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What The Oppenheimer Cast Should Really Look Like

Christoper Nolan's nuclear-level biopic "Oppenheimer" is one of the biggest films of an already massive summer at the movie theaters. The epic drama about some of the most important people of the 20th century is in sharp tonal contrast to "Barbie" and "Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning." But this isn't stopping Nolan fans and WWII historians alike from rushing to this event of the summer. The biggest question when it comes to "Oppenheimer," is just how accurate it is to the events that lead to the creation of the atomic bomb. In this case, we wonder how much the actors resemble the historical figures they portray. 

The "Oppenheimer" cast is fully stacked, with two dozen or so recognizable names in roles of all sizes that appear throughout the three-hour epic, many popular actors willing to take on parts that are little more than cameos to work with Christopher Nolan. Not only is Cillian Murphy taking the reins as the father of the atom bomb, but other Hollywood stars portray presidents and famous scientists alike. But who among them comes the closest to looking the way they really should?

Cillian Murphy - J. Robert Oppenheimer

This is the natural place to start, so let's kick this off with the most obvious one: Oppenheimer himself. In the biggest role of his career thus far, Irish actor Cillian Murphy has stepped into the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer for the epic biopic. A long-time collaborator with Nolan, this is the first time the filmmaker has put the actor in a leading role. And let us just say, it doesn't seem like that was a decision made solely because of the resemblance. 

While there are certainly some similarities (their bright blue eyes, for example), a lot of that has to do with hair and makeup department trickery in "Oppenheimer." Murphy's face doesn't necessarily resemble the New York-born nuclear physicist, nor is he as rail-thin as Oppenheimer was during much of his life. Murphy even chose to go through a demanding weight-loss regimen in order to look the part.  

At the very least, the lack of a strong resemblance gives us faith that Murphy was cast for his ability to turn in an amazing performance in this role, rather than an impersonation.

Matt Damon - Leslie Groves

Matt Damon plays one of the main supporting roles in "Oppenheimer" as Lt. Gen. Leslie Richard Groves Jr., the officer who oversaw the Manhattan Project. The US Army officer was of great importance to Oppenheimer's story and the development of the atomic bomb. He worked with the scientist to establish the bomb testing site of Los Alamos in New Mexico. While Damon brings intensity and a sense of camaraderie with Oppenheimer to the role, how much does the Hollywood star look the part?

In terms of physique, Damon is a perfect pick for Groves, even if he is likely in better shape than the lieutenant general was during his time on the Manhattan Project. Groves was a larger man, but he was conditioned with military training, making him come across as physically imposing, especially when standing next to Oppenheimer. Capturing the physical juxtaposition of the two men was likely at the heart of this casting decision. Oh, and Damon's mustache is much thicker and darker than what Groves was sporting on his upper lip.

Emily Blunt - Kitty Oppenheimer

Emily Blunt plays J. Robert Oppenheimer's wife, Katherine "Kitty" Oppenheimer, née Puening, in Nolan's film. The German-born botanist lived an eventful and full life before she met the nuclear physicist at Caltech in 1939. By the time he went to Los Alamos for the Manhattan Project in 1943, he and Kitty were already married and had one child, but before that, she had been married three times, as well as becoming a member of the Communist party in 1930. 

That's a lot of history for British actress Blunt to bring to the role. While she is accomplished enough to pull off the emotional depth, Blunt doesn't quite look like Kitty Oppenheimer did in real life. Blunt's hair, even in the film, is straight and doesn't capture Oppenheimer's pronounced curls. Plus, Blunt's natural hair color is much lighter than Oppenheimer's, and the movie isn't interested in matching their tones to fully compensate for this. 

Robert Downey Jr. - Lewis Strauss

After a decade-plus of playing Iron Man in the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. makes his return to serious acting with "Oppenheimer." Downey takes on the role of Lewis Strauss, one of the first commissioners and the second chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. Strauss served in the Navy during WWII and was a major figure throughout the early nuclear era and into the Cold War, as well as being one of Oppenheimer's great historical adversaries. 

Underneath the glasses, suit, and tie, Downey can only stand for Strauss physically with the help of hair and makeup. Despite being roughly the age Strauss was during the timeframe of "Oppenheimer," the two have a number of physical differences. For one, Downey has a much thinner frame and face. Secondly, there is the matter of the hair: Even in his 50s, Lewis Strauss had a hairline much more receded than what we see Robert Downey Jr. sporting in "Oppenheimer."

Tony Goldwyn - Gordon Gray

"Scandal" and "The Last Samurai" star Tony Goldwyn is one of the many actors who you might not know makes an appearance in "Oppenheimer." Goldwyn plays Gordon Gray, a politician who served as the United States Secretary of the Army during the Truman administration. He was notably the founder of The Gray Board, a decision-making committee during the 1954 Oppenheimer security hearing. 

