Oppenheimer’s Cillian Murphy Shares How He’s Preparing To Play The Lead Role In Christopher Nolan’s New Movie

Cillian Murphy in Anna movie
(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Director Christopher Nolan and actor Cillian Murphy go way back, with the former having first cast the latter as Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. The Scarecrow, in 2005’s Batman Begins. However, the upcoming Oppenheimer finally sees Murphy getting to do something he’s never done in a Nolan-helmed movie before: play the lead role. Murphy is starring as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Nolan’s Tenet follow-up, and the actor has shared how he’s preparing to play who’s been referred to as the “father of the atomic bomb.”

As a theoretical physicist and director of the Los Alamos Laboratory where the United States’ atomic bombs were designed as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, obviously Robert Oppenheimer needed to be a skilled mathematician. For Cillian Murphy though, he’s not interested in the technical aspects of Oppenheimer’s work, and is instead focusing on exploring how that work affected the man himself, telling The Guardian:

[I’m doing] an awful lot of reading. I’m interested in the man and what [inventing the atomic bomb] does to the individual. The mechanics of it, that’s not really for me – I don’t have the intellectual capability to understand them, but these contradictory characters are fascinating. Tommy Shelby’s a complete contradiction, too. People identify with that, because we all walk around with these contradictory ideas coexisting in our heads.

The science involved with the development of the atomic bomb would go over a lot of peoples’ heads, so I don’t blame Cillian Murphy for skipping over all that. After all, it’s an actor, his job is to deliver a compelling performance of Robert Oppenheimer to audiences that draws off the man’s life experiences and has emotional resonance. While reading up on the historical figure for Christopher Nolan’s biopic, Murphy has noticed similarities between Oppenheimer and his Peaky Blinders character Thomas Shelby through their contradictory natures, so it’ll be interesting how those two performances ultimately compare.

Oppenheimer marks Cillian Murphy sixth collaboration with Christopher Nolan; in addition to two more outings as Jonathan Crane in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, he also appeared in Inception and Dunkirk. He’s part of an all-star cast that includes Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon and Florence Pugh, among other many big names. This is Nolan’s first movie in two decades that Warner Bros. doesn’t have a hand in, following the filmmaker expressing dissatisfaction over the studio’s decision to release all its 2021 movies simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. Instead, Universal Pictures is financing and distributing the biopic.

Having just begun principal photography and shared the first look at Cillian Murphy in character, Oppenheimer is slated for a July 21, 2023 release. While we wait for more updates on its progress, see what’s coming to theaters this year with our list of 2022 movie releases

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.