Murphy starred in Oppenheimer thanks to his failed Batman audition, Nolan reveals.
When Christopher Nolan embarked on his now-legendary The Dark Knight trilogy, there was a lot of pressure on the director. He was the first person to attempt a live-action Batman adaptation since the miserable failure of George Clooney's version many years ago, so
Nolan was virtually the new pioneer of this concept.
Among the first and most pressing tasks was finding the new Bruce Wayne — an actor who would fit the role perfectly and stick around for the entire duration of the trilogy. Eventually, the director settled on Christian Bale who was an impeccable choice, but Bale wasn't the only actor we know and love who tried to bag the role.
It turns out Cillian Murphy also auditioned for the role of Batman, and even though he didn't get it — Nolan claimed he "didn't feel right for Bruce Wayne" — the director was amazed by Cillian's talent and all-penetrating gaze. He knew that even though he couldn't give Murphy the role, he wanted to work with the actor in the future.
"I'd just been very struck by his appearance and his amazing eyes and that gaze. This [was] someone I want to create with. This is someone I want to work with," the director said.
Instead of Bruce Wayne, Nolan gave the actor the part of Dr. Jonathan Crane aka Scarecrow — a secondary character who still managed to stick around for all three movies of the series. The director was very much in awe of Murphy's acting, so the two of them ended up making six entire movies together, including the upcoming Oppenheimer.
But wait, there's more to this story. That intense and outlandish gaze that the director was so enchanted with in Murphy's Batman audition came into play almost two decades later when Nolan was looking for an Oppenheimer lead actor.
"You finish and you're looking at the cover of American Prometheus, the book that I was adapting, and there's this picture of Oppenheimer with this intense blue-eyed stare on the front, and I thought, 'I know who can do that,'" Nolan shared.
So that's how Murphy ended up playing J. Robert Oppenheimer in Nolan's upcoming biopic — the biggest role in the actor's career so far. Now, isn't this the weirdest and most beautiful casting story of them all?
Be sure to check out Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer when it premieres in US theaters on July 21.