‘3 Body Problem’ Creators Worried Viewers Wouldn’t Get the Oppenheimer Reference – Then ‘Oppenheimer’ Came Out

If you’ve made it to Episode 3 of Netflix’s new sci-fi series “3 Body Problem,” you know there’s a scene in which Benedict Wong’s character talks about how J. Robert Oppenheimer’s mistress died. Series creators David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo revealed they were initially worried that viewers might not understand the reference – then Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” came out.

The scene finds Wong’s investigator Clarence Shi happening upon another dead scientist, this one with his head in the bathtub. “Oppenheimer’s mistress died the same way, on her knees, head in a tub,” his character says before adding that many thought she may have been murdered.

“Through the Oppenheimer’s mistress example, you’re meant to wonder how did this happen to this guy and are things what they seem?,” Weiss said in a behind-the-scenes video released by Netflix.

Benioff admitted he was worried viewers wouldn’t understand it. “When we first shot the scene, I thought, ‘How many people are gonna know this reference?’ And now thanks to Christopher Nolan…”

Weiss cut in, “There’s a very big, very well-made explanation of this moment.”

Of course, Nolan’s Best Picture-winning “Oppenheimer” was released last summer and went on to gross nearly $1 billion and won seven Oscars including Best Picture, Director and Actor for Cillian Murphy.

Florence Pugh plays Oppenheimer’s mistress in the film, Jean Tatlock, and through Nolan’s cunning visuals the film doesn’t definitively state whether she died by suicide or was murdered – look closely and there are shots of gloved hands pushing Jean’s head into the tub intercut with shots of her putting herself into the tub.

Benioff, Weiss and Woo are now tickled that what was meant to be a sly reference to a bit of scientific history is now a very clear nod to one of the biggest films of 2023.

“3 Body Problem” is based on the wildly popular book series of the same name by author Liu Cixin and follows a group of scientists struggling to prepare for a battle for humanity against an extraterrestrial force. It comes as a hotly anticipated title not only because of its source material, but because it’s the first new show created by “Game of Thrones” showrunners Benioff and Weiss since that HBO series ended.

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