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Oppenheimer and Terminator 2 share the same strange inspiration

Christopher Nolan and James Cameron were both inspired by a particular cultural moment when it came to Oppenheimer and Terminator 2, among their best movies.

Terminator 2 and Oppenheimer share an inspiration

They might not seem the most obvious bedfellows, but it turns out that Oppenheimer and Terminator 2 actually share a lot of creative DNA. Oppenheimer is in cinemas right now, and one of 2023’s biggest new movies has a lot in common with the Terminator sequel – at least when it comes to how the idea was born.

Christopher Nolan and James Cameron are two of the best directors in Hollywood history, and it turns out they’re both great lovers of the musician Sting as well. Both have cited his 1985 single ‘Russians’ as influencing their movies.

In a 2021 interview with The Ringer, Cameron recalled the role Sting played in encouraging him to tell the story of the 10-year-old John Connor in the story that would become T2 – one of the best science fiction movies ever made.

He said: “I remember sitting there once, high on E, writing notes for Terminator, and I was struck by Sting’s song, that ‘I hope the Russians love their children too’. And I thought: ‘You know what? The idea of a nuclear war is just so antithetical to life itself’. That’s where the kid came from.”

Sting did spend some time as an actor, but it’s unlikely he expected to have his footprints on one of the best movies ever made.

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Nolan, meanwhile, explained to Entertainment Weekly that some of his earliest knowledge of J. Robert Oppenheimer came about because of listening to the same Sting track.

He said: “I first heard about Oppenheimer when I was a kid. That Sting song ‘Russians’ refers to Oppenheimer’s ‘deadly toys’. I was growing up in the UK at a time when people were very concerned about nuclear armaments.

“When I was 12 or 13, myself and my friends were absolutely convinced that we were going to experience a nuclear war at some point in our lives. Oppenheimer stuck with me as a figure and I learned more about him over the years.”

It’s fascinating to see that this single track influenced two of the great filmmakers, especially as it’s not even close to being one of Sting’s biggest hits. It peaked at number 16 on the US Billboard Chart and number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. Not exactly Taylor Swift’s latest, is it?

Cillian Murphy and Christopher Nolan on the set of Oppenheimer

We’ve delved further into the newest addition to the ranks of Christopher Nolan movies with our Oppenheimer review and guide to the Oppenheimer ending explained. You can also get answers to big questions including ‘Why did Lewis Strauss hate Oppenheimer?‘.

You’ll also want to know about Oppenheimer cinema formats, so we’ve explained how to watch Oppenheimer in 70mm IMAX, as the director intended. We’ve also explored how Christopher Nolan is always competing with himself, and explained why Oppenheimer is Robert Pattinson’s fault. As it turns out, it was Sting’s fault first.