Oppenheimer’s Josh Hartnett Explains Why It Was ‘Refreshing’ To Work With Christopher Nolan


Being a film actor is a job that generally requires a lot of patience. On a set, any given shot has a lot of people performing specific tasks, and there is a great deal of repetition thanks to both multiple takes and multiple angles that ensure the director gets everything they want before taking the material to the editing room. Of course, different filmmakers work different ways, and for Josh Hartnett on the set of Oppenheimer, he was impressed by the efficiency and speed of Christopher Nolan.

Hartnett, best known for movies like The Faculty and Black Hawk Down, is in the midst of a career renaissance, and The Hollywood Reporter recently caught up with him about his recent work. The actor is in The Bear Season 3 (now streamable with a Hulu subscription) and he is in M. Night Shyamalan‘s new film Trap (in theaters this August), but he also reflected on his experience working with the Oscar-winning Christopher Nolan in the making of Oppenheimer. He told the trade,

I’ve never shot anything, including micro-budget independent films, that shoot as quickly as Chris [Nolan] does. I find that refreshing. He’s not overly precious. The scripts are written really specifically, and the actors are all so dialed into their characters that he gets what he wants immediately, and then just shoots a little coverage and he’s done.

It’s worth noting that a director knowing exactly what they want can also make things considerably more difficult on set. The classic example, of course, is Stanley Kubrick, who had clarity of vision but was a perfectionist that demanded dozens of takes to get exactly what he wanted. Christopher Nolan evidently doesn’t work in that same kind of extreme way.

In Oppenheimer, Josh Hartnett plays Ernest Lawrence, a key nuclear physicist who was a part of the Manhattan Project, and he shares scenes with Best Actor winner Cillian Murphy and Matt Damon – two actors who both had prior experience working with Christopher Nolan prior to his 2023 biopic. Harnett recognized the trust that his co-stars had in the director, adding,

You can tell watching those actors on that set, that they really trust the process and it’s done an extraordinary thing for them. I also think the show is breaking ground insofar as the tension of the show, in a way that feels organic. You can’t come in and not know what you’re doing otherwise you’ll get left behind.

Since making his big screen debut in 1998’s Halloween H20, Harnett has had the opportunity to work with some notable directors, including Sofia Coppola, Michael Bay, Robert Rodriguez, Ridley Scott, and Brian De Palma. One key thing he acknowledges about the best of those he’s worked with is that they are open to collaboration and don’t fall too far down the rabbit hole with on-set details. Said Harnett,

All of the really talented directors I’ve worked with, they’re willing to trust their collaborators. They’ve got such a clear vision, and it seems to be only the directors who are unsure of their vision that want to micromanage too much. There aren’t many top-notch directors who are overworking the dough, as it were.

How will things work out with Josh Hartnett’s collaboration with M. Night Shyamalan? We’ll find out soon, as Trap is set for release on August 9 and sees the actor playing a serial killer trying to evade police capture during a pop music concert. And if you’re looking to rewatch Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, you can presently stream it with an Amazon Prime subscription.

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