Cillian Murphy set out to play Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, but his "electric" audition got him the role of Scarecrow instead.
"When we had our first conversation I think both of us knew that you weren’t going to wind up playing Batman," Nolan said in a conversation with both Murphy and Entertainment Weekly. "But I really wanted to get on set with you, I wanted to get you on film. We did those screen tests very elaborately, on 35mm, with a little set. There was just an electric atmosphere in the crew when you started to perform."
Scarecrow, arguably one of Batman's scariest villains, was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who conducted experiments on inmates using a hallucinogenic drug that induces panic. The film grossed over $379 million at the global box office, with many praising Murphy's terrifying performance. He reprised the role in The Dark Knight Rises.
"We did two scenes – there was a Bruce Wayne scene and a Batman scene – and I made sure that executives came down and watched what you were doing on set," Nolan continued. "Everybody was so excited by watching you perform that when I then said to them, ‘Okay, Christian Bale is Batman, but what about Cillian to play Scarecrow?’ There was no dissent. All the previous Batman villains had been played by huge movie stars: Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, that kind of thing. That was a big leap for them and it really was purely on the basis of that test. So that’s how you got to play Scarecrow."
Murphy and Nolan's 20-year partnership finally culminated in the actor snagging a lead role in Nolan's latest epic Oppenheimer. The upcoming movie tells the story of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Murphy), whose contributions to the Manhattan Project in World War Two led to the creation of the atomic bomb.
Oppenheimer opens on July 21, 2023. For more, check out our list of the most exciting upcoming movies in 2023 and beyond.