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Kenneth Branagh, fresh off the Oscar-nominated success of “Belfast,” will reunite with Christopher Nolan on “Oppenheimer.” The two have previously teamed up on “Dunkirk” and “Tenet.” Branagh will play an unspecified role in the ambitious and pricey look at J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in creating the atomic bomb. Branagh recently starred in “Death on the Nile” and earned Academy Award nods for directing, producing and writing “Belfast.”

Universal Pictures and Syncopy also announced Tuesday that principal photography has commenced on the film and revealed a moody first look of star Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer. In the snapshot, Murphy is pictured staring intently while smoking a cigarette. That’s certainly true to the historical record. Oppenheimer was a chain smoker who eventually suffered from throat cancer.

Written and directed by Nolan, “Oppenheimer” is produced by Emma Thomas, Atlas Entertainment’s Charles Roven and Nolan. It will film in multiple U.S. locations, including New Mexico, California and New Jersey. It’s a sprawling production, carrying a budget of $100 million, making it the kind of sober-minded, thoughtful epic that has become an endangered species in the superhero era. Nolan managed to make “Dunkirk” an improbable financial winner when it debuted in 2017, but it had a triumphant ending with British forces pulling off a miraculous escape that enabled the country to eventually prevail in the fight against fascism. Few people would argue that the world has been made a happier place with the introduction of nuclear weapons unless potential annihilation is your bag.

“Oppenheimer” stars Emily Blunt as biologist and botanist Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, Matt Damon as Gen. Leslie Groves Jr., director of the Manhattan Project, and Robert Downey, Jr. as Lewis Strauss, a founding commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Florence Pugh plays psychiatrist Jean Tatlock, Benny Safdie plays theoretical physicist Edward Teller, Michael Angarano plays Robert Serber and Josh Hartnett plays pioneering American nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence. “Oppenheimer” also stars Rami Malek, Dane DeHaan, Dylan Arnold , David Krumholtz, Alden Ehrenreich and Matthew Modine. Nolan likes to use a stock company of actors, with not only Branagh, but Murphy, Damon and Modine serving as return collaborators.

Universal Pictures will distribute “Oppenheimer” theatrically worldwide and will release the film in North American theaters on July 21, 2023. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin.