Playing the father of the atomic bomb in Oppenheimer was such a big deal that Cillian Murphy could only describe the responsibility as “[expletive] huge” in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
The Peaky Blinders star plays theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, the director’s upcoming drama about the Manhattan Project and its resulting world-changing creation of the atomic bomb.
“We have this long-standing understanding and trust and shorthand and respect,” Murphy said of his working relationship with Christopher Nolan, who has been his director on previous films including Dunkirk, Inception and The Dark Knight movies.
“It felt like the right time to take on a bigger responsibility. And it just so happened that it was a [expletive] huge one.”
But however daunting the opportunity was, it wasn’t daunting enough to stop Murphy from taking Nolan up on his offer to play the famous physicist who had such a powerful influence on the fate of humanity.
“You realize this is a huge responsibility. He was complicated and contradictory and so iconic,” Murphy said. “But you know you’re with one of the great directors of all time. I felt confident going into it with Chris. He’s had a profound impact on my life, creatively and professionally. He’s offered me very interesting roles over and I’ve found all of them really challenging. And I just love being on his sets.”
Cillian Murphy Was ‘Desperate’ to Play a Lead for Nolan
The Peaky Blinders actor says it was a dream come true when he got the call to play Oppenheimer.
“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,” Murphy said. “But deep down, secretly, I was desperate to play a lead for him.”
The day that he said yes to the part was one Murphy will never forget.
“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,’” he said of Nolan. “It was a great day.”
Who Else Stars in Oppenheimer?
Oppenheimer follows Murphy as the title character as he works with other scientists on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, which the U.S. ultimately drops on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
The rest of the cast of the movie is super stacked, featuring Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Peck, Jack Quaid, Rami Malek, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Gary Oldman, Dane DeHaan, Jason Clark, Kenneth Branaugh, Alex Wolff, Benny Safdie, Matthew Modine, Olivia Thirlby, and Casey Affleck.
Oppenheimer arrives in theaters on July 21.
Main Image: Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer. Photo credit: Universal Pictures