While Lewis Strauss and the “Senate Aide” are undeniably antagonistic toward each other, if not fully-fledged enemies by the conclusion of “Oppenheimer,” the opposite was true of the actors who played them. According to Robert Downey Jr., his relationship with Alden Ehrenreich on set was one of the “great, great joys” for him while making the film. The actor elaborated:
“I made a great friend in him. I don’t imagine Chris [Nolan] was like, ‘I wonder who Downey would like to have as a friend?’ But he just happened to pick this younger, super talented actor who is just so great.”
Some writers, audience members, and even Nolan himself have likened “Oppenheimer” to a horror movie, what with its tension, ambiguity, and moral quandaries. It’s a typical occurrence for actors working on a horror film to bond with each other on set in order to have a comfortable jumping-off point to get to the anxiety and other harsh emotions their characters need to display. Just as Ehrenreich apparently provided that touchstone for Downey Jr., the “Senate Aide” provides that for the audience of the film. After all, it’s not accidental that his character is the one to mention the “junior senator from Massachusetts” who provides a bit of hope for the soul of America after the events of the film. The “Senate Aide” may be less idealistic than when he began the movie, but for all intents and purposes, he is us, hoping that we may be able to find our way as a country again.