For Release 2020
The story of how Hitler almost got the atom bomb
was was the subject of the hit play COPENHAGEN (326 performances on Broadway and 300 performances in London) which depicted the secret meeting in 1941 between Danish physicist Niels Bohr and German physicist Werner Heisenberg. It remains the unknown true story of WWII – the tragedy illuminating the birth of the world’s first nuclear weapon and how it was very nearly avoided.
While COPENHAGEN dramatized the meeting itself, BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN reveals the broader historical intrigue – the spycraft and paranoia that consumed the Allies and the Nazis in their race to build the doomsday machine – all centered on the crisis of conscience of the bomb’s inventor, a distracted genius in conflict with the world regarding whether he ought to reveal the dark secrets to all sides – as assassination plots enveloped around him..
In the style of the photographs shown here, the story unfolds as a film noir spy tour-de-force such as Carol Reed’s classic THE THIRD MAN. A thinking-man’s war-thriller ranging in locations from Copenhagen, Berlin, London, Washington and Los Alamos – and an historical epic linking the Jules Verne-like world of these scientific discoveries to political clashes that could be grabbed from today’s headlines.
Niels Bohr, discoverer of the neutron and the theory of “complementarity“ in Physics won the Nobel Prize in 1922 and became known as the “conscience of the bomb.” By the time of World War II, his former student, Werner Heisenberg, became head of Nazi science in Berlin. Heisenberg made a secret visit to Bohr in Copenhagen in September 1941, and during a private moment it seems that he began to address morality as well as the war. Although neither Bohr nor Heisenberg spoke in detail about the meeting, many suspect Heisenberg sought Bohr’s aid in stopping both sides’ efforts. Yet, even though Bohr was feared to be a loose cannon by the Allies, he seems to have reacted by terminating the conversation abruptly while not giving Heisenberg hints in any direction. An arms race followed.
The failure of this meeting is now seen as the great “lost” opportunity of history -- the rare moment when the nuclear bomb could have been halted in its tracks.
Bohr believed that atomic secrets should be shared by the international scientific community. After meeting with Bohr, J. Robert Oppenheimer suggested Bohr visit President Franklin Roosevelt to convince him that the Manhattan Project should be shared with the Russians in the hope of speeding up its results. Winston Churchill wrote in a letter: "It seems to me Bohr ought to be confined or at any rate made to see that he is very near the edge of mortal crimes."
Ian Masters is an Australian-born, BBC-trained broadcast journalist commentator, author, screenwriter, and documentary filmmaker. He is host of the KPFK program Background Briefing, which deals with American politics. A Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Affairs based at UCLA, he also served as a consultant to the Center for National Security Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Kim Jorgensen, a Danish-born producer/writer made his directing debut with EMILIO (a critically acclaimed, haunting epic of a 19-year old kid from Mexico who travels to Los Angeles to find his kidnapped sister). He has produced films (like OUT OF AFRICA,
winning seven Oscars, including “Best Picture”). He started out making comedies like KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (discovering the Zucker Brothers, Jim Abrahams and John Landis), AIRPLANE!, and cult-favorites like MORTUARY ACADEMY (with Paul Bartel), and he has developed films with Orson Welles, Bernardo Bertolucci, William Friedkin, and Tim Burton. He founded Landmark Theatres, the largest art/specialized theatre chain in the U.S.