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Cillian Murphy Didn’t Brush Up on Science for Atom Bomb Drama ‘Oppenheimer’: ‘Not Really for Me’

Murphy says he doesn't have the "intellectual capability" to understand the workings of the Manhattan Project.

Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy

“Oppenheimer”

Universal Pictures

Cillian Murphy wants to focus on the man, not the myth nor the legend.

While prepping to play “father of the atom bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimer for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming biopic, Murphy prepped by doing “an awful lot of reading” about Oppenheimer’s life — but opted out of any intense science lessons.

“I’m interested in the man and what [inventing the atomic bomb] does to the individual,” Murphy told The Guardian. “The mechanics of it, that’s not really for me — I don’t have the intellectual capability to understand them, but these contradictory characters are fascinating.”

Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” is based on Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s biography “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” and boasts a star-studded cast including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, Josh Hartnett, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, and Dane DeHaan.

“Oppenheimer” is Nolan’s 12th film, and sixth collaboration with Murphy.

“I’ll always turn up for Chris, whatever the size of the part,” Murphy said of collaborating with Nolan. “Chris will call me up and I’m there.”

“Oppenheimer” will also be shot on a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format film photography including, for the first time ever, sections in IMAX black and white analog photography.

Murphy added, “Isn’t it wonderful that filmmakers are still making challenging, demanding films within the studio system, shot on film? I think he’s flying the flag. Him, Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino are fantastic filmmakers making interesting work on a massive scale.”

As for his transformation into real-life scientist Oppenheimer, the “Batman” alum continued, “I love getting up and being someone else. What I find hard is getting up and being hilarious or entertaining as myself. That was never in the job description and I’m not very good at it. But it’s an unwritten part of the gig. You do the work and then you have to go out and perform as yourself. I find it terrifying, because I’m not a personality, you know?”

Oppenheimer was head of the Los Alamos Laboratory and helmed the Manhattan Project, which first developed nuclear weapons for World War II. He also supervised the Trinity Test, in which the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated in New Mexico.

Production for “Oppenheimer” started in New Mexico in February 2022. The film is slated for a July 21, 2023, release.

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