Cillian Murphy has said that he studied every small detail about J. Robert Oppenheimer in his portrayal of the father of the atomic bomb last summer.
In a Q&A on Friday at the Santa Barbra International Film Festival, the actor spoke to festival director Robert Durling about his characterisation in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, saying he wanted to focus in particular on the small details of his character – especially with the film being shown on IMAX.
Durling said he noted the cigarette stains on Murphy’s fingers during one scene, something that delighted Murphy.
He explained (via Movie Maker): “I’m so glad you noticed that! Our amazing makeup artist Luisa Abel — we did that every single day and I would get really into the detail. But then I was like, ‘No one’s ever gonna see this.’ I’m so glad you saw that!”
He also went on to say how instead of doing a lot of emoting with the character, his portrayal focused on what Durling described as “a lot of withholding.”
He continued: “I’ve always loved that sort of performance, where more is withheld than revealed,” Murphy replied. “Because I think it gives space for the audience then, in the performance. That’s just a personal preference.”
“The script kind of demanded that [too] because there was so much about his interior landscape, about what he was wrestling with and grappling with, and and then obviously when we cut to those kind of molecular-level images that Chris has created,” Murphy told Durling.
Last month, Cillian Murphy shared his reaction to receiving his first ever Oscar nomination for his role in Oppenheimer.
Cillian will be up for the Oscar for Best Actor alongside Bradley Cooper, Colman Domingo, Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Wright. It was one of 13 nominations Oppenheimer picked up, leading the pack ahead of Poor Things, Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.
Murphy told Deadline that when he found out about the nomination, he was at his parents’ house in Ireland and was “sitting around having tea” before “the phone started popping”.
“I feel really privileged and I feel really lucky to be in a film that’s connected with people in a way that it has critically and commercially,” he said. “To be in a film that people have seen three and four and five times and they come up to you and tell you that…”
When asked if he’s processed the enormity of an Oscar nomination and what he might have thought when he was starting out, he added: “I don’t think you would have believed it or seen it as a possibility or anything like that; I just wanted to make theatre and make good theater, and then you do a small part in a short film and then a small part in a film — we’ve talked about this really gradual process and I think that’s why I’m able to deal with it and able to enjoy it.
“I’m like 48 and I’ve seen a lot and been doing it for 28 years now, so I think I can understand how significant it is to me and how meaningful it is to me and to other people… You know, it’s been a long time in the business. I think as a youngster it just didn’t seem a possibility anything like this.”