How Christopher Nolan Made Studio Execs Cast Cillian Murphy As Scarecrow

Cillian Murphy's Batman audition was doomed, but he did so well, Christopher Nolan insisted he play the villain.

By TeeJay Small | Updated

During a recent press appearance to promote the upcoming historical drama, Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy, and filmmaker Christopher Nolan discussed their long-established working relationship dating back to 2005’s Batman Begins. According to a write-up in Variety, Nolan pressured studio executives to offer the role of the iconic Batman villain Scarecrow to Murphy after seeing his initial audition for the leading role of Bruce Wayne. Nolan expressed that, though Christian Bale was already in final talks to play Batman, he enjoyed Cillian Murphy’s audition so much that he demanded the studio cast him in the antagonist’s role.

Though Cillian Murphy is now a household name, due in large part to his several collaborative efforts with Christopher Nolan, including all three of the films in the Dark Knight trilogy, as well as Inception, Dunkirk, and the upcoming Oppenheimer biopic, the Irish actor wasn’t well established enough back in 2005 to get cast in such a landmark role. Murphy himself laughed while recounting the audition experience.

Stating that he didn’t expect to get cast as the defender of Gotham from the beginning, he felt that he would be remiss if not to try. In the end, the audition got the attention of the visionary filmmaker, ultimately catapulting Murphy’s career by securing the Scarecrow role.

Murphy also specified that he went the extra mile in his Batman audition, going so far as to don the iconic bat-suit for the line-reading, which was held in two separate parts, as Bruce Wayne, the civilian, as well as the masked vigilante. Though Cillian Murphy had low expectations going into the audition, he expressed great joy in landing the Scarecrow role.

He explaining that most of the iconic Batman villains of the past had been portrayed by big-name actors, including Jim Carrey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jack Nicholson. Apparently, the studio felt the same way since the executives needed to face pressure from Christopher Nolan himself to accept Murphy’s casting in the final product.

scarecrow batman

Besides his many Christopher Nolan collaborations, Cillian Murphy has also made waves across popular culture for his leading portrayal of Thomas Shelby in Netflix’s hit crime drama series Peaky Blinders, whom the actor is also set to reprise in the upcoming video game adaptation, Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom.

Now, Murphy is set to lead an A-list cast of Hollywood talent in Oppenheimer, alongside such names as Matt Damon, Gary Oldman, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Robert Downey Jr., and The Boys‘ Jack Quaid. Additionally, Cillian Murphy is scheduled to reprise his leading role as Jim in the upcoming film 28 Months Later, the third film in the 28 Days Later zombie apocalypse trilogy.

Though Cillian Murphy entered his Batman audition with low expectations, the move went on to kickstart a long and lucrative relationship with Christopher Nolan, resulting in the pair working together in over six films to date, as well as a central placement in the Dark Knight trilogy, which is often credited for having reinvigorated the superhero genre. Oppenheimer is set to arrive in theaters on July 21st.