'Radioactive': The Changes the Amazon Movie Makes to Marie Curie's Life

Radioactive is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and tells the story of iconic scientist Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (and the only woman to win it twice). Rosamund Pike takes on the role of Curie in a movie, which tells the story of her life and her work, as well as her marriage to Pierre Curie (Sam Riley) and affair with Paul Langevin (Aneurin Barnard).

Speaking to the Kermode & Mayo's Film Review podcast, Pike said of Curie: "She was a brilliant person living in a brillant time, and any sort of conventional or insipid biopic wouldn't have served her...yes, this film is about Marie Curie, but it is also a biography of radioactivity."

Despite Pike's insistence that the movie is not a conventional biopic of the scientist, it does have most of its biographical details correct. Curie was born in Poland and came to France when she could not find opportunities to study science in her native country.

Other larger-than-life details are also real. All of the radium-based products, for example, that emerge after the Curies decide not to patent their discovery are real, including a radium-based make-up set. Her decision to wear a blue dress at her wedding so she could go straight back to work afterward also really happened.

radioactive amazon marie curie
'Radioactive' tells the story of Marie Curie Getty

In 1894, she met that husband, Pierre, and it is in their relationship that the movie takes the most liberties. In the movie, they have a sort of meet-cute, whereas in reality they were introduced by a mutual friend. And by all accounts, their marriage was a happy one, without the sort of arguments that they have in a key scene where Pierre goes to meet the Nobel committee without her as she has just given birth to their daughters.

In reality, both went to the Nobel prize-giving—though it is true that initially, the prize was only going to be given to the men who worked on the project.

However, according to Pike, the true facts were changed to make a point about the ways women's accomplishments often go unheralded.

The actor told IndieWire: "She says, 'you took my brilliance and you made it your own...That's the kind of stuff that comes out in the heat of the moment, I think what was really maddening to her is the fact that she'd just given birth restricted her from going to receive the prize.

"She was infuriated by the fact that being a woman, which didn't normally hold her back on a sort of biological level, suddenly was a major obstacle, she'd just had a small baby and she couldn't travel. She resented the freedoms that a man has."

In making this change, the film grapples with a tricky question—how to celebrate in a feminist way someone who would not consider herself a feminist.

In reality, Curie was fairly blasé about the role her gender had in her life. The exchange in Radioactive where she says that lack of funding held her back far more than her gender, for example, is based on a real remark she made in a letter.

Speaking to RogerEbert.com, Radioactive director Marjane Satrapi said of this: "Marie Curie's granddaughter said that sentence to me when I met her. She told me, 'My grandmother wrote a letter to my mother to say that.'"

radioactive amazon rosamund pike
'Radioactive' on Amazon Prime Video sees Rosamund Pike play Marie Curie Amazon Prime Video

She added: "The granddaughter then told me, 'Everybody wants to make a figure of feminism out of her, but she was not a part of any feminist movement. She was a factual feminist because she did what she had to do and she fought much more for her science than for being a woman.' ...and if she said that I can't leave it out because I don't want people to believe things that are not true."

Radioactive is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.