What could make an established actor drop everything, agree to sign on to an incredibly technically challenging World War II drama, and do it without even having a fully written character on the page to play? Those were the circumstances surrounding Christopher Nolan’s offer to Cillian Murphy to join the cast of 2017’s “Dunkirk.” As the filmmaker recalled with Murphy elsewhere in the EW interview, “In the draft that you read, your character it was underwritten and unfinished. My pitch was, come with me, spend three weeks on a boat with Mark Rylance and Jack Lowden and Barry Keoghan et al. and we’ll figure it out.” They certainly did, but that could only come from having such a comfortable working relationship to begin with.
Nolan went on to explain:
“Trust is creatively liberating, because you feel like you can try things and there are no wrong answers, no one is going to punish you or make fun of you. It’s like, okay, let’s try a few different things and then trust the fundamental level of, okay, we will take you in a boat, we will sit you on top of an overturned hull and, at a signal, you will jump into the sea.”
Of course, Murphy didn’t just willingly climb on top of a dangerous set piece for the sake of a touching scene in “Dunkirk,” he reveals that he only did it because Nolan himself exposed himself and climbed first. With that level of trust between them, it makes perfect sense why Murphy jumped at the chance to sign “Oppenheimer.”
What magic will the two weave together this time? We’ll find out when “Oppenheimer” hits theaters on July 21, 2023.