Ultimately, even though this is a smaller role in "Oppenheimer," it feels like not much importance was placed on making sure these two had any sort of resemblance. Even into his 60s, Goldwyn has thicker hair than the former Army Secretary did in the 1940s and '50s. The actor also has a more square-shaped jaw and face shape than the politician he's portraying. The two do have a similar eyebrow shape, even if Goldywn's are slightly more arched.

Kenneth Branagh - Niels Bohr

Danish physicist Niels Bohr was one of the key figures in establishing the modern scientific understanding of the atom and atomic energy, and a key role model for Oppenheimer. His most important contribution to the scientific community was the Bohr model of the atom. Bohr's underlying understanding of atomic principles lay the groundwork for Oppenheimer's massively destructive achievements. 

In the film, Bohr is played by British star of stage and screen Kenneth Branagh. Branagh is a master of characters and has certainly shown his vocal range over the years, but he isn't Danish — for what that's worth. If you look at younger pictures of the two men, you will see they bear little to no resemblance. Yet in their later years, the two develop a similar facial shape, especially around the mouth and jaw. Bohr's hairline receded at a young age, while even in "Oppenheimer," Branagh's character boasts a mighty head of hair for a man in his 60s. 

Tom Conti - Albert Einstein

This is one instance where the historical figure here needs less introduction than the actor playing him. Albert Einstein is arguably the most famous physicist in history. Before he popped up in the "Oppenheimer" trailers, it's safe to say that most Nolan fans weren't aware of the friendship between the German-born scientist and J. Robert Oppenheimer. But from the moment Tom Conti showed up in the film's promotional material, there was no doubt as to who the Scottish actor was playing. 

Conti is an award-winning actor of stage and screen. After making a small appearance in a Nolan film a decade ago as a prisoner in "The Dark Knight Rises," Conti has returned, this time in full Einstein hair and makeup. And let us tell you what, the work here is unbelievable. Not only does Conti already look like an older Einstein, especially around his eyes and nose, but the "Oppenheimer" crew has accentuated the similarities to create a remarkable facsimile. 

Matthias Schweighöfer - Werner Heisenberg

"Breaking Bad" fans at least will be familiar with the next famous physicist that shows up in Oppenheimer's story. But Werner Heisenberg wasn't a chemist or a meth cook; he was a world-renowned German theoretical physicist. He is a controversial figure in the nuclear weapons race of WWII, whose ideology remains murky, having chosen to devote his talents to serving Hitler and the Nazi regime. Heisenberg never succeeded in building an atomic bomb for Germany, but to this day, it is disputed whether or not this was a deliberate move to sabotage the Nazis. 

The young genius, only 31 in 1932 when he won the Nobel Prize for his theories on quantum mechanics, is played by 42-year-old German actor Matthias Schweighöfer. While the two are far from identical twins, this is pretty good casting, all in all. Heisenberg was a handsome German man, so it's only logical that the film would cast a good-looking actor from the same country to play the young physicist.

Josh Hartnett - Ernest Lawrence

After nearly being cast as Nolan's Batman back in 2005, Josh Hartnett is working with the director for the first time on "Oppenheimer." He plays nuclear physicist Ernest Lawrence. Unlike Conti and Einstein, we can't say that this casting pairing is a match made in heaven, at least visually — far from it. 

Lawrence was one of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939 for his invention of the cyclotron, a particle accelerator that was the basis for the one used for the Manhattan Project. While not remembered in the same breath as Oppenheimer, Lawrence's contributions were a crucial part of the creation of nuclear warheads. 

While he's convincing as Lawrence with properly styled hair and historically accurate glasses, we can't quite say if we see anything in Hartnett that bears resemblance to the physicist. Hartnett's typical style of short beard and long hair makes his cinematic transformation even more shocking. 

Florence Pugh - Jean Tatlock

Jean Tatlok is one of the most mysterious figures in the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Naturally, the daring Florence Pugh stepped up to the challenge of playing Oppenheimer's lover and confidant. We don't doubt her acting chops, but does the rising Hollywood superstar look anything like the young Tatlok?

Tatlok was a psychiatrist and member of the Communist Party in the 1930s. She met Oppenheimer in 1936, when he was working as a physics professor at Berkeley and she was a grad student at Stanford. The romance was hot and heavy, but ultimately short-lived, and after 1939 the two fell mostly out of touch. Tatlock died by suicide in 1944. 

When it comes to the look, "Oppenheimer" gets the distinguishing part of Tatlok's hair correct on Pugh. Tatlok was quite a bit taller than the diminutive Pugh, and was considered to have an enthralling, if unconventional, beauty.

Alex Wolff - Luis Alvarez

While the California-born physicist didn't win a Nobel Prize for any of his work until the late 1960s, Luis Walter Alvarez was present for much of the development of the Manhattan Project. He assisted Ernest Lawrence in nuclear experiments before working with Oppenheimer at Los Alamos. For such an accomplished and renowned scientist, it seems like 25-year-old Alex Wolff might be a bit young for this role — but that's actually not the case. 

