Cillian Murphy Gets First Lead Role in a Nolan Movie ‘Oppenheimer’

Director Christopher Nolan and actor Cillian Murphy have worked together on several films over the course of nearly two decades. Murphy has starred in six of Nolan’s movies including “Inception,” “Dunkirk” and the “Dark Knight” trilogy. However, the upcoming movie “Oppenheimer” marks a new milestone in their partnership. It is Murphy’s first time leading a Nolan picture.

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Christopher Nolan Taps Cillian Murphy for Lead Role in Oppenheimer

In “Oppenheimer,” Murphy plays theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb.” The movie is based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s book “American Prometheus” and follows Oppenheimer’s struggle with the creation of the atomic bomb during World War II. Murphy admitted in a recent interview with the Associated Press that he was “desperate” to lead a Nolan film. Although he has always been open to playing any role in a Nolan movie, secretly he wanted to play the lead.

The actor landed the lead role in “Oppenheimer” after a cold-call offer from Nolan. Murphy recalled that Nolan approached him with his typically understated and self-deprecating manner. “Listen, I’ve written this script, it’s about Oppenheimer. I’d like you to be my Oppenheimer.” Murphy described this moment as a “great day.” He also said he felt “confident” about taking on a bigger responsibility as a lead actor.

Murphy expressed his admiration for Nolan’s impact on his life and career, creatively and professionally, saying that he loves being on his sets. With the iconic and complex character of Oppenheimer, Murphy felt that the question would be how Nolan presents the story to the audience. He believes that people will be surprised and wowed by what the director does, adding that anything he says will be inadequate in comparison to seeing the film in an IMAX theater.

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Murphy isn’t the only big name on the cast list. Emily Blunt stars as Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, Matt Damon plays Manhattan Project director Gen. Leslie Groves Jr., and Robert Downey Jr. stars as Lewis Strauss, a founding commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, Michael Angarano, Josh Hartnett, Rami Malek, Dane DeHaan, Dylan Arnold, David Krumholtz, Alden Ehrenreich, and Matthew Modine round out the cast.


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To prepare for his role as Oppenheimer, Murphy focused on reading about the man himself rather than the mechanics of what makes an atom bomb. He was interested in the character and the effects that inventing the atomic bomb had on him.

“Oppenheimer” is set to hit theaters on July 21, 2023, and is distributed by Universal Pictures.

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