Whether aspiring or established, it’s essential for an actor to hone and refine their craft. The Oppenheimer cast serves as an example of this, bringing together a range of exceptional performers. The film, which is up for 13 Academy Awards in acting, directing, cinematography, and screenwriting, offers an opportunity for actors of all backgrounds to see excellence on display. The immense talent of the Oppenheimer cast is also prevalent in many of their other films, both award-winning and under-the-radar.
Oppenheimer’s Matthew Modine Hosts Masterclass at NYFA New York
NYFA Guest Speaker Matthew Modine, who played engineer and inventor Vannevar Bush in Oppenheimer, is an iconic actor with a filmography across genres. From his role as Dr. Martin Brenner, aka “Papa” on Stranger Things, to compelling performances in hit films and television shows such as The Dark Knight Rises, Law and Order SVU, Birdy, Full Metal Jacket, Operation Varsity Blues, and The West Wing, Modine has versatile talent and an unwavering commitment to his craft. Modine, who recently starred as Atticus Finch in stage productions of To Kill a Mockingbird, has also worked with legendary directors, including Christopher Nolan, Oliver Stone, Sir Alan Parker, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, and Spike Lee.
Modine, undoubtedly a master storyteller and performer, visited NYFA New York in February 2024 to engage with students. Modine, an acclaimed director and producer, had a lot to share from his expansive experience in visual storytelling. In addition to Oppenheimer, Modine has been busy with various upcoming projects and recently produced the nuclear testing doc Downwind. Narrated by Martin Sheen, the film highlights the grave and lasting impacts of nuclear testing on American soil. The documentary, a must-watch for aspiring filmmakers and anyone who saw Oppenheimer, is available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
The Oppenheimer Cast: Behind the Talented Ensemble
Modine is one of many actors who brought his talents to Oppenheimer. In addition to Modine’s achievements, here are some of the best films and performances of the other Oppenheimer stars.
Cillian Murphy, J. Robert Oppenheimer
Murphy already snagged a Golden Globe for his portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer and has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The award, which went to Brendan Fraser in 2023 for The Whale, recognizes the best actors of our generation, highlighting some of the best performances in film. Cillian Murphy, known for his dynamic on-screen presence, has become synonymous with complex characters, seamlessly transitioning between genres and showcasing his ability to convey intense emotions. Murphy’s nuanced portrayals, whether as Thomas Shelby in Peaky Blinders, Robert Fischer in Inception, or Scarecrow in The Dark Knight, have solidified his reputation as one of the most talented actors in the industry.
One of his most memorable roles was as Damien in the film The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Winner of the 2006 Palme d’Or at Cannes, the story follows two brothers during the Irish War of Independence, where two brothers fight against British forces. “Murphy’s agonized body language conveys the horrible, irreparable damage of war,” wrote Bay Area reporter David Lamble regarding Cillian’s performance. Image via The Irish Film Institute.
Emily Blunt, Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer
Emily Blunt practically teaches a masterclass through her performances in films like The Devil Wears Prada, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Into the Woods, Sunshine Cleaning, The Young Victoria, and Edge of Tomorrow. In Oppenheimer, Blunt commands the screen, showcasing her impeccable acting skills as Oppenheimer’s wife, Kitty, earning her an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
One of Blunt’s most iconic performances was in the Oscar-nominated film A Quiet Place, the first in the apocalyptic horror franchise. Directed and written by her real-life spouse, John Krasinski, Blunt plays Evelyn Abbott. Evelyn, along with her husband and children, communicate in sign language and live silent lives as noise-sensitive creatures have taken over planet Earth. Image via Vox.
Robert Downey Jr., Lewis Strauss
Robert Downey Jr. brings a believable and captivating performance as former Acting United States Secretary of Commerce Lewis Strauss, who famously came to odds with Oppenheimer. Known as Tony Stark / Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Downey Jr. has no shortage of memorable roles. From Harry Lockhart in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to Paul Avery in Zodiac, to Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin, Robert Downey Jr.’s filmography makes it apparent that he’s extremely deserving of his most recent Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar nomination for Oppenheimer. He was also nominated for performances in Tropic Thunder and Chaplin.
Another standout performance was his performance as Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez in The Soloist. Starring alongside Jamie Foxx, Downey Jr. captured the earnest and good-natured efforts of Lopez, who tries to bring recognition to the incredible musical talent of a homeless man. The film was applauded for its portrayal of mental health and won the Prism Award for Feature Film – Mental Health. Image via MUBI.
