Oppenheimer is closing in on its theatrical debut, and while half of the world suits up in pink for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, the other half are slapping on some fedoras as they prepare to indulge in what’s effectively Avengers: Endgame – except with scientists instead of superheroes.
Indeed, from Niels Bohr to Edward Teller to Kenneth Bainbridge to Richard Feynman, it seems as though not a single member of history’s most legendary science community will be left out of this story, and rounding out this particular list of characters is the one name more recognizable than Cillian Murphy’s eponymous physicist: Albert Einstein – portrayed by one Tom Conti.
Einstein was pivotal in getting the United States into the WWII arms race, so we can only imagine how important of a role he’ll be playing in Christopher Nolan‘s biographical epic. But, interestingly enough, Oppenheimer isn’t the site of Conti’s most lucrative role in a WWII movie.
That honor goes to Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; a 1983 Japanese war film masterminded by Nagisa Ōshima, and which, coincidentally (or perhaps not), also happens to clock in at number six on Nolan’s top ten Criterion titles.
Based on the experiences of a real prisoner of war — Sir Laurens van der Post — in WWI-era Japan, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence stars Conti as Lt. Col. John Lawrence (inspired by van der Post), a British POW who attempts to peacefully mediate the cultural divide between his fellow British prisoners and the Japanese camp commander. David Bowie also appears as Major Jack Celliers, a POW that the commander takes a special interest in.
As Nolan is clearly an enormous fan of the film, one indeed has to wonder if Conti’s turn in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence had anything to do with his recruitment for Oppenheimer. Whether that is the case or not, it’s safe to say that Conti’s casting was just as deft a choice as the rest of the film’s stars, and we can’t wait to see what sort of punch he’ll be packing as the one and only Albert Einstein.
Oppenheimer drops into theaters on July 21.