Christopher Nolan may have moved to a new studio, but he's bringing his old collaborators with him.

Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy, a frequent supporting player in Nolan's films, will take the lead for the first time in the Tenet director's next project, Oppenheimer. Murphy will star as the eponymous J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as the "father of the atomic bomb" for his role in developing the first nuclear weapons.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the film is an "epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it," as studio Universal put it in an official summary. The film is now set for release on July 21, 2023.

Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy will take the lead in Christopher Nolan's next film, 'Oppenheimer'
| Credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty; Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty

Oppenheimer will mark Nolan's first film at Universal after a nearly two-decade relationship with Warner Bros. That relationship soured last year after Nolan publicly criticized the studio for releasing its 2021 films on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time. Among other comments, the filmmaker slammed HBO Max as "the worst streaming service" and said the movies were "being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service." (Nolan, a major proponent of the big-screen experience, famously insisted on a theatrical-only release for Tenet even as many theaters remained shuttered by the pandemic.)

Universal ultimately won Nolan's next project after a reported courtship by many of Hollywood's major studios. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the filmmaker demanded a $100 million budget, total creative control, a roughly 100-day theatrical window, and a "blackout period" requiring the studio not to release another movie three weeks before or three weeks after Oppenheimer.

"Christopher Nolan and [his producing partner and wife] Emma Thomas' films have shattered the limits of what cinematic storytelling can achieve," Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Chairman Donna Langley said in a statement. "We are thrilled to be working alongside them on this exceptional and extraordinary project and are grateful for their shared passion and commitment to the theatrical experience."

Murphy, who previously appeared in all three of Nolan's Batman films as well as Inception and Dunkirk, is just one of the filmmaker's past collaborators returning for Oppenheimer. Director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema, editor Jennifer Lame, and composer Ludwig Göransson will all reunite with Nolan after their work on Tenet, with production set to begin early next year.

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