Adapting Robert Oppenheimer’s Story to Film, Plus Greta Gerwig on Becoming a Director
In making “Oppenheimer,” which opens in theatres this weekend, the director Christopher Nolan relied on a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 biography of the father of the atomic bomb, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin. Bird is credited as a writer of Nolan’s movie, and he spoke with David Remnick about the ambivalence that the scientist expressed publicly about the use of the bomb, which led to a McCarthyist show trial that destroyed his career and reputation. “What happened to him in 1954 sent a message to several generations of scientists, here in America but [also] abroad, that scientists should keep in their narrow lane. They shouldn’t become public intellectuals, and if they dared to do this, they could be tarred and feathered,” Bird notes. “The same thing that happened to Oppenheimer in a sense happened to Tony Fauci.”
Plus, Greta Gerwig talks about her path to directing. Like “Barbie,” Gerwig’s two previous films as a director and writer are concerned with coming of age as a woman. Once criticized as a “bossy girl,” Gerwig recalls, she tamped down her instinct to direct, focusing early in her career on acting and then screenwriting. She told David Remnick how she finally gave herself permission to be a filmmaker.