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How Did Cillian Murphy Get the Role of Oppenheimer?

How Did Cillian Murphy Get the Role of Oppenheimer?

How Did Cillian Murphy Get the Role of Oppenheimer?
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The journey that led Cillian Murphy to secure the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer in the film “Oppenheimer” is truly fascinating and perhaps even serendipitous. It all began with a chance meeting between Murphy and director Christopher Nolan, which grew into a profound and enduring partnership spanning many years. This collaboration ultimately culminated in Murphy being chosen to play the lead role in this important historical biopic.

The success of “Oppenheimer” has been truly remarkable. It stands as Nolan’s most successful film on IMAX screens, even ranking as the 8th highest-grossing IMAX release of all time. Garnering an impressive global box office of $114.2 million from IMAX screenings alone, this achievement not only speaks to the film’s triumph but also underscores the strength of the creative synergy between Nolan and Murphy.

Cillian Murphy is well-known for his ability to portray morally complex characters, such as Tommy Shelby in “Peaky Blinders” and Robert Fischer in “Inception.” By taking on the role of the brilliant yet conflicted physicist Dr. Oppenheimer, Murphy showcased his remarkable versatility. Despite facing time constraints, he fully immersed himself in the character, skillfully navigating Oppenheimer’s intricate persona. This dedicated approach solidified Murphy as the perfect embodiment of Dr. Oppenheimer in this compelling biographical drama.

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Was Cillian Murphy Offered the Role?

Having collaborated with Murphy for over twenty years, Nolan personally approached him with the role of Dr. Oppenheimer. But unlike his previous collaborations with the director, Oppenheimer marks the first time Murphy plays a leading role in one of Nolan’s films. Catching Murphy off guard, he received a call from Nolan, who directly offered him the role. In an interview with Collider, the actor shared just how surprised it was when he received the call and how much of a dream it is to play the lead in the historical epic.

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I think any actor in the world would, first of all, want to work with Chris, but second of all, do a lead for him. I can’t think of any better word than it’s a dream. It sounds like such a cliché, but it’s the truth. But I had no idea he was going to call me. He just called me out of the blue. That’s his MO; you never hear from him and then he calls. [Laughs] So he called me, and I genuinely didn’t know what it would be, and then he said, “I’m making this movie about Oppenheimer and I would like you to play Oppenheimer.” It’s a big shock, and a very pleasant one, but then you kind of go, “Okay, now I have a lot of work to do.”

In September 2020, Nolan traveled to Dublin to personally meet with Murphy and present him with a physical copy of the script. This script immediately grabbed Murphy’s attention as it deviated from the traditional third-person perspective, opting instead for a first-person point of view. According to Murphy, the script profoundly impacted him, completely blowing his mind.

It was one of the best screenplays I’ve ever read, without a shadow of a doubt. For example, he wouldn’t say, ‘Oppenheimer walks into the room and speaks to Strauss.’ He would say, ‘I walk into the room,’ and ‘I walk over and speak to Strauss.’ That’s how it was written.”

Are there Audition Tapes You Can Watch?

Right now, it seems that the audition recordings for the role of Oppenheimer aren’t accessible to the public. We don’t have a lot of details about how Cillian Murphy, who plays the lead role, went through auditions.

However, his co-stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt did give us a small peek into how director Christopher Nolan handles the casting process, which they described as “convenient casting.” Typically, Nolan invites actors to his home to read his script and consider the roles. Matt Damon, who portrays Leslie Groves, shared a slightly amusing variation of this process in his case. While Nolan’s approach involves the cozy atmosphere of his house and script reading, Damon’s experience had a humorous twist to it.

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In my case, he actually came—this is kind of a funny story—he came to my apartment here in New York, and I live in the same apartment building as Emily. So he came because he had personal reasons to be in New York, so he goes, “I’m going to come over, and I’m going to bring you the script.” I said, “Great.” So, he comes over and we talk. It’s a Friday night, it’s getting late, and he says, “So you’re going to read this tomorrow morning?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “What time?” And I said, “I’ll read it at nine.” He said, “How long will it take you?” I go, “I read it exactly at the same pace the movie will play.” He goes, “I’ll be here at noon.” I said, “Okay.”

So it turns out, we came to find out later, that he knew he wanted Emily in that part and me in my part, but he didn’t want to offer her the part at the same apartment building on the same day because he didn’t want it to seem to us like he only just went to one apartment building to cast his movie. [Laughs]

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