Ever since 2005’s Batman Begins, Cillian Murphy has been a frequent collaborator with filmmaker Christopher Nolan. Murphy reprised the role of Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow, in Nolan’s other Dark Knight films, he played the heroes’ final target in the 2010 sci-fi thriller Inception, and was a soldier in the 2017 war epic Dunkirk. Now, Murphy’s finally scored a leading role in one of Nolan’s films.
According to Deadline, Cillian Murphy has been cast as the titular lead of Oppenheimer. Murphy will play J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who lead the covert Manhattan Project which resulted in the first successful detonation of a nuclear device. Deadline says the film is expected to be a thriller, focusing on the paradox of a man “who must risk destroying the world in order to save it.” Christopher Nolan is writing and directing the film, which is based on the 2006 book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Production is expected to begin early next year, with a release date of July 21, 2023.
The Cillian Murphy-led thriller will mark the first major feature film Christopher Nolan has helmed outside of Warner Bros. in some time. The news that the director was looking for another studio threw Hollywood into a full-fledged bidding war, with Universal coming out on top. The studio reportedly landed Oppenheimer by agreeing to a long list of demands from Nolan including a $100 million production budget with a matching marketing budget, 20 percent of the first-dollar gross, a theatrical window of 100 to 130 days, and a blackout period of three weeks before and after Oppenheimer‘s release during which Universal won’t release any other new films. The Hollywood Reporter claimed that Universal singled themselves out by — rather than negotiating with Nolan — simply saying “yes” to everything.
One of the main reasons Cillian Murphy will not be starring in a Warner Bros. movie about J. Robert Oppenheimer is Christopher Nolan’s ongoing beef with the studio that started with the handing of Tenet‘s 2020 release, which was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the announcement didn’t impact any of his films, Nolan got even angrier when it was announced the studio would release its entire 2021 slate of films simultaneously in the theater and streaming on HBO Max. Even while filmmakers like Patty Jenkins and Denis Villeneuve whose films actually were impacted by the news admitted, as Jenkins put it, that the decision was the “best bad choice in a bunch of bad choices,” Nolan lashed out at the studio. He said the studio’s directors had gone to bed thinking they worked for “the world’s greatest movie studio” but woke up to learn they were employees of “the worst streaming service.”
So far, Cillian Murphy is the only cast member of Oppenheimer we know about, but unless Nolan decides to do something even more unexpected than breaking off from Warner Bros., Michael Caine has a good shot of showing up in the film. Like Murphy, Caine was in all the Dark Knight films, Inception, and Dunkirk (at least, his voice was in it). Unlike Murphy, Caine was also in The Prestige, Interstellar, and Tenet.