Legacy Forged: Christopher Nolan & “Oppenheimer” Have Huge Oscars Night

Christopher Nolan and his riveting, historic biopic Oppenheimer had a huge night at the 96th Academy Awards. Nolan notched his first-ever Oscar win after seven previous nominations, winning Best Director. “Movies are just a little bit over 100 years old,” Nolan said during his acceptance speech. “I would imagine being 100 years into painting or theater. We don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here, but to know that you think that I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me.”

Oppenheimer had a huge night, notching seven wins in total, including Best Picture. Nolan’s riveting look at the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his efforts to give the United States an atomic weapon before the Nazis achieved the same turned out to be a career-capping story for many of the principal players, including Cillian Murphy, who won his first Oscar for Best Actor in the titular role, and Robert Downey Jr., who took. home his first Oscar—three decades after his first nomination for 1992’s Chaplin—for his stunning performance as Oppenheimer’s one-time advocate-turned-nemesis Lewis Strauss. “Here’s my little secret: I needed this job more than it needed me,” Downey said upon accepting his award, having traded in Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor for a mid-century bureaucrat’s suit, which, it turned out, had a splash of gold.

Joining Nolan, Murphy, and Downey Jr. in Oppenheimer glory were fellow Oscar winners cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, editor Jennifer Lame, composer Ludwig Göransson, and Nolan’s partner in life and filmmaking, his wife and producer Emma Thomas, who earned her first Oscar when Oppenheimer won Best Picture, accepting the award with Nolan and producer Charles Roven, flanked by much of the cast and crew members like Hoytema and Göransson. 

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 10: (L-R) Robert Downey Jr., winner of the Best Supporting Actor award for “Oppenheimer, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award for “The Holdovers”, Emma Stone, winner of the Best Actress in a Leading Role award for “Poor Things”, and Cillian Murphy, winner of the Best Actor in a Leading Role award for “Oppenheimer” pose in the press room during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

One of the night’s surprises belonged to Emma Stone, who edged out Killers of the Flower Moon breakout star Lily Gladstone for Best Actress for her performance in Poor Things. Stone played the newborn adult Bella Baxter undergoing an odyssey of self-discovery in the trippy Victorian fever dream from Yorgos Lanthimos. “The best part about making movies is all of us together, and I am so deeply honored to share this with every cast member, with every crew member, with every single person who poured their love and their care and their brilliance into the making of this film,” Stone said. She nabbed one of Poor Things‘ 4 Oscars, joining costume designer Holly Waddington, makeup and hairstylists Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier, and Josh Weston, and production designers Shona Heath and James Price.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph kicked off the telecast by winning her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her richly layered, moving turn as Mary Lamb, a grieving cook at a boarding school in The Holdovers. “For so long, I’ve always wanted to be different, and now, I realize I just need to be myself,” Randolph said.

Jonathan Glazer’s unflinching The Zone of Interest won Best International Feature, while Zone’s sound designer Johnnie Burn and sound mixer Tarn Willers won for Best Sound. Staying international, co-writer/director Justine Triet and screenwriter Arthur Harari won an Oscar for Original Screenplay for their stunning thriller Anatomy of a Fall, Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki’s The Boy and the Heron won for Best Animated Feature, edging out Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and the intensely harrowing 20 Days in Mariupol, which tracked the horrors committed by Russia during their brutal siege of that Ukrainian city, won for Best Documentary. Director Mstyslav Chernov delivered a powerful speech when he accepted the award, saying, “Russians are killing tens of thousands of my fellow Ukrainians. I wish I had never made this film. I wish to be able to exchange this to Russia [for] never attacking Ukraine, never occupying our cities.”

Best Adapted Screenplay went to writer/director Cord Jefferson for American Fiction, which he adapted from Percival Everertt’s novel “Erasure.” Jefferson used some of his acceptance speech time to make a passionate case for the more modestly budgeted films and the filmmakers out there waiting to make them, saying the next Martin Scorsese, Greta Gerwig, and Christopher Nolan were out there; they just needed a shot.

It was a smooth show, with an earlier-than-usual start time and some stellar musical performances studded throughout, including two songs from Barbie, Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s “What Was I Made For” and Ryan Gosling and Mark Ronson’s emo-ballad “I’m Just Ken.,” with surprise guest, guitarist Slash.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 10: (L-R) Ryan Gosling and Slash perform ‘I’m Just Ken’ from “Barbie” onstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Host Jimmy Kimmel kept things brisk, stopping for less than a minute toward the telecast’s end to respond to a former President’s live tweeting of his hosting ability. “Isn’t it past your jail time,” Kimmel quipped.

For the full list of Oscar winners, click here.

Featured image: HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 10: In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan are seen backstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)


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The Credits is an online magazine that tells the story behind the story to celebrate our large and diverse creative community. Focusing on profiles of below-the-line filmmakers, The Credits celebrates the often uncelebrated individuals who are indispensable to the films and TV shows we love.