Prior to taking on the role of General Leslie Groves in Oppenheimer, Matt Damon redefined the concept of “a free pass” while promising his wife in couples therapy that he would take an acting break with one exemption: a call from Christopher Nolan.
“This is going to sound made up, but it’s actually true,” Damon revealed in an Entertainment Weekly roundtable. “I had — not to get too personal — negotiated extensively with my wife that I was taking time off. I had been in Interstellar, and then Chris put me on ice for a couple of movies, so I wasn’t in the rotation, but I actually negotiated in couples therapy – this is a true story — the one caveat to my taking time off was if Chris Nolan called.”
He continued, “This is without knowing whether or not he was working on anything, because he never tells you. He just calls you out of the blue. And so, it was a moment in my household.” Thanks to Damon and his wife’s agreement, the actor appears in the film as Groves, who oversaw the Manhattan Project that led to the development of the atomic bomb.
According to his co-star Cillian Murphy, who plays J. Robert Oppenheimer in the movie, surprise offers are just Nolan’s “way of operating.” Speaking about being informed he was playing the role, the actor remembered, “I genuinely had no idea. He said he was making a movie about Oppenheimer and he said, ‘I’d like you to play Oppenheimer.’ I had to sit down. It was kind of overwhelming.”
Meanwhile, Nolan admitted his method could put a damper on making social plans. “[It’s] a fun way to do it,” he told Murphy during the sitdown. “But it means that it’s very difficult to call you to go out to dinner or something. Because every time you answer the phone it’s like, ‘What’s it going to be?'”
The all-star ensemble cast for the film also includes Robert Downey, Jr., Florence Pugh, and Rami Malek, who all walked out of the film’s London premiere last week after SAG-AFTRA officially voted to strike. Oppenheimer opens in theaters on July 21st, and you can revisit the latest trailer here.