Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

PG-13 | 126 mins | Drama | 20 October 1989

Director:

Roland Joffé

Producer:

Tony Garnett

Cinematographer:

Vilmos Zsigmond

Production Designer:

Gregg Fonseca

Production Company:

Lightmotive
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HISTORY


       Fat Man and Little Boy used the alternate title Shadow Makers for its United Kingdom release on 9 Mar 1990 as reported in a 3 Jan 1990 Var news item.
       A 7-14 Feb 1990 London, England Time Out article reported that the film had originated at Warner Bros. with Hugh Hudson scheduled to direct, however costs delayed the production. Producer Tony Garnett and director Roland Joffé took over the project. Eventually, Warner Bros. passed on the project and it was taken up by Paramount Pictures in 1988.
A 17 Jul 1988 LAT news item reported that actor Harrison Ford was offered the role of “J. Robert Oppenheimer.” However, a 1 Nov 1989 LAT article stated that while Paramount wanted a big name for the role, director Roland Joffé insisted that an unknown actor be cast. He instructed his casting director to audition all American actors who were currently performing the role of “Valmont” in the play Les Liasons Dangereuses. Actor Dwight Schultz, who was best known for his role as “ Howling Mad Murdock” in the television series The A-Team (NBC, 1983--1987), was performing the role in a production in Williamstown, MA. The studio resisted hiring Shultz, but he was cast one day before production began after receiving approval from actor Paul Newman.
       A 26 Oct 1988 Var news brief reported that principal photography began on 24 Oct 1988 in Durango, Mexico. An advertisement thanking actor Paul Newman and the cast and crew for completing the movie appeared in the 17 Jan 1989 ... More Less


       Fat Man and Little Boy used the alternate title Shadow Makers for its United Kingdom release on 9 Mar 1990 as reported in a 3 Jan 1990 Var news item.
       A 7-14 Feb 1990 London, England Time Out article reported that the film had originated at Warner Bros. with Hugh Hudson scheduled to direct, however costs delayed the production. Producer Tony Garnett and director Roland Joffé took over the project. Eventually, Warner Bros. passed on the project and it was taken up by Paramount Pictures in 1988.
A 17 Jul 1988 LAT news item reported that actor Harrison Ford was offered the role of “J. Robert Oppenheimer.” However, a 1 Nov 1989 LAT article stated that while Paramount wanted a big name for the role, director Roland Joffé insisted that an unknown actor be cast. He instructed his casting director to audition all American actors who were currently performing the role of “Valmont” in the play Les Liasons Dangereuses. Actor Dwight Schultz, who was best known for his role as “ Howling Mad Murdock” in the television series The A-Team (NBC, 1983--1987), was performing the role in a production in Williamstown, MA. The studio resisted hiring Shultz, but he was cast one day before production began after receiving approval from actor Paul Newman.
       A 26 Oct 1988 Var news brief reported that principal photography began on 24 Oct 1988 in Durango, Mexico. An advertisement thanking actor Paul Newman and the cast and crew for completing the movie appeared in the 17 Jan 1989 HR .
       According to production notes in AMPAS library, filming at Los Alamos, NM, was not feasible due to modern developments around the real complex. Durango, Mexico, was chosen for its comparable terrain. Red earth was trucked in to match Los Alamos and production designer Gregg Fonseca supervised the creation of a replica of Los Alamos circa 1943. Over thirty-five practical buildings were erected. No false fronts were used as the buildings were used for both interior and exterior filming.
       A 24 Oct 1988 DV news item reported that principal photography took place in Durango, Mexico, with the exception of one week of shooting in Mexico City. The film’s budget was estimated to be around $30 million.
       Fat Man and Little Boy did not fare well financially or critically. As reported in a 10 Feb 1990 Screen International news item, the film had only earned $3,563,162 to that date.
       Various contemporary reviews and articles cited the film’s historical inaccuracies in its portrayal of J. Robert Oppenhiemer. Author Richard Rhodes, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, was quoted as stating that the film’s version of Oppenheimer was “an ignorant distortion of the man,” and that he was not “a divided human being” over participating in creating the atomic bomb. A 20 Oct 1989 LAHExam review criticized the dialogue, pointing out that various slang expressions used, such as “pinko fruitcake,” “eight ball,” and “bro,” did not exist in 1945.
       As stated in production notes, the title Fat Man and Little Boy stems from the code names for the two atomic bombs. The plutonium bomb, “Fat Man,” was named after Prime Minister Winston Churchill, while the uranium-based bomb was originally named “Thin Man” for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but later changed to “Little Boy.” The code names were already used for the two men and authorities believed if enemy agents intercepted messages about the bombs, they would conclude they were about the world leaders.

