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Oppenheimer: The Cigarette Detail You Probably Missed

Christopher Nolan's movies are known for their attention to detail. The teams that the director assembles for massive projects, like "Dunkirk" and "Interstellar," manage to execute cinematic excellence every time. Sure, the occasional star or two slip their attention, but they are clearly capable of executing movies on a high level — even down to the detail of a box of cigarettes.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Nolan's prop master, Guillaume Delouche, shared the extremes to which the production crew went to make sure everything was perfect. The publication explains that, for starters, Delouce stamped each cigarette with the Chesterfield logo. This was the only brand that Oppenheimer would smoke. The interview adds that Delouce went even further by creating period-specific cigarette packs for each era of the film.

"Oppenheimer" is split into three timelines, all of which are layered on top of one another throughout the three-hour movie. This means there are years and sometimes decades between scenes — and the behind-the-scenes team took that into account. They ensured that Oppenheimer actor Cillian Murphy had precisely the right kind of cigarettes to show off in every single scene. As far as the actual smoking of the cigarettes (something that Oppenheimer did ad nauseam throughout his life), the crew helped Murphy emulate the activity without hurting himself by creating herbal cigarettes with a menthol flavor. This allowed the actor to smoke all day without the fear of getting sick.

Oppenheimer's intense real-life smoking habit

Smoking was fashionable in the 1940s, so much so that it shows up everywhere. Even Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels (which take place 20,000 years in the future and the first of which was written in the 40s) are rife with the imbibition of the fumes from burning tobacco. When Hari Seldon appears in the Vault, some of the first words he says are, "if you care to smoke, I wouldn't mind."

While smoking was par for the course during most of Oppenheimer's life, though, the man himself was particularly devoted to the habit. Delouche explains that the titular character was a chain smoker known for smoking 150 cigarettes every day. "When he didn't smoke cigarettes," the prop master adds, "he would take a break by smoking his pipe." Nolan and company knew, along with Oppie's iconic porkpie hat and pipe, they needed to complete the symbolic imagery by keeping a cigarette between his lips in every possible scene. The result is an instantly recognizable image of a man known for his interactions with fire, whether it's in the form of a cigarette, a pipe, or a world-shaking explosive.