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Cillian Murphy takes on the role of “one of the most complicated and layered people” in history in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, Oppenheimer.
The Peaky Blinders star will play J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, in the famed director’s biopic, which follows the physicist as he works with a team of scientists during the Manhattan Project, as they develop the deadly weapon.
“It’s the best script I ever read,” Murphy told Rolling Stone UK. The story is told entirely in the first person from Oppenheimer’s perspective, which the actor appreciated. “I think the film is sensational. As a person who loves films — I’m not saying it ’cause I’m in the fucking thing, I hate looking at myself — but as a lover of film, as a cinephile, I’m a Chris Nolan fan.”
While the Batman Begins villain refrained from sharing too many details about his take on the scientist, he did offer a small hint about his take on Oppenheimer. He explained that when he played a physicist in Sunshine (2007), he spent some time with actual physicist Brian Cox (no, not Logan Roy) and learned a lot from him.
“I’m never going to have the intellectual capability — not many of us do — but I loved listening,” Murphy said, before switching his focus to the atomic bomb creator. “With that intellect — which I think can actually be a burden — you’re not seeing stuff in the normal plane that we do. Everything is multifaceted and about to collapse.”
Nolan also spoke to the publication about Murphy’s role in his film, explaining that he feels the actor’s “extraordinary empathetic ability” will help audiences who go see Oppenheimer into the layered thought process of the scientist.
“He projects an intelligence that allows the audience to feel that they understand the character,” the famed director said. “I think Oppenheimer, of all the characters that I’ve seen Cillian take on and of all the characters that I’ve dealt with in my work, is one of the most complicated and layered people. Cillian is one of the few talents able to explore those different layers and to project that level of complexity.”
He explained that not only does Murphy project intelligence with his acting but also power in a way that gets people to truly listen to him.
“There are all these levels of intention that are going on with the actions he’s taking, and he’s surrounded by people,” Nolan said. “So, the audience becomes members of this community who are hanging on to his every word, studying his every gesture, to try and understand it.”
Murphy also opened up about how he was a fan of the Tenet helmer before taking on the role of Scarecrow in Batman Begins, which was the beginning of their almost-20-year working relationship.
Murphy has been in a total of six of Nolan’s films, including a cameo in The Dark Knight Rises.
“I’d always show up for Chris, even if it was walking in the background of his next movie holding a surfboard,” the actor joked. “Though… not sure what kind of Chris Nolan movie that would be. But I always hoped I could play a lead in a Chris Nolan movie. What actor wouldn’t want to do that?”
Similarly, Nolan shared his respect for Murphy and how he’s always looking to challenge himself in new roles. The director also praised the actor for never letting his fame get to him.
“He hasn’t let success change him or get in the way of the truth of this process in any way,” Nolan said. “And that’s a very difficult thing for an actor to maintain across a career.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Murphy explained that he feels like people are a bit “underwhelmed” when they meet him because they’re expecting Tommy Shelby, but that couldn’t be more different than who he actually is.
He also said that he would be up for working with Peaky Blinders creator Stephen Knight on a movie following the finale of the Netflix drama series that ended last year.
“If there’s more story there, I’d love to do it,” Murphy said. “But it has to be right. Steve Knight wrote 36 hours of television, and we left on such a high. I’m really proud of that last series. So, it would have to feel legitimate and justified to do more.”
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