      The following statement appears after opening credits: “Pentagon 1942. The Second World War has raged for three years. The Nazis, victorious in Europe, have declared war on America. It is 9 months since Pearl Harbor.” The following statement appears before end credits: “21 days later, on August 6th, 1945, the bomb called ‘Little Boy’ on Hiroshima. 3 days after that, the bomb called ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki. At least 200,000 people died as a result of the bombings. Japan surrendered unconditionally in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. For a while J. Robert Oppenheimer was a national hero. In 1949 he refused to support the creation of the Hydrogen Super Bomb. In 1954 his security clearance was revoked. He was forced from public service and died of cancer in 1967. General Groves lost control of the nuclear arms program and became a business executive. He died of heart disease in 1970.”

              The following statements appear in end credits: “The producers wish to thank: Roberto Maldonado Muñoz, Mexico Unit Representative; Jose Dolores Herrera - Mexico Unit Chief of Staff; Bill Jack Rodgers – Los Alamos National Laboratory; Roger Meade, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Historic Archives; Edward Reese, Military Reference Branch National Archives and Records Administration; Theresa Strottman, Los Alamos Historical Museum Archives; Neo Classical Ballet of Mexico.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Oct 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 1989.
---
LAHExam
20 Oct 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1989
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
1 Nov. 1989
p 1, 7.
New York Times
20 Oct 1989
p. 15.
Screen International
10 Feb 1990.
---
Time Out [London]
7-14 Feb 1990
pp. 14-16.
Variety
26 Oct 1988.
---
Variety
18 Oct 1989
p. 28, 30.
Variety
3 Jan 1990.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures presents
A Lightmotive Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Unit prod mgr, San Francisco unit
1st asst dir, San Francisco unit
2d asst dir, San Francisco unit
Cam op, San Francisco unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
"A" cam op
"B" cam op
"A" cam 1st asst photog
"B" cam 1st asst photog
Chief lighting tech
Dolly grip
Still photog
Dollies provided by
Cam equip provided by
Anamorphic lenses provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Addl ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Lead person
Prop master
Prop master
Const coord
Const coord
Const coord
Const coord
Scenic artist
Prop master, San Francisco unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp, orch and cond by
SOUND
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd mixer, San Francisco unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff asst
Titles and opticals
Spe visual eff by
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Visual eff asst supv
Matte artist
Opt supv
Visual eff ed
DANCE
Choreog
Choreog
MAKEUP
Make-up and hair supv
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod des
Scr supv
Transportation coord
Prod office coord
Los Angeles coord
Prod secy
Prod auditor
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Unit pub
Casting asst
Historical research
Post prod asst
Animal trainer
Military coord
Tech adv
Voice casting
Transportation coord, San Francisco unit
Loc mgr, San Francisco unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice," by Paul Dukas, performed by The Vienna Symphony, Edouard Van Remoortel, conductor, courtesy of The Moss Music Group by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Dance Of The Reed Flutes," by P. Tchaikovsky, courtesy of TRF Production Music Libraries by arrangement with Kaleidosound
"Brown Jug Swing," (J. E. Winner) arranged by Garnett Brown.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Shadow Makers
Release Date:
20 October 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 20 October 1989
Production Date:
began 24 October 1988
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
27 November 1989
Copyright Number:
PA436662
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Color by Techicolor®
Duration(in mins):
126
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29576
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After completing his assignment to construct the Pentagon, a reluctant Lieutenant General Leslie R. Groves is ordered to supervise “The Manhattan Project" and beat the Nazi’s in building the first atomic bomb. He first believes the project is a “boondoggle” until he meets Leo Szilard in Chicago, Illinois. The famed scientist explains to Groves that the creation of an atomic bomb is indeed possible. In October 1942, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer is called to a northern California airport to meet with Groves and asked to lead the scientific team. When Oppenheimer states that his politics may get in the way, Groves confesses that “higher ups” are worried by it, but he has decided Oppenheimer’s brilliance justifies the risk. However, he warns Oppenheimer that his intellect does not outrank Grove’s brigadier general’s star. Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty persuades him to accept the job. In April 1943, Groves arrives at Los Alamos, New Mexico, to find the camp unfinished. After bawling out a Colonel, and demanding more men, he lectures scientists on the importance of secrecy. Groves silences the murmurs of protest by declaring the only word he will not tolerate is “impossible.” Later, Michael Merriman reports late to camp explaining that he was told the facility did not exist. He meets his roommate, Capt. Richard Schoenfield, MD, the camp physician. They attempt to move a refrigerator up the stairs, but the appliance slips from their hands and smashes through a banister to the floor below. Merriman attends a meeting, in which Oppenheimer explains the scientists have nineteen months to create a bomb based only on a theory. The ... +


