Cillian Murphy, the leading man in Oppenheimer who portrays the title character—a.k.a. “death, destroyer of worlds”—thinks he bought a sound system with his first big check. 

“I think I bought like a record player—or a sound system, cause record players weren’t as cool as they are now, were they?” Murphy told the Hollywood Reporter.

Meanwhile, co-star Matt Damon paid for his mother’s Ph.D. and bought his brother a car.

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer—a historical drama based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus—has been a record-breaking box office success. The film has brought in over $188 million in domestic ticket sales and $231 million worldwide since its opening on July 21. Oppenheimer leads Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, and Matt Damon shared what they spent their first paychecks on in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter

Damon, who portrays Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, recalled that his first big check came in 1990 for a film called Rising Son. He made $25,000.

“I bought my brother a car and put my mom through her Ph.D. program,” Damon said in the interview. “And that was a really cool feeling.”

In the late 1980s, Damon actually shared a bank account with his childhood friend, Ben Affleck, when the two were starting their careers. The two met as kids in their hometown of Cambridge, Mass., and later teamed up on numerous projects, including Good Will Hunting, Field of Dreams, and Air.

“It was unusual, but…we needed the money for auditions, for trips to New York, so that’s what the money was for,” Damon said in March on The Bill Simmons Podcast, hosted by The Ringer sports writer Simmons.

When either of them booked a role, they funneled their earnings into the joint account for future audition costs. It was a kind of “when one of us win, we both win” situation, Affleck said in the same podcast interview.

The actors closed the account when they both began earning steady incomes. Damon’s estimated net worth was $55 million as of 2016, according to Forbes.

Blunt, who portrayed Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, the wife of the title character, used her first paycheck to move out of her parents’ home and rent an apartment. Blunt was listed as the sixth highest paid actress in 2020, earning $22.5 million, according to Forbes

Whereas the A-list leads of Oppenheimer could’ve demanded $10 million to $20 million on the open market, they reportedly elected to earn only $4 million apiece for the “privilege of working with Nolan,” Variety reported. Still, they will all receive backend compensation, meaning they will profit from the film’s box office success.

‘Barbenheimer’ and the strike

Oppenheimer’s release was simultaneous with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, and the Barbie-Oppenheimer social media craze (a.k.a. “Barbenheimer”) helped fuel $311 million in combined ticket sales. This made their opening weekend the fourth highest-grossing domestic box office weekend in history, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, according to the New York Times, citing Box Office Mojo.

Similar to Damon, Barbie star Margot Robbie used the money from her Hollywood success to pay off her mother’s mortgage, who supported her financially while she was getting her start.

“She’d take money out of the house mortgage and lend me money, so I always knew, ‘Oh, I’ve got to pay that back,’” Robbie told CBS Sunday Morning. “I have that piece of paper still. I kept it. Everything I owed my mom, I had it written down.”

“One day, when I made enough money, I just paid that whole mortgage off completely,” she said.

But in the wake of Barbenheimer’s continued success, the Hollywood writers’ strike entered its third month and actors have been on strike for nearly three weeks. Release dates for movies like Dune 2 and Challengers (a tennis drama starring Zendaya) have been delayed, as well as new seasons of television series like White Lotus, The Last of Us, and Euphoria.

The Writers Guild union leaders said on Tuesday they were meeting with studio representatives to discuss restarting negotiations

The New York Times  recently reported some of Hollywood’s megastars raised over $15 million for the strike fund, led by actors Meryl Streep and George Clooney. Other celebrities including Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Oprah Winfrey each gave $1 million or more. 

“I remember my days as a waiter, cleaner, typist, even my time on the unemployment line,” Streep said in a statement. “In this strike action, I am lucky to be able to support those who will struggle in a long action to sustain against Goliath.”

“We’ve stood on the shoulders of the likes of Bette Davis and Jimmy Cagney, and it’s time for our generation to give something back,” Clooney added.

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