Christopher Nolan is the middle of three boys born to Brendan and Christina Nolan. One of his brothers is Jonathan Nolan. Jonathan is a highly successful writer/producer. In fact, one of Jonathan’s short stories, “Memento Mori” was the bases of Chris’ career-launching 2000 film “Memento.” Jonathan would go on to co-write some of Chris’ biggest films, including:
- The Prestige
- The Dark Knight
- The Dark Knight Rises
Jonathan then co-created HBO’s Westworld, which ran from 2016-2022. He also created the upcoming Amazon Prime series “Fallout.”
So that’s Jonathan. Christopher Nolan doesn’t really need a background.
But what about the third brother, Matthew Nolan?
Matthew Nolan has reportedly taken a very different path in life from his two famous brothers. While his brothers have lit up movie theaters for over two decades, the mysterious third Nolan brother was once accused of being a professional hitman. If that’s weird enough, Matthew at one point reportedly operated under the alias “Oppenheimer.”
Matthew worked in real estate in his chosen home of Chicago, far from the film and TV industry favored by his two famous brothers. He married into money in 1999, but he was allegedly leading a mysterious double life of intrigue and murder for hire, an accusation that has never been proved but which has been levied against him in court. He denies all accusations.
In 2005, authorities in Costa Rica filed charges against Matthew for the kidnapping, beating, and murder of financier Robert Cohen, a charge he always denied. Nolan’s body was found shortly after he had run afoul of a notorious underworld figure in Costa Rica on the matter of $5 million in missing jewelry, yet another touch that makes the story feel more like a movie than real life.
Nolan was even arrested in Chicago in 2009 on the charges after Costa Rican law enforcement filed an extradition request, which is where the story gets even more dramatic and like something out of the work of his two brothers.
Nolan appears to have made quite an impression on Pablo Araya, the FBI agent who tracked him down and arrested him when he showed up at his own bankruptcy proceeding in Chicago:
“Matthew Nolan was the most arrogant person I have talked to…I grabbed him after he had eluded me for one or two years, and when I arrested him his words to me were, ‘You would never have got me if it wasn’t for the bankruptcy.’ But it was his greed that got him – because of his bankruptcy.”
At that point, the case against Nolan fell apart and the presiding judge denied Costa Rica’s extradition request on the grounds that there wasn’t sufficient evidence linking him to the Cohen case. But before that happened, Nolan reportedly pleaded guilty to preparing an escape attempt from jail involving the old standby of rope tied from bed sheets. Here’s Araya again:
“It was make-believe stuff. Prison guards had his cell turned over and he had ropes made up. The guard said it was the best rope they had ever seen made.”
The case against Nolan still turns up online and as a startling showbusiness urban legend that is at least partly based on fact. The last known development in the case happened in 2014, when a spokesperson for the Costa Rican Public Ministry told the Daily Mail that it was still open:
“The Costa Rican Public Ministry and the respective Costa Rican authorities have done everything possible to submit Mr. Nolan to legal procedure, which is still open against him because of such matters committed against and harming Mr. Cohen.”
But that was nearly a decade ago, and there don’t appear to have been any successful legal moves in those efforts since. Cohen’s daughter Alisha spoke to the Mail with her thoughts on Nolan’s involvement:
“My mom and I want justice. We believe Matthew Nolan should stand trial in Costa Rica for the murder of my father. I believe that, if Nolan was not from a famous family, it would be a different situation.”
The alleged “Oppenheimer” alias has been an insignificant aspect of the Matthew Nolan case for years now, but it takes on new dimensions now that his younger brother Christopher has a hit movie with that title in theaters.