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Nolan tricked his bosses to cast Cillian Murphy as a Batman villain

With the Oppenheimer release date almost here, Christopher Nolan reflects on his early days working with Cillian Murphy, and how he got him cast in Batman.

Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow in The Dark Knight Rises

Cillian Murphy is about to reunite with top-tier director Christopher Nolan in the new movie Oppenheimer. But their working relationship began much earlier on with one of the best superhero movies, Batman Begins.

And as it turns out, Nolan originally wanted the star for a very different role, meaning Cillian Murphy might have ended up as one of the Batman actors instead. But when it became clear that it wasn’t going to work, the director still knew he wanted him to be part of the Christopher Nolan movie one way or another.

“When we had our first conversation I think both of us knew that you weren’t going to wind up playing Batman,” Nolan recalled to Murphy [via Variety]. “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.”

So though it wasn’t on the cards for Murphy to step into the cowl, there was another opportunity for the Peaky Blinders actor in the form of a menacing movie villain: Scarecrow.

But there were still a few leaps and hurdles to get past, so Nolan came up with a plan. He set up a screen test with the intention of convincing studio heads to fall for Murphy in the antagonist role instead.

“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,” Nolan said. “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.”

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Interestingly enough, Nolan’s push to cast Murphy in the role of Scarecrow ended up pushing the boundaries of previous Batman movies, inadvertently breaking a sort of record in the process, a feat which Nolan himself acknowledged.

“All the previous Batman villains had been played by huge movie stars: Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, that kind of thing,” he added. “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.”

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