Robert Downey Jr.’s casting in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming biopic Oppenheimer could be exactly what his career needs post-Iron Man and post-MCU. The upcoming flick, which features an all-star cast bringing a fascinating true story to life, feels different from a lot of the previous projects RDJ has taken on since he took his final bow as Iron Man back in Avengers: Endgame. The role RDJ is rumored to play in Oppenheimer should give the seasoned actor a chance to flex his acting chops in a very different way.
Oppenheimer, a biopic directed and written by Christopher Nolan, follows the true story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist who worked on The Manhattan Project, and an instrumental force behind the creation of the atomic bomb. Longtime Christopher Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy is set to lead the film as the eponymous physicist alongside a star-studded cast, which, of course, also includes Robert Downey Jr. And, it seems that in addition to lending his talents to the biopic (which will undoubtedly be on awards watchers’ early lists), RDJ’s role as Lewis Strauss, chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, will serve as an antagonistic force against Murphy’s Oppenheimer. Since audiences have largely grown accustomed to seeing Robert Downey Jr. play the wise-cracking but loveable hero Iron Man, it’ll be great for RDJ to take on the role of an antagonist in Oppenheimer. He’ll not only potentially get to give a darker, more imposing performance, but he’ll also get to distinguish himself from some of his other post-Iron Man roles, like his role in the unsuccessful Dolittle reboot. Much like some of RDJ’s other MCU costars, like Pam & Tommy’s Sebastian Stan, it seems like Oppenheimer could be the first of many more prestigious roles for RDJ.
When Dolittle came out shortly after Avengers: Endgame, the stakes were high for Downey’s first lead tentpole performance outside of Iron Man since 2014. However, the film, which was criticized by many as being unimaginative and formulaic, not only suffered pans from critics but from both audiences and the box office. Tonally, the character of Dr. Dolittle also felt similar to Iron Man, as both are eccentric scientific minds with loveable, charming quirks. Conversely, RDJ’s role in Oppenheimer (which is also a great career move for Christopher Nolan) not only feels like it’s likely to garner prestige, but it also feels like it could be a tonal departure from Tony Stark. Strauss was an antagonistic force in Oppenheimer’s life, and also a deeply conflicted patriot, desperate to do what he thought was best for the United States during the development of The Manhattan Project. The role seems likely to be rife with challenging, dramatic moments for RDJ to play, and will also give the actor an opportunity to flex acting muscles that have been dormant for some time.
While Robert Downey Jr.’s casting in Oppenheimer alongside Cillian Murphy is certainly not the first time he’s had a chance at prestige and awards, his casting in the Nolan flick is a refreshing change of pace from his recent filmography. The role will undoubtedly allow RDJ to let audiences see him in a different light. And, with Oppenheimer being one of the most highly anticipated films in the next few years, the buzz for Robert Downey Jr.’s return to the world of high dramatic acting will likely only accentuate the hype further.