The Real TIME Covers in Oppenheimer


This post contains spoilers for Oppenheimer.

TIME makes a cameo in the summer blockbuster Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s movie about brainiac theoretical physicist and atomic bomb architect J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Two TIME magazine covers show up in the movie: one featuring Oppenheimer, and the other depicting his nemesis Lewis Strauss, head of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. While based on real issues of the magazine, the cover photos in the film are altered to look like the actors Cillian Murphy (Oppenheimer) and Robert Downey Jr. (Strauss).

The first TIME magazine that appears in the movie is the Nov. 8, 1948, issue, featuring a portrait of Oppenheimer by the artist Ernest Hamlin Baker. The cover story details the scientist’s rise to fame, and includes details about Oppenheimer’s—or “Oppie’s”—eccentricities:

The second issue of TIME in the movie appears at a key plot point, during the feud between Oppenheimer and Strauss, who stripped Oppenheimer of his security clearance. During his confirmation hearings for Commerce Secretary in 1959, Strauss is depicted in the movie as bandying about TIME’s June 15, 1959, issue, bragging to an aide that he knows TIME publisher Henry Luce and got the story placed as part of his campaign for the Commerce position. The real TIME cover story explains Strauss’ complicated personality that Nolan also explores in the movie:

Strauss’s hopes that a TIME story would boost his chances of confirmation didn’t work; the Senate did not confirm him to be Commerce Secretary.

Read the full stories about Oppenheimer and Strauss in the TIME vault here and here.

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Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com.

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