‘Oppenheimer’: Robert Downey Jr. Says Cillian Murphy Made the Greatest ‘Sacrifice by a Lead Actor’ He’s Ever Seen in His 53-Year Career

Cillian Murphy is earning some of the best reviews of his career for leading Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer, but no praise might be higher than this rave from co-star Robert Downey Jr.: “I have never witnessed a greater sacrifice by a lead actor in my career,” the “Iron Man” star told People magazine about Murphy’s performance as J. Robert Oppenheimer.

“He knew it was going to be a behemoth ask when Chris called him,” Downey Jr. added. “But I think he also had the humility that is required to survive playing a role like this. We’d be like, ‘Hey, we got a three-day weekend. Maybe we’ll go antiquing in Santa Fe. What are you going to do?’ ‘Oh, I have to learn 30,000 words of Dutch. Have a nice time.’ But that’s the nature of the ask.”

“Oppenheimer” shot for 57 days, one of Nolan’s quickest film shoots, and Murphy is front and center in nearly every scene. The cast and crew lived together in the same hotel during the film’s production, but Murphy never joined his fellow ensemble for dinner due to the intensity of playing the lead role.

“Of course he didn’t want to come and have dinner with us,” Matt Damon previously told People magazine. “He couldn’t. His brain was just too full.”

Emily Blunt reasoned that Murphy did not attend cast dinners because “the sheer volume of what he had to take on and shoulder is so monumental.”

For Murphy, “Oppenheimer” marks the biggest leading role of his film career thus far. That kind of pressure isolated the actor. “You know that when you have those big roles, that responsibility, you feel it’s kind of overwhelming,” he told People.

Murphy also lost weight for the role, although he has not disclosed how much. The actor stars in the film as theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was tasked with leading the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the effort to create the atomic bomb. Downey Jr. stars as Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission who later persecuted Oppenheimer for being a Soviet spy.

“Chris had one of the most incredible leads in Cillian,” Florence Pugh added to People. “He is an actor that I have been watching for quite some time and have been desperate to work with for ages. You’d have to be mad to say no. It was truly one of the best experiences that I’ve had.”

“Working with him was hugely impressive,” she added. “Every single day he shows up knowing every single possible way, intonation, inflection of how to bring this character to life. That was hugely impressive to me. There’s a reason why he is one of the greats.”

“Oppenheimer” is now playing in theaters nationwide from Universal Pictures.

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