Cillian Murphy Insisted That His And Florence Pugh’s “Oppenheimer” Sex Scenes Were “Not Gratuitous” And “Perfect” Amid Growing Controversy Around The Use Of Those Sacred Texts

Warning: Mild Oppenheimer spoilers ahead.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer was released in theaters Friday, and it was immediately showered with praise and labeled a “masterpiece.”

Christopher Nolan speaking at an event

Grossing over $170 million globally in the box office during its first weekend, Oppenheimer is officially the third-biggest opening of Christopher’s career, behind two of his Batman movies. The historical drama has also received a plethora of glowing reviews and an impressive audience score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The cast of Oppenheimer poses at its premiere before leaving

Starring Cillian Murphy as the titular physicist, Emily Blunt as his wife Kitty, and several more huge actors, Oppenheimer — which includes “infrequent nudity and sexual content,” “moderate scenes of atomic explosions,” and “reference to suicide” — is Christopher’s first R-rated movie since his 2002 thriller, Insomnia.

Emily and Cillian, who play husband and wife in Oppenheimer, smile at the premiere

The film features multiple sex scenes between Dr. Oppenheimer and Jean Tatlock, portrayed by Florence Pugh. Jean is a psychiatrist and Communist party member who engages in a sexual relationship with Oppenheimer before — and then during — his marriage to Kitty.

A closeup of Florence as Jean

In one of the explicit scenes, Florence’s character Jean, who is topless, holds the Bhagavad Gita — a sacred text of Hindu scripture — in front of her bare chest and asks Oppenheimer to read aloud from it. He then recites the line: “I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”

A closeup of Cillian as Oppenheimer

In real life, Oppenheimer quoted this line from the sacred text during a TV broadcast about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For this reason, amongst others, the use of the scripture during Cillian and Florence’s characters’ sex scene sparked uproar amongst audience members.

A closeup of Cillian and Florence at the Oppenheimer premiere

Several viewers found the use of the sacred Bhagavad Gita offensive, with journalist and political analyst Uday Mahurkar penning an open letter to Christopher Nolan on Twitter and calling the scene a “direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus.”

A closeup of Christopher Nolan

“We do not know the motivation and logic behind this unnecessary scene on life of a scientist. But this is a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus, rather it amounts to waging a war on the Hindu community and almost appears to be part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces,” he wrote.

. @OppenheimerATOM
Mr Christopher Nolan
Director , Oppenheimer film 

Date : July 22, 2023

Reg: Film Oppenheimer’s disturbing attack on Hinduism 

Dear Mr Christopher Nolan, 

Namaste from Save Culture Save India Foundation. 

It has come to our notice that the movie…

— Uday Mahurkar (@UdayMahurkar) July 22, 2023
Twitter: @UdayMahurkar

Meanwhile, other viewers felt that Cillian and Florence’s characters’ sex scenes were “gratuitous” and “unnecessary,” especially given that Florence’s role in the film elsewhere was minimal.

A closeup of Florence at the premiere

But in spite of the controversy, Cillian defended the use of the explicit scenes earlier this month, arguing that they were absolutely necessary to the film.

A closeup of Cillian

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Cillian noted that the sex scenes were “written deliberately” by Christopher, who was well aware that they’d result in the film getting a restricted rating.

“He knew that those scenes would get the movie the rating that it got,” Cillian said of Christopher. “And I think when you see it, it’s so fucking powerful. And they’re not gratuitous. They’re perfect. And Florence is just amazing.”

Cillian and Florence smiling on the red carpet

Going on to gush about Florence more closely, Cillian said, “I have loved Florence’s work since Lady Macbeth and I think she’s fucking phenomenal.”

“She has this presence as a person and on screen that is staggering. The impact she has [in Oppenheimer] for the size of the role, it’s quite devastating,” he added, acknowledging her minimal presence in the historical drama.

Cillian’s defense of the Oppenheimer sex scenes came just as the film’s director, Christopher, revealed that he was “appropriately nervous” about directing them.

Florence and Christopher about to hug on the red carpet

Noting that he wanted the explicit scenes between Jean and Oppenheimer to demonstrate why their relationship transcended politics, Christopher said, “It felt very important to understand their relationship and to really see inside it and understand what made it tick without being coy or allusive about it, but to try to be intimate, to try and be in there with him and fully understand the relationship that was so important to him.”

“Any time you're challenging yourself to work in areas you haven't worked in before, you should be appropriately nervous and appropriately careful and planned and prepared,” he added.

Skip to footer