Cillian Murphy Screen Tested for ‘Batman’ Before the Role Went to Christian Bale

Nolan instead cast Murphy for the role of Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow in 'The Dark Knight' trilogy.

(Photo by Mike Marsland / WireImage), (Photo by Robin L Marshall / Getty Images)

Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy tried out to play Batman in Christopher Nolan's trilogy film series before Christian Bale went on to take the lead role.

In an interview with Deadline, Nolan and Murphy talk about their working relationship, which led to the two reflecting on Murphy’s screen test leading up to the Nolan-helmed production of Batman. According to the story, the two got together for the first time in Los Angeles for a meeting and connected right off the bat, leading to Murphy getting added to Nolan's roster of actors. 

"But I think at the time you were quite a bit… more slight than you are now," recalled Nolan. "You walked in, and I remember thinking, 'Are you really going to be able to be Batman?'"

Nolan wanted to see what Murphy could do, so he had him shoot a screen test and read some of Bruce Wayne's lines. Nolan shot the screentest on a 35mm camera on a full soundstage with professional lighting to show his production crew "what this was going to be." 

"I just remember a sort of ripple of excitement going through the crew," Nolan said. "We tested everyone as Bruce Wayne, and we tested them as Batman, and the thing that Christian had that was so striking was that he understood that so much of acting is about reality. So much of acting is about emotional truth."

He continued, "And when you put on a costume like the Batsuit, you have to become this icon. Christian had this crazy energy that he just directed. He'd figured out how that worked and what that would be — the way Bruce Wayne does in the film. He adopts this persona. It's a very specific thing. And he tore a hole on the screen as Batman. It was like, there was no question."

Last year in an interview on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, Murphy admitted that he wasn't the right actor to play the Caped Crusader after he tried out for the role. According to Murphy, he wore Val Kilmer's costume from the 1995 film Batman Forever and just knew this wasn't the role for him.

"We met up here in L.A.," Murphy said. "He for some reason wanted me to screen test for Batman, which I think I knew — and he knew — I was wrong for. But I did the test, and then he saw something in that and cast me as Scarecrow [in Batman Begins] and we continued on making movies."

He added, "I don't think I'm the physical specimen to play Bruce Wayne. [Christian Bale] transformed himself into that role and he’s done it many, many times. I think he defined that role as Batman.”

Even though Bale got the role, Murphy still appeared in the Dark Knight trilogy as Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow. That role opened the door for Murphy to star in several of Nolan's films, including Inception, Dunkirk, and Oppenheimer, which won him a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award nomination.

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