Alvarez was only 25 when he started working with Lawrence in 1936, only having just recently received his PhD. This makes the young Wolff a great fit for the Alvarez of the WWII era. Plus, from the thick eyebrows to the five-o-clock shadow, the actor has a lot in common with the features of the young researcher. 

It is worth mentioning that despite being born in California as a second-generation American, Alvarez is of Spanish descent. Wolff is not Spanish, which begs the question: Why didn't Nolan cast a Latinx actor for the part?

Dylan Arnold - Frank Oppenheimer

We have to say, we might have another knockout on our hands with this one. The character in question is yet another physicist — and yes, he also worked on the Manhattan Project — but most importantly, he is J. Robert Oppenheimer's younger brother. Frank Oppenheimer was born eight years after his brother in 1912, but ultimately he followed right in his footsteps in terms of career ambition. Later in his life, he was blacklisted from the scientific community for a time due to his ties to the Communist Party. 

In Nolan's biopic, the role of Oppenheimer's brother is played by Dylan Arnold. The 29-year-old actor stars in Netflix's "You" and has a minor role in the most recent "Halloween" trilogy. With his normally wavy hair trimmed, Arnold really does look like Frank Oppenheimer. The actor can pass as lanky in a suit, even if he has a more muscular frame than either Oppenheimer brother.

Gary Oldman - Harry S. Truman

Gary Oldman is no stranger to playing great leaders in history. We only need to look back to 2017 to remember the time Oldman won an Oscar for playing Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour." What's important to know is that for everything the decorated British actor has accomplished thus far, this might be his most challenging role yet: Imitating an iconic American President. 

Harry S. Truman is known for ending WWII, which also means he made the decision to drop the atomic bombs. Oldman doesn't make a physical transformation as extreme as what was done in "Darkest Hour," but for the role of Truman, he doesn't need to. The already bespectacled Oldman feels like he's been aging into this role for decades now. The biggest difference might just be how Oldman's typically long silver mane contrasts with Truman's thinning head or hair. 

Jack Quaid - Richard Feynman

Another famous physicist that shows up in "Oppenheimer" is Richard Feynman. The New York-born scientist was one of many brilliant minds who helped with the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. Despite only being in his mid-20s at the time of the project, Feynman has gone on to be remembered as one of its key players, and his contributions to nuclear research were manifold. It only makes sense that you would get an actor as young and charismatic as Jack Quaid to play this rising star of the scientific community. 

Despite being a few years older than Feynman was at the time, Quaid seems to have got the look down. It helps that he resembles Feynman so much in the first place. From his mouth shape and eyebrow curve to his natural hair color and style, there is a lot these two men have physically in common. 

Josh Peck - Kenneth Bainbridge

Kenneth Bainbridge's actual scientific contributions to the Manhattan Project are not to be trifled with, but the man is remembered for more than that. As director of the first nuclear bomb test in 1945, Bainbridge's words at the time of the Trinity Test have since become legendary. After seeing the destruction the test had wrought, he is reported to have said to Oppenheimer his infamous line, "Now we are all sons of b*tches."

In "Oppenheimer," this line is uttered by Josh Peck, who plays Bainbridge. Although Peck is the right age to play Bainbridge during the 1940s, he doesn't look as much like his historical counterpart as some of his cohorts in the film. Peck might be tall, but his face has different proportions and tones. so much so that even the in-movie shots of him look nothing like photos of Bainbridge. 

Benny Safdie - Edward Teller

While Oppenheimer is the name most commonly associated with the atomic bomb, Hungarian physicist Edward Teller is best known as the father of the hydrogen bomb. The difference between these two explosive scientific breakthroughs was more than just a disagreement on method, but on ideological grounds as well. Teller grew to distrust Oppenheimer and opposed him by testifying against the senior scientist in his 1954 hearing. 

When it comes to physical resemblance, this is one of the more impressive casting choices made in "Oppenheimer." Benny Safdie is known best for being co-director of "Uncut Gems" and "Good Time" with his brother Josh, but the filmmaker has been stretching his legs as an actor lately. The role of Teller in "Oppenheimer" is one of Safdie's biggest, and thankfully his similar physique and facial features make him look the part — even if his eyebrows aren't as unruly as the physicist's. Safdie can even get the lines on his forehead to wrinkle in the same way as Teller.

Matthew Modine - Vannevar Bush

Vannevar Bush might not be as well-known a name as many of the scientists he helped organize, but he was just as crucial to the building of the atomic bomb as the scientists working on the ground at Los Alamos. Once an inventor (and a bit of a scientist himself), Bush served as the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development for the second FDR administration. Here, he was a deciding force in the United States' decision to develop an atomic bomb. 

Playing Bush is a man with as about as much acting experience as you can want: Matthew Modine. The "Full Metal Jacket" and "Stranger Things" actor slips on glasses to make for a convincing facsimile of the influential policymaker. Even though Modine is about a decade older than Bush is supposed to be at the time, the men look a similar age. It's also hard to deny the jealousy-inducing wavy hair possessed by both men, even in their later years.