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Oppenheimer: What Happened To Robert Downey Jr.'s Lewis Strauss After The Ending?

Robert Downey Jr. is one of the many surprises of "Oppenheimer," as he steals most of the scenes he's in. His incredible performance as Lewis Strauss gives the film its primary antagonist, but what happened to the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission after his failed attempt to officially become the secretary of commerce under President Dwight D. Eisenhower?

Unfortunately for Strauss, the very public defeat signaled the end of his government career, with his resignation coming a few days after the hearing. In 1962, he published "Men and Decisions," a memoir recounting his career accomplishments that was a New York Times Best Seller. Strauss continued his philanthropy throughout his retirement, supporting organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He even contributed to Senator Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, organizing support for the candidate, who ultimately ended up losing in a landslide to Lyndon B. Johnson.

As "Oppenheimer" depicts, Strauss' Congressional hearing was incredibly damaging to his career. Not only did he go down as one of the few unsuccessful Cabinet nominations, but Congress caught him lying under oath. Strauss quickly retreated to the public sector afterward and died on January 21, 1974, after his three-year battle with lymphoma.

Robert Downey Jr. sees Strauss as human, despite his villainous role

Given Lewis Strauss' death in 1974, Robert Downey Jr. couldn't speak to the man himself in his preparation for "Oppenheimer," but his research left him more than informed on who Strauss was.

"Well, first, I was just looking at pictures," Downey Jr. said in an interview with Critiqal, noting that he had more leeway to build his performance as opposed to previous, more well-known historical figures he's played, such as Charlie Chaplin. "With him, I felt kind of free to explore my own understanding of him, and I came to love the guy and have a lot of empathy for him. I think he also represents any of us that have ever felt blown off by someone that has a higher status."  During his interview with WIRED, Dowey Jr. noted that above all else, he was more complicated than a simple one-sentence answer could convey.

While Downey Jr.'s research helped him develop empathy for Strauss, he doesn't think that's necessarily the lesson to take from "Oppenheimer." In an interview with Associated Press, he focused on the toxic masculinity that's at play in Christopher Nolan's latest film, saying that if men spent more time listening instead of arguing, the world would likely be a much better place. "Men start wars and the entire planet should be a matriarchy," Downey Jr. said in a quote that's now gone viral.