Oliver Stone Turned Down Directing An Oppenheimer Film

By Britta DeVore | Updated

cillian murphy

No stranger to telling some of the United States’ most notable historical stories, JFK director Oliver Stone says that he once turned down a project centered on the life of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. In a series of tweets in which the Platoon helmer praised Christopher Nolan’s latest hard-hitting feature, Stone said that he wasn’t able to get to the “essence” of the story and life behind the man credited with creating the atomic bomb.

However, he notes that Nolan was beyond able to do this through his three-hour box office hit, noting that he was completely “gripped” by the film.

When speaking about his time almost sitting in the director’s chair in a project that would’ve centered around Oppenheimer’s work, Oliver Stone says that he was first approached for the job because he was a fan of the book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin – a piece of literature that is considered to be the main source for all things Oppenheimer and certainly one that The Dark Knight trilogy director turned to for his film. 

While praising Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Oliver Stone reveals that he once turned down the opportunity to direct a movie based on the physicist.

Like many others, Oliver Stone went on to praise the cast behind Oppenheimer, specifically focusing a line of his tweet to the feature’s star, Cillian Murphy. Referring to the feature as a “classic,” Stone continued to heap praise for Nolan’s screenplay and directorial vision, which he was thrilled not only showed the work and anxiety behind creating the atomic bomb but also the fallout and mental and emotional turmoil that the scientist faced after creating the weapon of mass destruction.

oliver stone
Oliver Stone in Wall Street (1987)

Oliver Stone and Historical Dramas

Such words are a huge bragging point for Christopher Nolan as Oliver Stone has stood behind a handful of notable works surrounding the history of the United States. 

The Academy Award-winning director has long been involved with historical dramas, including the Vietnam War epic Platoon, the Tom Cruise-led anti-war feature Born on the Fourth of July, the Tommy Lee Jones-led 1993 biographical war flick Heaven & Earth, a movie surrounding the turbulent and shamed Nixon presidency Nixon, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt biographical pic, Snowden, which told the story of the infamous whistleblower, and, of course, JFK

With all of these titles under his belt, it’s no surprise that Stone was approached years ago to be the director to bring Oppenheimer’s story to the big screen. 

Beyond the praise of Oliver Stone, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer has been garnering loads of kudos from his dedicated fandom, critics, and others in the industry. A grim look at the man who brought the atomic bomb to life and plummeted the world into an all-out-arms-race, the film is a three-hour journey through the life and work of J. Robert Oppenheimer during the building of the bomb and the fallout that would consume his life after. 

“Oppenheimer is a classic, which I never believed could be made in this climate. Bravo.”

-Oliver Stone

Along with Cillian Murphy, the feature also stars Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Benny Safdie, and Jack Quaid.