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‘Oppenheimer’ co-author Kai Bird draws comparison between book and film adaptation

Christopher Nolan's film adaptation of 'Oppenheimer' was released on July 21, 2023

Riba Jawaid

‘Oppenheimer’ co-author Kai Bird draws comparison between book and film adaptation

Christopher Nolan's film adaptation of 'Oppenheimer' was released on July 21, 2023

‘Oppenheimer’ co-author Kai Bird draws comparison between book and film adaptation
‘Oppenheimer’ co-author Kai Bird draws comparison between book and film adaptation

Oppenheimer co-author Kai Bird discussed how the 20005's autobiography of the nuclear physicist is different from Christopher Nolan's directorial film adaptation, released in 2023. 

During his exclusive interview with the Hindustan Times at the Jaipur Literature festival, Bird gushed over  Nolan's biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer, which made over $900 million at the global box office, saying, “Let me make it clear that the movie by Nolan is fabulous. It's a great artistic achievement. And it's a wonderful adaptation of the book."

Kai went on to hail Oppenheimer, "I can recognize in the dialogues whole sentences and paras taken out of the book. It's not only an artistically visual experience, but also teaches a lot of history. And it's accurate. I'm very grateful to Nolan."

However, Kai also dished on how the book offers detailed insights into what went before  the story of Oppenheimer in the film's adaptation starts and what transpired after it ends.

 “It's very long, but even three hours of movie can't do what a book can do in 720 pages. There's nothing in the movie, for instance, about Oppenheimer's childhood in New York, growing up very privileged. There's nothing about what Oppenheimer did after the 1954 trial, when he retreated every year to St John Virgin Islands,” said Kai Bird.

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He went on to explain the reason why there should be a  sequel of  Oppenheimer to showcase what unfolded after his humiliating trial in 1954. 

“It's a sad story. He was really humiliated and destroyed in that secret trial. The transcripts of the entire month-long proceedings was leaked to The New York Times. All the private details of his life, his love affairs, his left-wing politics, were released. Everyone in America was left to believe that he's an untrustworthy man, maybe disloyal, maybe a spy for the Russians. This pained Oppenheimer deeply,” said the author.

'Oppenheimer' book author Kai Bird highlights Nolan's narrative over Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing:

Kai Bird also expressed his disagreement with Nolan's skirted narrative over Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing,  “I understand what Nolan was doing there. The movie, in large part, is from Oppenheimer's point of view. In fact, large part of the screenplay is in first person. So you're learning all this history from his perspective. It's clear in the movie that he's deeply pained and emotional about the tragedy of the loss of lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But he was never there. He never saw it."

He continued, “Nolan has a point of showing a scene of Oppenheimer watching a newsreel and you can see him very disturbed. Likewise, there's another scene where he's giving this victory speech and he's hallucinating that there's a woman in the audience whose face melts. I think that's powerful."

Kai added, "He's forcing the viewers to imagine for themselves what happened on-ground in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And that's much more powerful than showing old news clips of the destroyed cities with no people in it.”

Kai Bird gushed over Cillian Murphy's titular role in 'Oppenheimer':

Despite a few creative differences, the 72-year-0ld author did not hold back from admiring the Inception director's skills to channel the character's intensity on screen, especially Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer's role.

 "His personality, those bright blue eyes. When I met him, I complimented him that he's captured Oppenheimer's voice. He had a very distinctive voice that was very eloquent, each word and syllable clearly pronounced," Kai said of Murphy, who played the role of the father of nuclear bomb in the biopic.

Kai added, "He spoke very softly, almost in a whisper sometime. His accent is odd – it's not British, not classic American, it's sort of East-Coast New York.”

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