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'Oppenheimer' wins Christopher Nolan his first Oscar for directing

Writer, director and producer Christopher Nolan says <em>Oppenheimer</em> is the "darkest" of all the films he's worked on.
Melinda Sue Gordon/
Writer, director and producer Christopher Nolan says Oppenheimer is the "darkest" of all the films he's worked on.

Christopher Nolan took home the Oscar for best director for the sprawling biopic Oppenheimer; it was Nolan's second nomination for directing and first win in the category. (He was nominated for directing 2017's Dunkirk, but lost to Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water.)

In his acceptance speech, Nolan thanked the cast and crew of the film, as well as his wife Emma Thomas, "producer of all of our films and all of our children."

He went on to note that the medium of film is 100 years old, and while we don't know where it will take us, "To know that you think I'm a meaningful part of it means the world to me. "

Nolan was heavily favored to win best director tonight, having spent awards season racking up best director trophies at the BAFTAs, the Director's Guild, and the Golden Globes, as well as taking home many regional film critic awards for directing.

Nolan's relationship to the Academy Awards has proven complicated over the years. His second feature, 2000's Memento, was nominated for best original screenplay, as was 2010's Inception. Earlier in the evening, Oppenheimer lost the best adapted screenplay to American Fiction.

But when the Academy failed to nominate his widely acclaimed film The Dark Knight for best picture – or him for best director – at the 2009 Oscars, there was a critical and public backlash. The following year, the Academy increased the size of the best picture category from five nominees to as many as 10. This change came to be known unofficially as "The Dark Knight Rule"and it's widely believed to have facilitated the inclusion of films popular with both critics and audiences like Avatar, Up, Black Panther, Top Gun: Maverick and Barbie into the best picture race.

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Glen Weldon
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.