Why Christopher Nolan Apologized To Florence Pugh For Her Oppenheimer Role



  • Despite a small role, Florence Pugh leaves a lasting impression as Jean Tatlock in Oppenheimer.
  • Christopher Nolan apologized for the size of Pugh’s role, but she was eager to work with him regardless.
  • Pugh’s performance adds depth to Jean Tatlock, showcasing the character’s complexity and her impact on Oppenheimer’s guilt and sense of responsibility.

Florence Pugh reveals that Christopher Nolan apologized for her small Oppenheimer role. Opened in theaters on July 21, the visionary director’s latest masterpiece chronicles the life of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy), including his contributions to creating the atomic bomb and the subsequent political fallout. Pugh – known for Midsommar, Black Widow, and her Oscar-nominated performance in Little Women – stars in a smaller role as Jean Tatlock, a Communist and psychiatrist whom Oppenheimer has an intermittent affair with.

In an interview with MTV UK before the SAG-AFTRA strike, Pugh revealed that Nolan actually apologized for offering her a smaller role in the ensemble Oppenheimer cast. However, the actress wanted to work with the director no matter what the part was. Read what Pugh shared or watch a clip of the interview below:

I didn’t really know what was going on or what it was that was being made. Except I knew that Chris really, really wanted me to know that it wasn’t a very big role, and he understands if I don’t want to come near it. And I was like, “Doesn’t matter. Even if I’m a coffee maker at a cafe in the back of the room, let’s do it.”

I remember [Nolan] apologized by the size of the role. I was like, “Please don’t apologize.” And then he said, “We’ll send you the script, and honestly, you just read it and decide if it’s like… I completely understand the sizing thing.” And I remember that evening when I got the script being like, “I don’t need to… I know I’m going to do it.”

Florence Pugh Leaves An Impression On Oppenheimer Despite Limited Screen Time

Florence Pugh and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

Despite limited screen time, Pugh leaves an indelible impression on Oppenheimer with her performance as Jean Tatlock. This includes Oppenheimer‘s sex scenes between the titular physicist and Jean, which have received much attention and caused controversy due to the recitation of a line from the Bhagavad Gita, Hindu scripture. Despite the questionable nature of this decision, Nolan’s intention with Oppenheimer‘s sex scenes was to explore its subject in a more intimate fashion, especially the crucial role that his affair with Jean Tatlock played in his life.

Pugh’s performance also leaves an impression on the film during Jean’s harrowing suicide scene, the most traumatic and formative experience of Oppenheimer’s personal life before the bomb. His relationship with Jean, and its tragic ending, acts as a microcosm of Oppenheimer’s contradictory worldview. He pursues the casual fling, but turns a blind eye to how this affects Jean as she becomes increasingly invested in the relationship.

As Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) later tells him, “You don’t get to commit sin and then ask all of us to feel sorry for you when there are consequences.” Pugh’s performance as Jean Tatlock helps render a character who is much more than a mere love interest in Oppenheimer, but a tangible and multidimensional representation of his guilt and sense of responsibility.

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