Coming onto the subject of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Murphy admitted that he knew he wasn’t right for the part of Bruce Wayne/Batman, a role that ultimately went to Christian Bale.
“It was clear to me from the beginning that I wasn’t Batman material,” said Murphy of screen testing for the role. “It felt to me that it was correct and right that it should be Christian Bale for that part. But I remember the buzz of trying on the suit and being directed by you. Those tests were high production values.”
While Nolan knew that Murphy wasn’t the right fit for Batman, he was keen for Warner Bros. executives to witness the actor’s test screening, before ultimately convincing them that he should play the trilogy’s recurring villain Scarecrow.
“When we had our first conversation I think both of us knew that you weren’t going to wind up playing Batman,” said the director. “But I really wanted to get on set with you, I wanted to get you on film. We did those screen tests very elaborately, on 35mm, with a little set.
“There was just an electric atmosphere in the crew when you started to perform. We did two scenes — there was a Bruce Wayne scene and a Batman scene — and I made sure that executives came down and watched what you were doing on set.
“Everybody was so excited by watching you perform that when I then said to them, ‘Okay, Christian Bale is Batman, but what about Cillian to play Scarecrow?’ there was no dissent.”
Nolan added: “All the previous Batman villains had been played by huge movie stars: Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, that kind of thing. That was a big leap for them and it really was purely on the basis of that test. So that’s how you got to play Scarecrow.”
Murphy has the lead role in Nolan’s upcoming biopic Oppenheimer, which charts the development of the atomic bomb. It’s set to be released in cinemas on July 21, 2023.