Robert Downey Jr. recalls Christopher Nolan’s infamous chair ban on Oppenheimer set

Kayla Harrington
Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss in OppenheimerUniversal Pictures

During an episode of Actors on Actors, Oppenheimer star Robert Downey Jr. revealed the sets enforced chair ban.

Oppenheimer took audiences by storm as it recounted the life and work of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose known as the father of the atomic bomb.

Marketed as a double feature with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, Christopher Nolan’s bio pic managed to rake in almost a billion dollars at the box office and was constantly praised for many aspects, especially its stellar cast.

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Robert Downey Jr, one of the stars of Oppenheimer, recently recalled what it was like on the film’s set and revealed one of Nolan’s most infamous rules.

Cillian Murphy in OppenheimerUniversal Pictures

Downey claims no one could sit down on Nolan’s Oppenheimer set

The actor sat down with his former Marvel co-star Mark Ruffalo during Variety’s Actors on Actors series where the pair compared notes about working on their latest projects: Downey in Oppenheimer with Noaln and Ruffalo in Poor Things with director Yorgos Lanthimos.

Downey made it clear that the two directors had different styles when approaching screen tests stating, “With Nolan, very much unlike Yorgos, but also effective, we were doing screen tests on IMAX, which is crazy. You would go back and sit in your set chair — no, you wouldn’t, because there were no set chairs!”

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“It was very spartan, like 100 people making a watch every day. It was a very small amount of people on set, and I liked that too, because that reminds me of being a kid with my dad, and it’s him and his cameraman and the editor and some college dropout gaffers, and it’s just kind of like, ‘Let’s try something.’”

The actor added that having no chairs on set “stripped [you] of your armor” and added a “different” vibe to the set saying, “You’re moving at such a clip that you realize if you’re checking your phone and hanging out at craft service — oh, there is no craft service! — that you’re going to miss the pace of what he’s doing.”

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This isn’t the first time Nolan’s chair rule was referenced during Actors on Actors as Anne Hathaway, who worked with Noaln on The Dark Knight Rises, also spoke about it while chatting with Hugh Jackman.

“He doesn’t allow chairs, and his reasoning is, if you have chairs, people will sit, and if they’re sitting, they’re not working,” Hathaway explained.

“I mean, he has these incredible movies in terms of scope and ambition and technical prowess and emotion,” She continued, “It always arrives at the end under schedule and under budget. I think he’s onto something with the chair thing.”

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Despite Nolan having such an intense rule, it seems like Hathaway wasn’t the only actor taken with his practices as Downey told Ruffalo that he had never worked with a “a less judgmental director” and how Nolan’s tendency to rework a scene to the actors’ or his satisfaction was something he didn’t experience often.

Oppenheimer is available to buy on 4K, Blu-ray, and VOD. Each version is available to purchase by clicking here. You can also check out our other coverage below:

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Oppenheimer review | Ending explained | Best way to watch Oppenheimer | Cast and characters | Filming locations | True story explained | Was Jean Tatlock murdered? | What happened to Kitty? | Why did Lewis Strauss hate Oppenheimer? | Why you struggle to hear Nolan’s movies | Oppenheimer’s improvised line | Could Oppenheimer earn $1bn? | Highest-grossing R-rated movies

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About The Author

Kayla is a TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's huge fan of Marvel (especially if Wanda Maximoff is involved), shows that make you laugh then cry, and any cooking show found on the Food Network. Before Dexerto, she wrote for Mashable, BuzzFeed, and The Mary Sue. You can contact her at