English comedian David Baddiel has criticised the casting of the Irish actor Cillian Murphy as J Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s recent biopic.
English comedian and author David Baddiel has expressed concerns over Cillian Murphy’s role in blockbuster biopic Oppenheimer.
Baddiel wrote an opinion piece in which he criticised the casting of non-Jewish actors such as Murphy in roles as famous Jewish people, as was the case in the new historical drama epic.
David Baddiel – a talented author and comedian
Following the movie’s release, Baddiel, who is of Jewish descent, wrote a damning article for The Jewish Chronicle titled: “Oppenheimer liked to pretend he wasn’t Jewish – like the film”.
“I have talked and written about this many times – about how it’s a question not of acting but of context: minority casting being presently dominated by the notion of authenticity; the question is why that doesn’t apply to Jews and what that means for how people see Jews.
“But there is another, more complex issue thrown up by the casting in Oppenheimer. Any biopic on such a serious subject as the creation of the atomic bomb needs to delve deep into the psychological underpinnings of the narrative”.
Oppenheimer – one of the biggest blockbusters of 2023
Baddiel argues in his opinion piece that the movie’s chief character, J Robert Oppenheimer’s Jewish heritage provided him with a more personal motivation to fight the threat posed by Nazi Germany by helping to develop the atomic bomb.
Baddiel wrote, “The emotional undercurrent for J Robert and Albert Einstein and the other Jews involved in trying to make this weapon before the Nazis did, was fear and desperation.
“Oppenheimer does include scenes where mentions of J Robert’s heritage are present and correct, but the film lacks […] any profound sense of that ethnicity being key to who he was, the secret driver of his work at Los Alamos”.
Baddiel suggested that the casting of non-Jewish actors for these parts was the reason for the film’s shortcomings in this area.
Baddiel concluded: “I’ve called Oppenheimer J Robert in this article because his first name was, in fact, Julius.
“He, however, insisted it stood for nothing because he didn’t want people to think he was Jewish or that Jewishness mattered much to him – and there is a sense in which Oppenheimer the movie has gone along with that. But to do so is to miss, perhaps, the deepest undercurrent of the story”.
Cillian Murphy – one of Ireland’s best actors
Starring alongside Murphy in the movie is also Tom Conti, who plays the role of fellow theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, who, like Oppenheimer, was Jewish. Baddiel criticised the fact that, unlike the characters they play, Murphy and Conti are not Jewish.