SpyCast 8.1.23
Ep 596 | 8.1.23

“The 18-Year-Old Soviet Spy on the Manhattan Project: Ted Hall” – with Director Steve James

Show Notes


Steve James (IMDb) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss his new film, A Compassionate Spy. 18-year-old Ted Hall was the youngest physicist working on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. 

What You’ll Learn


  • Soviet-American relations during WWII
  • The Manhattan Project and the development of the Atomic Bomb 
  • Motivations for atomic espionage
  • The life and story of Theodore Hall


  • With great power … comes great responsibility
  • State allegiance vs. personal conscience

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

At only 18 years old, Theodore Hall was the youngest physicist recruited to work on the production of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. He was a prodigy of sorts – Incredibly talented and intelligent in the subjects of mathematics and science. While the bomb was a success, Ted faced an overwhelming crisis of conscience and made a life-altering move to attempt to even the atomic playing field. Informed by archival footage and interviews with both Ted and Joan Hall, The Compassionate Spy will encourage you to confront the same questions that led Theodore Hall to share secrets with the Soviets.

This week on SpyCast, Andrew is joined by filmmaker Steve James to discuss Ted’s story, the story of a talented teenager thrust into the challenges of the nuclear race. It’s a spy story, it’s a love story, and it’ll help you better wrap your head around the history of the Manhattan Project amidst the Oppenheimer buzz. Tune in to learn more. 


Steve James has been nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Documentary Feature in 2018 for Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, and Best Film Editing in 1995 for Hoop Dreams. Steve is the first Oscar nominee to join us on SpyCast since Robert de Niro sat down with our first host Peter Earnest in 2009! 

Quotes of the Week

“Ted was young and naive in some ways, but his reasons for what he did were not grounded in fantasy … Whether you support what he did or not, I don't know that the U. S. having the bomb all to itself would have been a great thing, given that we are the only nation to have actually dropped the bomb on anyone, period.” – Steve James



*Headline Resource* 

  • A Compassionate Spy, Steve James, Magnolia Pictures (2022)
  • Available in select theaters and streaming on August 4th


*Beginner Resources*



  • Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away, A. Hagedorn (Simon & Schuster, 2021)
  • The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses, and Historians, C. C. Kelly (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2020) 
  • Atomic Spy: The Dark Lives of Klaus Fuchs, N. T. Greenspan (Penguin Books, 2020)
  • Bombshell: The Secret Story of America’s Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy, J. Albright & M. Kunstel (Times Books, 1997) 



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • The development of nuclear weapons not only had a massive impact on history and science – It also inspired new architectural designs and art. Read this Architectural Digest article on the Atomic Age Design and why our brains still register it as “futuristic” 75 years later!