It was revealed last week that Christopher Nolan has a brand new project. This time, a drama about the creator of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer and studios were competing to be the filmmakers’ new home.
It has now been confirmed Universal is welcoming the British director beating out Sony, Netflix and will be leaving Warner Bros, the studio that he thought was home having been there since 2002 and transformed Batman into a billion-dollar franchise.
Variety revealed more info about this deal. Obviously, creative control, including final cut, would’ve been agreed in what will be a major win for the studio and their chief Donna Langely, who’s built a relationship with The Dark Knight Trilogy creative.
Universal is fully financing the World War Two drama at $100 million. It follows the birth of the Manhattan Project and Oppenheimer’s later decision to call for more international control of nuclear weapons and his eventual opposition to developing the hydrogen bomb.
What’s surprising is this project is ready to shoot as early as 2022 and will need significant digital effects with an eye on a late 2023/2024 release. Additionally, the only way interested studios could read the script was in his office, showing his power in this industry.
Unsurprisingly, Warner Bros, under this current regime led by Toby Emmerich, turned down the project because they were “worried that the film’s subject matter was less than commercial.”
The studio that had box office success with Dunkirk, Inception and Interstellar were worried about a film about the father of the atom bomb led by a filmmaker of Nolan’s standing, who is a franchise and has a loyal fanbase on his own, was going to fail.
This shows the big problems incoming new chief David Zaslav has once the merger of Warner Bros. Discovery is completed, with the first job being sacking Emmerich.
Yet the disconnect between WB and their former filmmaker isn’t a shock as 2020 was full of tension. Nolan was unhappy with how the studio handled the release of Tenet, and then came the studio announcement of day-and-date release with their streaming service HBO Max.
This led to Nolan stating, “some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.”
Meanwhile, one sticking point that will need to be sorted is the release window. Nolan wants a traditional theatrical window of 90-120 days for his WWII epic, blowing away the current industry standard during the pandemic of 45 days.
I can’t see this being too big of an issue as long as Nolan feels the film had a strong run in cinemas, so while I can’t see them returning to post 90 days, it won’t be 45 either. My best guess would be around the 80-90 day mark and hold off on home entertainment and streaming on Peacock for a while after its run.
What got this deal done was Nolan’s track record and to make anything, in a normal world, a box office success with award potential. After all the Oscar nominations under Warner Bros, wouldn’t it be funny that he wins his first-ever Best Director win under a new studio?