned Oppenheimer’s loyalty to the United States.
In further casting news, Florence Pugh was announced as a Communist Party member who had an affair with Oppenheimer that alarmed U.S. officials, Benny Safdie was cast as Edward Teller who worked with Oppenheimer and was later the father of the hydrogen bomb, Rami Malek joined in an unknown scientist role, and Kenneth Branagh and Dane DeHaan were recently added to the star-studded list.
The Manhattan Project, the program that developed the first nuclear weapons during World War II, worked out of three purpose-built cities in Tennessee, New Mexico, and Washington state. A new exhibition considers their design and legacy.