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Cillian Murphy was nearly Oppenheimer 9 years before Nolan’s new movie

Christopher Nolan picked Cillian Murphy to lead the Oppenheimer cast, but the actor almost played the atomic bomb pioneer nearly a decade ago on TV screens.

Cillian Murphy could've played Oppenheimer nearly a decade ago

We see Oscar nominations in the future for Oppenheimer. Early next year, Oppenheimer will almost certainly be in the mix when we celebrate the best movies of the year at the Academy Awards. And we’d be stunned if Cillian Murphy wasn’t recognized among the year’s best actors.

But actually, Murphy has always been on a flightpath towards the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer – the father of the atomic bomb. He almost took on the role way back in 2014 for a show called Manhattan which, based on its 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, likely sits as one of the best TV series you’ve never seen.

Manhattan, as the name suggests, told the story of the Manhattan project and the innovations of the Los Alamos laboratory. It was showered with positive reviews, but low ratings led to it being canceled after two seasons.

Showrunner Sam Shaw and writer Lila Byock recently looked back on the short-lived series for Vanity Fair, and revealed that there were many names on their list for the key role. Daniel London ultimately played the part.

“A thousand percent, Cillian Murphy was on that list,” said Shaw. They also considered David Bowie, the musician Beck, and the then-unknown Ebon Moss-Bachrach – now a part of The Bear cast.

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Shaw added: “We wanted Oppenheimer to feel both like he possessed a certain undeniable charisma, a presence onstage, but also that he was playing a different instrument. He needed to feel alien — or other — in some ways. He stood out.”

There’s no denying that Murphy fits the bill for the role, and he did a terrific job at the head of the Oppenheimer cast, as we explained in our Oppenheimer review. As we said up top, the Oscars beckon, if there’s any justice.

For more on one of the biggest new movies of 2023, check out our guide to the Oppenheimer ending and find out more about how the atomic bomb sequences were filmed. We also wrote about how Barbenheimer showed what going to the cinema should be about and explained Nolan’s daughter’s horrific Oppenheimer role.

Meanwhile, we’ve delved into Christopher Nolan’s next movie and given our recommendations for the best Christopher Nolan movies. After all, he’s among the best directors on the planet right now.