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Who Does Robert Downey Jr. Play In Oppenheimer?

After retiring as Marvel's Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. has mostly remained elusive, occasionally popping up for the odd Joe Rogan interview or CGI children's comedy. With the help of Christoper Nolan, Downey Jr. is set to grace the silver screen yet again. The actor will be seen alongside Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, and more in Nolan's "Oppenheimer," Downey's first major film since 2020's "Dolittle."

Nolan, who has a number of blockbusters under his belt, seems to have been patiently waiting to work with Downey Jr. While speaking with Total Film Magazine, the maverick director labeled the "Zodiac" actor as "one of the greatest actors of all time."

Based on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the biopic follows the physicist's contributions to The Manhattan Project, which result in the two atom bombs that changed the direction of World War II. Murphy, who has consistently collaborated with Nolan over the last two decades, is tapped for the lead role. While Oppenheimer is the hero of his own story, not everyone saw the scientist as a man worth praising. Joining Murphy on the big screen is the illustrious Downey Jr., who is set to play Lewis Strauss, the man who notoriously clashed against Oppenheimer.

Lewis Strauss was a self-made man who helped shape America's relationship with atomic bombs

Lewis Strauss is a name likely familiar to those who didn't sleep through high school history class. A complex man with an equally interesting story, Strauss is best remembered as being Oppenheimer's number-one hater. To understand his animosity towards Oppenheimer, it's important to go all the way back to Strauss' early days as a public servant and businessman.

Per the Atomic Heritage Foundation, the Charleston-born Strauss first worked under Herbert Hoover during the future president's tenure as the head of the United States Food Administration. After becoming a self-made millionaire, Strauss' life drastically changed as America involved itself in World War II. The Navy came calling, with Strauss joining their Department of Ordnance to work on weapons production. Soon after, President Truman (played by Gary Oldman in "Oppenheimer") named Strauss as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission.

During his team as an ACE member — he would later go on to become commissioner, Strauss was a key voice in shaping nuclear weapons. He was particularly obsessed with the creation of the hydrogen bomb. The Courrier Mail of Brisbane, Australia described the bomb as Strauss' "baby." Who was against the hydrogen bomb? Mr. Oppenheimer. The United States government ultimately tested the bomb, dubbed "Ivy Mike" in 1952.

Why did Strauss hate Oppenheimer?

Lewis Strauss and J. Robert Oppenheimer's bitter relationship didn't end there. Their biggest face-off was during the 1954 Oppenheimer security hearing, spearheaded by Strauss himself. At this point, Oppenheimer was a key figure, and depending on who you ask, the hearing wanted to undermine his legacy. The hearing brought to life Oppenheimer's alleged communist ties and personal affairs and ultimately ended with the scientist's security clearance being revoked. During the hearing, Strauss famously said, "We find Dr. Oppenheimer is not entitled to the continued confidence of the Government ... because of the proof of fundamental defects in his 'character,'", per the published transcripts of the hearing, "In The Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer."

In the trailer for Nolan's latest, key moments of Robert Downey Jr.'s Strauss interrogating Cillian Murphy's Oppenheimer can be seen. Presented in black and white, these integral scenes will likely play up the ambivalent relationship between the two American icons.

"Oppenheimer" hits cinemas on July 21 2023.