David Baddiel questions Cillian Murphy casting as Jewish physicist Oppenheimer

"They are not so worried about Jews," Baddiel said of casting directors

David Baddiel has questioned the casting of Cillian Murphy as Jewish nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer.

The Jewish comedian and writer suggested in a new interview that he isn’t totally on board with Murphy, an Irish actor who isn’t of Jewish descent, portraying “the father of the atomic bomb”.

Tom Conti, who portrays the Jewish theoretical physicist Albert Einstein in the film, isn’t Jewish.


“Authenticity casting I think of as an a priori thing that exists,” Baddiel told The Times.

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, I can promise you that in this business – and I am in this business still – casting directors are now frightened to cast except in line with the minority they are casting. But they are not so worried about Jews.”

Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer’. CREDIT: Universal

Baddiel has previously spoken about non-Jewish actors playing Jewish characters in film and TV productions.

In an opinion piece published in The Guardian last year, Baddiel discussed Maureen Lipman’s comments that Helen Mirren should not play former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in the 2023 film Golda because she isn’t Jewish.

Baddiel wrote at the time: “Casting a non-minority actor to mimic that identity feels, to the progressive eye, like impersonation, and impersonation may carry with it an element of mockery.”


The real-life Oppenheimer was the child of two Jewish immigrants. He was raised in a secular Jewish household.

In related news, Warner Bros. in the US has apologised for replying to Barbenheimer memes that feature atom bomb images, while Francis Ford Coppola has predicted that a “golden age” of cinema is close thanks to the box office success of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

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