After completing his assignment to construct the Pentagon, a reluctant Lieutenant General Leslie R. Groves is ordered to supervise “The Manhattan Project" and beat the Nazi’s in building the first atomic bomb. He first believes the project is a “boondoggle” until he meets Leo Szilard in Chicago, Illinois. The famed scientist explains to Groves that the creation of an atomic bomb is indeed possible. In October 1942, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer is called to a northern California airport to meet with Groves and asked to lead the scientific team. When Oppenheimer states that his politics may get in the way, Groves confesses that “higher ups” are worried by it, but he has decided Oppenheimer’s brilliance justifies the risk. However, he warns Oppenheimer that his intellect does not outrank Grove’s brigadier general’s star. Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty persuades him to accept the job. In April 1943, Groves arrives at Los Alamos, New Mexico, to find the camp unfinished. After bawling out a Colonel, and demanding more men, he lectures scientists on the importance of secrecy. Groves silences the murmurs of protest by declaring the only word he will not tolerate is “impossible.” Later, Michael Merriman reports late to camp explaining that he was told the facility did not exist. He meets his roommate, Capt. Richard Schoenfield, MD, the camp physician. They attempt to move a refrigerator up the stairs, but the appliance slips from their hands and smashes through a banister to the floor below. Merriman attends a meeting, in which Oppenheimer explains the scientists have nineteen months to create a bomb based only on a theory. The initial design, which called for the bomb to be fired from a cannon, is rejected, and Oppenheimer creates “free think” teams. Merriman is paired with William "Deke" Parsons, who accidentally squeezes an orange and realizes that if they built a sphere, they could use explosives fired inwardly to compress the radioactive fuel, thus causing fusion. They barge into Oppenheimer’s quarters and drag him to the canteen to discuss their theories with the other scientists. Groves explodes when upon learning of the scientists’ public debate and orders Oppenheimer to compartmentalize his teams so they do not know what the others are doing. Oppenheimer counters that access to information is a core principal of science. The scientists rebel against the military restrictions and call a meeting to protest. Groves makes a deal that Oppenheimer will handle all security in the laboratories. However, all discussions of the project must remain behind closed doors. That night, Kitty Oppenheimer throws a party for Groves to suggest they become allies, but the general rejects her, declaring that a wife’s duty is to support her husband. At the party, Merriman is introduced to Schoenfield’s nurse, Kathleen Robinson. Later, Groves learns that Oppenheimer has telephoned his mistress, Jean Tatlock, a known communist. When a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent suggests Oppenheimer be removed from the project, Grove growls that Oppenheimer is the project. A few days later, a bomb misfires at the test sight, wounding a solider. Merriman rushes through a field of exploding charges to drag the man to safety. He is ordered to the hospital for tests where he exchanges life stories with Kathleen Robinson. Meanwhile, Grove confronts Oppenheimer about Jean Tatlock and orders the scientist to end the relationship. In January 1944, Oppenheimer travels to San Francisco, California, to breakup with Jean. Although he tells her they are through, she begs him to spend the night with her. The next morning, Oppenheimer tells Jean his work is more important than their relationship and leaves. Months pass and Groves wages a bureaucratic war to keep Los Alamos and his scientists supplied. A two-star general warns him that when the war is over he will have to pay for his “high handed” behavior. In April 1944, Groves receives intelligence that Germany has abandoned attempts to make an atomic bomb. Fearing that the “Jewish element” of his scientists will lose interest in the bomb once Hitler is gone, Groves suppresses the information. Meanwhile, Oppenheimer is testing another compression bomb when he receives a letter stating that Jean committed suicide. As he sits stupefied, the test is a success, opening the way to an implosion