Knighthood for 'Oppenheimer' director Christopher Nolan as film finally opens in Japan

Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan and producer wife Emma Thomas to receive knighthood and damehood
Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan and producer wife Emma Thomas to receive knighthood and damehood Copyright John Locher/Invision/AP
By David Mouriquand
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'Oppenheimer' director Christopher Nolan and producer wife Emma Thomas are to receive a knighthood and damehood. Meanwhile, the Oscar winning film finally premieres in Japan - to mixed reactions.


British director Christopher Nolan, who won a Best Director Oscar this month for Oppenheimer, will receive a knighthood. His wife, movie producer Emma Thomas, is to receive a damehood.

The UK government said the pair were being honoured for their services to film.

The film about the father of the atomic bomb swept the board at the 2024 ceremony, picking up seven prizes in total – including Best Film.

Nolan had previously been nominated for five Academy Awards prior to Oppenheimer, but had never won an Oscar until this year's ceremony.

News of their honours came as a surprise, because they are usually handed out twice in the year, once to mark the new year and then on the birthday of King Charles III (14 November), who confers the honours.

However, they are sometimes awarded after special achievements, often related to sports and the arts – and Nolan more than qualifies on that front considering his awards sweep for Oppenheimer.

The honours are formally awarded at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, often by the UK monarch in person. However, the king is currently not undertaking any royal duties, because he is undergoing treatment for cancer.

Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas at the Oscars - March 2024
Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas at the Oscars - March 2024Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Born in 1970 in London to a British father and American mother, Nolan read English at University College London, choosing UCL because of its filmmaking facilities. It is where he met his future wife in 1997. They have four children together and live in Los Angeles.

Nolan, 53, and Thomas, 52, co-founded the production company Syncopy, which has been behind many of their blockbusters. They have collaborated on all of his major feature films including The Dark Knight trilogy, 2010's Inception, 2014's Interstellar, 2017's Dunkirk and 2020's Tenet.

When Nolan was presented with the British Film Institute’s highest honour, a BFI Fellowship, for being "one of the world's most innovative and influential film directors", he paid tribute to his wife.

“I was asked if in all of those years fighting to shoot on film, did you ever feel alone doing that?,” he said. “I was able to say I did not because my producer Emma Thomas always saw things the same way I did in terms of the importance of the medium.”

Oppenheimer finally opens in Japan
Oppenheimer finally opens in JapanEugene Hoshiko/AP

Elsewhere, Oppenheimer finally premiered in Japan, where two cities were obliterated 79 years ago by the nuclear weapons invented by the American scientist.

Oppenheimer does not directly depict what happened on the ground when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; it instead focuses on Oppenheimer as a person and his internal conflicts.

The film's release in Japan, more than eight months after it opened in the US and Europe, had been watched with trepidation because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Former Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka, who spoke at a preview event for the film in the southwestern city, was more critical of what was omitted.

“From Hiroshima’s standpoint, the horror of nuclear weapons was not sufficiently depicted,” he was quoted as saying by Japanese media. “The film was made in a way to validate the conclusion that the atomic bomb was used to save the lives of Americans.”

A backlash flared last year over the “Barbenheimer” marketing phenomenon that merged pink-and-fun Barbie with intense Oppenheimer. Warner Bros. Japan, which distributed Barbie in the country, apologized after some memes depicted the Mattel doll with atomic blast imagery.

For his part, Takashi Yamazaki, director of Godzilla Minus One, which won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects - and is a powerful statement on nuclear catastrophe in its own way - suggested he might be the man to tell the Japanese response to Oppenheimer.


“I feel there needs to an answer from Japan to ‘Oppenheimer.’ Someday, I would like to make that movie,” he said in an online dialogue with Christopher Nolan.

Nolan heartily agreed.

Additional sources • AP

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