Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy admits he was desperate for a Nolan lead role

Cillian Murphy
(Image credit: UPI)

With scene-stealing performances in Batman Begins, Inception, and Dunkirk, Cillian Murphy has been a key part of many of Christopher Nolan’s biggest movies. However, the Peaky Blinders star has revealed that he always wanted to secure a leading part in one of them, which made the Oppenheimer call a real dream come true.

"He’s so understated and self-deprecating and, in his very English manner, just said, 'Listen, I’ve written this script, it’s about Oppenheimer, I’d like you to be my Oppenheimer,'" Murphy recalled to The Associated Press about landing the part. "It was a great day. I have always said publicly and privately to Chris, that if I’m available and you want me to be in a movie, I’m there. I don’t really care about the size of the part. But deep down, secretly, I was desperate to play a lead for him."

The pair first met back in 2003 when Murphy auditioned for the role of Batman. While he wasn’t right for that, Nolan cast him as Dr. Crane in his Dark Knight trilogy. He later played a businessman in Inception and a shell-shocked soldier in Dunkirk. 

Murphy added to AP of their partnership: "We have this long-standing understanding and trust and shorthand and respect. It felt like the right time to take on a bigger responsibility. And it just so happened that it was a [fucking] huge one."

The upcoming movie tells the story of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose contributions to the Manhattan Project in World War Two led to the creation of the atomic bomb. Murphy stars alongside a stacked cast including Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Rami Malek, and Kenneth Branagh.

Speaking to Total Film magazine, Nolan describes the movie as one of his biggest yet. "It’s a story of immense scope and scale," he said. "And one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on in terms of the scale of it, and in terms of encountering the breadth of Oppenheimer’s story."

Oppenheimer is released in cinemas on July 21, 2023. For more upcoming movies, check out our guide to 2023 movie release dates to add to your diary.

Fay Watson
Deputy Entertainment Editor

I’m the Deputy Entertainment Editor here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for the Total Film and SFX sections online. I previously worked as a Senior Showbiz Reporter and SEO TV reporter at Express Online for three years. I've also written for The Resident magazines and Amateur Photographer, before specializing in entertainment.