device. Oppenheimer tells Groves he cannot work on the bomb any longer, but the general declares that if any other country develops the bomb before the United States, it will be Oppenheimer’s responsibility. In May 1945, while Merriman and Oppenheimer examine equipment to test a chain reaction using Uranium, a loud speaker announces that Germany has surrendered. As the camp explodes into celebration, Oppenheimer tells Groves that Japanese technology is incapable of building an atomic bomb and the reason the A-bomb is no longer valid. However, Groves convinces Oppenheimer that he will be hailed as a hero for giving his country the ultimate weapon. That night, Kitty Oppenheimer asks her husband if he is thinking of resigning. Oppenheimer explains that if he quit he would be come unemployable, and atomic power could be a new energy source for mankind. As the bomb test date nears, the scientists begin having doubts about the morality of actually using it. Merriman, who is going home to visit his family in Chicago, is asked to bring back a petition that scientists at the University of Chicago are circulating to protest deploying the bomb. In July, Oppenhiemer visits Groves in Washington, D.C., and voices the scientists’ concerns, but the general dismisses their “crisis of conscious,” demanding to know how Oppenheimer will explain to a Senate committee that they spent $2 billion for nothing. That night, Groves meets the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, who informs him that the scientists have been attempting to reach the President to talk him out of using the bomb. Groves instructs military intelligence to pressure Oppenheimer about his communist connections. Grove tells Oppenheimer he is trying to protect him, but the petition is making it impossible. Oppenheimer explains that his men want to demonstrate the weapon publicly to intimidate the Japanese into surrender, but Groves counters that only way to win against Japan is to hurt them so badly they must surrender. They attend a meeting of military and civilian leaders to advise Stimson about using the bomb. An admiral declares the bomb immoral and threatens to resign his commission if it is used. Stimson asks Oppenheimer about a demonstration for a Japanese observer, but Oppenheimer states that if the test failed it would convince the Japanese to hold out, and there would not be enough material for a second test. Back at camp, nurse Kathleen Robinson observes that Merriman is bothered by his work, and she suggests he speak with Oppenheimer. Merriman shows Oppenheimer a copy of the Chicago petition. Oppenheimer insists that scientists are not responsible for how their discoveries are used and instructs Merriman back to work. While he works, Merriman is distracted when a technician drops a cup of coffee. A plutonium sphere rolls out of its protective covering and Merriman is irradiated when he picks it up. Oppenheimer telephones Groves to delay testing the bomb. However, knowing President Truman is meeting with Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin to negotiate the U.S.S.R.’s joining the war against the Japanese, Groves orders Oppenheimer to stick to the schedule. As Merriman’s health deteriorates, Oppenheimer tries to visit him, but is turned away by security. Dr. Schoenfield confronts Oppenheimer with the knowledge that the government is injecting mentally disabled patients with radiation to see how it affects them. He accuses Oppenheimer of keeping the bomb secret because the American people would reject it if they knew its devastating force. Oppenheimer argues that the bomb is so horrible that it will frighten humanity into a perpetual peace, but Schoenfield counters that he has seen factories being set up to construct hundreds more. At the test sight, scientists tell Groves that prevailing winds could drop radioactive fallout on El Paso, Texas, but the General insists they proceed. The storm passes and preparations for the test resume. Kathleen Robinson sneaks into Merriman’s room and finds him swollen with open sores. She tells him she loves him before Schoenfield makes her leave. Merriman dies. After the bomb is successfully tested, Oppenheimer is paraded before a cheering camp while Kathleen packs Merriman’s belongings.
+

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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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