Tatlock and Oppenheimer were in a relationship and later had an affair while the nuclear physicist was married to Katherine “Kitty” Puening (portrayed by Emily Blunt in the movie).
“I didn’t really know what was going on or what it was that was being made,” Pugh told MTV UK about Oppenheimer in an interview conducted before the actors’ strikes.
“Except I knew that Chris [Nolan] really, really wanted me to know that it wasn’t a very big role, and he understands if I don’t want to come near it. And I was like, ‘Doesn’t matter. Even if I’m a coffee maker at a café in the back of the room, let’s do it.’”
Pugh said she met Nolan in New York while filming Zach Braff’s 2023 drama, A Good Person. “I remember he apologised about the size of the role. I was like, ‘Please don’t apologise,’” she continued.
“And then he said, ‘We’ll send you the script, and honestly, you just read it and decide if it’s like… I completely understand the sizing thing.’ And I remember that evening when I got the script being like, ‘I don’t need to… I know I’m going to do it.’”
As Tatlock, Pugh stars in the first sex scenes of Nolan’s career in Oppenheimer. One of the scenes was condemned in India as Oppenheimer is depicted reading out part of the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures, during intercourse.
Speaking to British GQ in a recent interview, Murphy said the sex scenes in the film were “vital”.
“I think the relationship that he has with Jean Tatlock is one of the most crucial emotional parts of the film,” the Irish actor said.
“I think if they’re key to the story then they’re worthwhile. Listen, no one likes doing them, they’re the most awkward possible part of our job. But sometimes you have to get on with it.”
In a previous interview with Insider, director Nolan agreed: “When you look at Oppenheimer’s life and you look at his story, that aspect of his life, the aspect of his sexuality, his way with women, the charm that he exuded, it’s an essential part of his story.
“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.”
Pugh’s nudity was censored in certain territories, including the Middle East, India and Indonesia.