Christopher Nolan encourages pressure on politicians to reduce nuclear weapons

Christopher Nolan encourages pressure on politicians to reduce nuclear weapons

Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan said we should not despair over nuclear weapons but put pressure on politicians and leaders “to reduce the number on our planet”.

The London-born filmmaker won his first Oscar for directing the life of the “father of the atomic bomb” in epic biopic Oppenheimer.

“The film ends on what I consider a dramatically necessary moment of despair, but in reality I don’t think despair is the answer to the nuclear question,” Nolan said backstage after his win.

96th Academy Awards – Press Room
Christopher Nolan, winner of the award for best director for Oppenheimer, from left, Emma Thomas, and Charles Roven, pose in the press room with the award for best picture for Oppenheimer at the Oscars (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/PA)

“If you look at the work of Non-Proliferation that is being done by individuals and organisations since 1945, there has been a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons on the planet since 1967 of almost 90%.

“In the last few years it has gone the wrong way and it is very important that rather than despair, in reality people are promoting advocacy, they are supporting organisations who are working to pressure politicians and leaders to reduce the number of nuclear weapons on our planet.”

Nolan said it was “striking” to hear his teenage son’s thoughts on nuclear weapons when he first began the project.

“He actually said to me ‘young people are not that concerned about nuclear weapons, it’s not really at the forefront of their fears’.

“That did seem to me to be something that this film could to some extent help in its success with a lot of people seeing it,” the 53-year-old added.

Nolan has been previously nominated for six Academy Awards for pondering the important questions throughout his body of work, but had never won an Oscar for directing until Sunday’s ceremony.

Nolan went into the ceremony as the favourite to win for Oppenheimer – for which he has been given three nods across the adapted screenplay, director and best film categories.

96th Academy Awards – Show
Emma Thomas, left, and Christopher Nolan accept the award for best picture (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Accepting the directing prize, he praised his brother Jonathan Nolan, creator of Westworld, before hailing his wife and producer Emma Thomas – who picked up best picture along with him and Charles Roven – for being the “producer of all our films and all our children”.

He lost out on adapted screenplay to American Fiction, but his biopic stormed the awards with seven prizes.

Nolan added: “I love you.

“To the Academy, just to say movies are just a little bit over 100 years old, I mean imagine being there 100 years into painting or theatre.

“We don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here. But to know that you think that I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me. Thank you very much.”

Nolan also saw his actors, Irishman Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr, take home best actor and best supporting actor at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Batman ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ IMAX Premiere – London
The London-born filmmaker has been previously nominated for six Academy Awards (PA Wire)

He has collaborated with Murphy for nearly two decades – also on Batman Begins, Inception, Dunkirk and briefly in The Dark Knight Rises.

Murphy told GQ in February that Nolan gets his family to drop off his scripts to keep it “secret” and for reasons of “tradition” while also speaking how his set feels like a “private, intimate laboratory”.

He added: “There’s no phones but also no announcement, everybody just knows. And there’s no chairs because he doesn’t sit down. Sometimes a film set can be like a picnic.”

However, despite often being nominated and never winning during awards season, things are starting to look up for Nolan as this year the Directors Guild of America (DGA) gave him the prize for outstanding directorial achievement and he won a Golden Globe for best director – motion picture.

He also scooped up a directing Bafta gong and Murphy took home the leading actor prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Nolan, born in London to a British father and American mother, read English at University College London (UCL), choosing the school because of its filmmaking facilities.

It is also where he met his future wife, Thomas, with whom he has four children and runs a production company, Syncopy – and has worked with across his filmmaking.

Christopher Nolan receives BFI Fellowship – London
Cillian Murphy and Tom Conti attend the BFI Fellowship Annual Dinner, honouring Christopher Nolan (James Manning/PA)

When Nolan was presented with the British Film Institute (BFI) Fellowship for being “one of the world’s most innovative and influential film directors”, he credited his wife.

He said he never felt alone making films as Thomas “always saw things the same way I did in terms of the importance of the medium”.

While at UCL, Nolan was president of the film society and produced short films while studying before getting his big break, making his directorial debut with 1998’s Following.

Two years later Memento, which saw Guy Pearce as a man suffering memory loss who is desperately trying to discover who attacked him and killed his wife, unlocked Hollywood for Nolan.

The film received two Academy Award nominations, for best original screenplay and best film editing, as well as being a blockbuster success.

Following the well-received Memento, Nolan directed Insomnia, a psychological thriller starring Al Pacino as a detective on the hunt for a killer in an Alaskan town.

It was another critical and commercial smash, the beginning of a gilded run for Nolan.

In 2005, he made the first film in the Dark Knight trilogy, with Christian Bale playing the titular role in Batman Begins.

That was followed by drama The Prestige in 2006, which starred Bale and Hugh Jackman as two rival magicians in Victorian London.

The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises followed in 2008 and 2012 respectively, with both films grossing more than one billion US dollars worldwide.

In 2010, Nolan directed sci-fi action film Inception, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who steals ideas from victims’ unconsciousness.

The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four.

Nolan received his first best director Oscar nomination for 2017’s Dunkirk, which depicts the Allies’ retreat from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk during the Second World War.

He did not receive nods for Interstellar, which shows Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway going on a mission to find a new planet to live on after the Earth becomes uninhabitable, but the blockbuster was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning in 2014 for visual effects.

It also saw him reunited with his brother, the co-creator of TV series Westworld, Jonathan Nolan, who he worked with on Memento, The Prestige and The Dark Knight films.

His time-warping Tenet, starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, was one of the few releases for cinemagoers during the pandemic and was hailed by critics – but did not give Nolan any Bafta, Oscar or Golden Globe nomination. It did take home an Academy Award for visual effects.

He is a devotee of the big screen experience – Tenet was shot on 65mm and large-format Imax cameras and had been delayed a number of times, before the espionage thriller became one of the big films of 2020.

His latest project, Oppenheimer, was confirmed in 2021 and is based on the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph And Tragedy Of J Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and the late Martin J Sherwin.

UK premiere of Oppenheimer – London
Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh (Ian West/PA)

It birthed the Barbenheimer phenomenon, as Greta Gerwig’s comedy about the famous doll Barbie and his dark Second World War scientific film were released on the same date.

Barbie was the highest grossing film of 2023, but Oppenheimer has led during awards season, getting 13 Bafta nods.

Aside from showing the downfall of the director of the Manhattan Project, who came under fire due to his activities with socialist groups, the film also dives into the moral questions of the atomic bomb and shows a slow-motion scene of the impact of the devastation wrought on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, it has not all been smooth sailing as the premiere in London meant that stars including Robert Downey Jr, Murphy, Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh staged a walkout when the Hollywood union Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Sag-Aftra) called a strike.