The ‘Barbenheimer’ trend may go down in history as one of the biggest cinematic moments of the 21st century, bringing in billions of dollars at the global box office, and sparking a cultural movement sold entirely on memes and shared internet discourse.
Of course, the quality of the two films, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, cannot be overstated, with each movie inspiring its own fan communities, fashion trends, and enough combined watch hours to take humanity into the next ice age. As part of an extra-special tribute to the event, Variety brought the respective films’ stars, Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy, together for an actors-on-actors style interview.
Reacting To Barbenheimer
In the interview, Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy wax poetic about the trials and tribulations of making a massive blockbuster, as well as their expectations and reactions regarding the Barbenheimer meme. The meme, which gained popularity throughout late 2022 and all of 2023, began as a simple observation that the two tonally different films would be premiering on the same opening weekend. The juxtaposition of Oppenheimer, a historical biopic about the man responsible for crafting the atomic hydrogen bomb that killed millions, and Barbie, a fantasy epic about a plastic children’s plaything coming to terms with the reality that surrounds her, was enough to drive inside jokes and split-down-the-middle costume designs for months on end.
Margot Robbie Played A Major Role In Barbie’s Production
Margot Robbie took the opportunity to discuss some of her feelings regarding Greta Gerwig’s helming of the Barbie movie, explaining that she wouldn’t have done the film with any other director. As Cillian Murphy was quick to point out, Robbie signed on as a producer of the film years before production began, and was herself largely responsible for getting Gerwig to sign on. Barbie remained in the early stages of development for over a decade, first announced in 2009, before trading hands, studios, and even lead performers multiple times.
She Is Still Astounded By Barbie’s Performance
In the end, Margot Robbie took on the task of bringing the cultural icon to the big screen, though she expressed in her interview that she had no idea the film would grow to become one of the best-grossing box office smashes in cinema history.
Cilliam Murphy Just As Surprised
Cillian Murphy expressed a similar sentiment, remaining unsure throughout the production process that so many people would want to tune in to the tale of J. Robert Oppenheimer. According to Murphy, it was visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan who always believed in the July 21 release date, firmly holding that Oppenheimer would be a cultural staple, long before he was aware of the Barbenheimer trend.
Sharing Release Dates Paid Off
Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy also shared their stories of how the shared date came to be, with executive producers for both films pressuring the other to move their date and make way for their cinematic outing.
In the end, the same-day strategy came to be the best accidental marketing technique either film could ever hope for, with studios now trying to manufacture their own juxtaposition double-features to recapture the magic. Of course, as the actors’ pointed out, the only way Barbenheimer could have happened is through organic audience interest, with the trend losing its luster when studios get involved.