Florence Pugh, Jean Tatlock
Florence Pugh has proven herself to be an acting powerhouse – and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. Her various roles as Lib Wright in The Wonder, Dani Ardor in Midsommar, Lady Macbeth in Lady Macbeth ” and Amy March in Little Women put her full range of talent on display. She was nominated for an Oscar for Little Women in 2020, officially marking her arrival as one of Hollywood’s most talented actors. In Oppenheimer, she plays Jean Tatlock, the woman known as Oppenheimer’s lover prior to her death in 1944.
Pugh recently lent her voice to the English dubbed version of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, a whimsical film that explores familial connections, the afterlife, and the meaning of life. Playing the adventurous and brave Kiriko, Pugh could balance her sparkling personality with the discipline and strength the role required. The film showed how a voiceover role can be a great asset for an actor, challenging performers like Pugh to hone different acting skills. The Boy and the Heron, which already won a Golden Globe, is nominated for the 2023 Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. Image via Parade.
Matt Damon, Leslie Groves
Matt Damon, considered to be one of the best actors of his generation, is known for his role as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity series. Damon has also acted in various iconic films, honing his acting skills in performances such as Mark Watney in The Martian, Will Hunting in the Oscar-winning film Good Will Hunting, Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Private Ryan in Saving Private Ryan. A lesser-known but equally impressive performance was his portrayal of Scott Thorson in the 11 Emmy award-winning television film Behind the Candelabra.
A departure from his usual roles, Damon played opposite Michael Douglas (who played Liberace) while he portrayed his young lover, Thorson. The slightly eccentric film was well-received, and Damon was recognized for his portrayal of a young man trapped in an unhealthy relationship. Image via Screen Actors Guild.
Josh Hartnett, Ernest Lawrence
Harnett, who joins the Oppenheimer cast as American physicist Ernest Lawrence, is much more selective about his roles these days. His performances as Erik Heller in Black Hawk Down, Jamie Randall in Love & Other Drugs, Zeke Tyler in The Faculty, Brian Fitzgerald in The Black Dahlia, and Oz in Sin City made him a highly sought-after actor in the ‘90s and ‘00s, with a long list of iconic performances under his belt.
While not as well known as his other films, Harnett’s role as Tom Sterling in the drama Wicker Park was an early example of his ability to play a leading man, as well as highlighting his talent for drama. Image via IMDB.
Kenneth Branagh, Niels Bohr
Irish actor Kenneth Branagh is an extremely accomplished performer, playing roles such as Hercule in A Haunting in Venice, Henry V in Henry V, Iago in Othello, Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and André in My Week with Marilyn. He is a welcomed addition to the talented cast of Oppenheimer, playing the role of Danish physicist Niels Bohr.
Branagh also wrote and directed the Oscar-winning film Belfast, demonstrating how visual storytellers can be effective in front of and behind the camera. Image via Screen Daily.
Rami Malek is David L. Hill
Rami Malek, who plays David L. Hill in Oppenheimer, has also engaged audiences with performances such as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot, and Flip McVicker in BoJack Horseman. Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury, notably, earned him an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, showing the Academy’s appreciation for well-executed biopics. He has also lent his voice to various video games, including Until Dawn, Halo 2, and The Legend of Korra.
Malek starred as Browning in director Spike Lee’s Oldboy alongside Josh Brolin and NYFA Guest Speaker Elizabeth Olsen. Based on a Japanese manga series and a previous film of the same name, the remake had mixed reviews, but Malek delivered a strong performance. Image via Reddit.
Tony Goldwyn as Gordon Grey
It was unexpected to see former president Tony Goldwyn in Oppenheimer (wait, that’s the Scandal universe.) Goldwyn, who played US attorney Gordon Grey in Oppenheimer, has appeared in various film and television roles, including, of course, Scandal, as well as King Richard, Lovecraft County, The Good Wife, Dexter, The Last Samurai, Fraiser, and the Disney animated film Tarzan as the titular character. He also voiced Tarzan in video games like Kingdom Hearts and Tarzan.
For younger audiences who love him in Scandal, the ‘80s rom-com/supernatural drama Ghost was one of Goldwyn’s earliest breaks into Hollywood. Playing a friend of Patrick Swayze’s, the film shows Goldwyn in a different light (we won’t spoil it for you, even though it’s been out for almost 30 years.) Image via Amazon.
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