“Oppenheimer” is a remarkably paced film. It is filled with information, visuals, and sound, but never feels overwhelming. How did you help make this pace happen, working with and alongside Christopher Nolan and also with Ludwig Göransson and the sound design team? What was your role in this?
Yeah, I think pace is one of those things. Obviously, every film has to have a good pace, so it’s a very funny thing to talk about. But I think the reason people want to keep talking about it in this film is because of the duration, right? Because it covers a lot. I think for me, the challenge of the pace of this film was the duration and the fact that it covers so much different material. From a big historical event to a small, weird rivalry between two people who were mad at each other, and then the relationships he had with his wife and with Florence Pugh’s character. So I think, in terms of pace, the most important thing was that I never wanted it to feel crowded in three hours.
Chris and I wanted you to feel like you were just observing this whole life story become huge and then tiny, and it had so many peaks and valleys, ups and downs and flows. My favorite part of the film is the last third of the film, thankfully. So, for me, I just wanted people – I wanted, selfishly, everyone to feel that way. For me, the bomb going off is the least interesting part of the film. To me, it’s what happens after the bomb goes off. So I think, in terms of pace, I just wanted to make sure everyone was still present until the end. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when you see what Einstein said by the lake, and I wanted everyone to still be super engaged, so that when he said, “You don’t know what they were talking about” and we cut to Einstein, where it’s like, “Wow!” But everyone has to be engaged until then.
So, I just think making this roller coaster ride of the film version and making the ups and downs and letting people live moments, and I keep talking about how I wanted the first 30 minutes of the film to feel very digestible and you could understand all the characters. I wanted people to not feel pressure to understand all the timelines. I wanted it to feel like 30 thrilling minutes of information, but also that you were getting a glimpse of who all these people were. And not getting stuck with rules, or whatever.
But yeah, I think just that question of pace, as an editor, is my whole job. People keep asking me about it and I totally understand why. And I also go back to the moment I read the script for the first time, I had a very emotional experience. I had to read it at Chris’s house, had to talk to him right after, and you walk into this room and it’s very sterile, and I literally opened the page and the next thing I realized, five minutes had gone by and I had read the whole film and it was incredible. So I think my goal was to make sure everyone felt that way when they saw the film. Just by showing and showing and thinking, “Oh, this section is lagging” or “This section, I feel like it doesn’t have the same feeling as when I read this.” I kept going back to that initial emotional reaction when I experienced the film for the first time, which is reading the script and wanting that to happen for everyone else.