On Thursday, July 27, grandchildren of distinguished American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer weighed in on Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster “OPPENHEIMER” film at an ATOMIX event hosted by the Atomic Museum at The Beverly Theater in Downtown Las Vegas.
During the exclusive event, granddaughter Dorothy Oppenheimer Vanderford and grandson Charles Oppenheimer discussed the portrayal of their grandfather in the “OPPENHEIMER” film and other biographies.
The two also shared family stories and anecdotes about their grandfather and his legacy as “the father of the atomic bomb.” Revelations included:
- Both Dorothy Oppenheimer Vanderford and Charles Oppenheimer enjoyed and appreciated the film as a work of art, as well as the casting of the roles.
- The “apple scene” that opens the movie is not based on real events, but on a secondhand report one of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s university friends made that has never been substantiated. Dorothy Oppenheimer Vanderford stated she felt that scene set her grandfather up to have a murderous nature, which she believes was absolutely not true.
- Dorothy Oppenheimer Vanderford stated she would have liked the movie to have included the fact that, in 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy reversed its 1954 decision to remove her grandfather’s security clearance. In a news release issued in conjunction with the reversal, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stated the department had a “…responsibility to correct the historical record and honor Dr. Oppenheimer’s profound contributions to our national defense and the scientific enterprise at large.”
- Charles Oppenheimer had reached out to director Christopher Nolan, offering to consult on the film. They had a “courtesy call,” during which Nolan politely declined Oppenheimer’s offer, explaining the script was complete and suggesting involving additional input at that stage would introduce unintended complications.
- The Oppenheimer Project, spearheaded by Charles Oppenheimer and involving other members of the Oppenheimer family including Dorothy Oppenheimer Vanderford, is a start-up promoting J. Robert Oppenhemier’s vision of international cooperation and increased unity addressing threats that arrive from the growth of science and technology, a well as positive applications of nuclear energy.
- Dorothy Oppenheimer Vanderford shared she believes her grandfather was not “tortured” by the role he played in the development of the atomic bomb. She regards him as a hero—both for serving his country as a scientist during wartime and speaking up about his concerns in its aftermath.
“This event was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn personal stories about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer directly from his family,” said McCoy. “We are delighted this film has sparked the public’s interest in learning about the Atomic Age and its many facets. We are looking forward to our next ATOMIX series event in November with Cecelia Tichi where the conversation will be centered around mid-century life and atomic cocktails.”
ABOUT THE ATOMIC MUSEUM
The Atomic Museum is operated and maintained by its parent company, the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation (NTSHF), an IRS 501(c)3 charitable, non-profit organization chartered in Nevada.
The Atomic Museum is one of 37 museums designated as an Affiliate Partner of the Smithsonian Institution and is a repository for one of the most comprehensive collections of nuclear history in the world.
Covering nuclear history beginning with the first test at the Nevada Test Site on January 27, 1951, the Atomic Museum’s exhibitions and programming also address current affairs related to the nuclear industry.