Cillian Murphy Reflects: SAG-AFTRA Conversation on ‘28 Days Later,’ ‘Batman Begins,’ and ‘Oppenheimer’

Cillian Murphy has long been heralded as one of the most versatile actors of his generation. Known for his intense, transformative performances, Murphy has captivated audiences with his ability to disappear into a wide range of characters. In a recent SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations session, Murphy delved into his journey through some of his most iconic roles, offering insights into his craft and the experiences that have shaped his career.

Early Career and Breakthrough

Cillian Murphy’s journey into the world of acting began with a love for theater. Born in Cork, Ireland, Murphy initially pursued law but soon realized his passion lay elsewhere. He joined the Corcadorca Theatre Company, where he honed his skills on stage. Murphy’s early work in theater provided him with a solid foundation, allowing him to explore complex characters and narratives.

His breakout role came in 2002 with Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic horror film, ‘28 Days Later.’ Murphy’s portrayal of Jim, a bicycle courier who awakens from a coma to find London deserted and overrun by zombies, was nothing short of electrifying. The film not only revitalized the zombie genre but also showcased Murphy’s ability to convey vulnerability and resilience.

Murphy recalled the intense preparation for the role, which included a rigorous physical regimen to capture Jim’s gaunt appearance. Filming in a deserted London presented unique challenges, with Murphy often performing in conditions that heightened the sense of isolation and dread. The actor’s commitment to the role paid off, earning him critical acclaim and propelling him into the spotlight.

Transition to Hollywood: ‘Batman Begins’

The success of ‘28 Days Later’ opened doors for Murphy in Hollywood, leading to his collaboration with director Christopher Nolan in ‘Batman Begins’ (2005). Murphy’s role as Dr. Jonathan Crane, also known as Scarecrow, marked a significant turning point in his career. The character, a twisted psychiatrist who uses fear as a weapon, allowed Murphy to delve into the darker aspects of human psychology.

Working on a major blockbuster was a new experience for Murphy, who praised Nolan’s visionary approach and meticulous attention to detail. The actor shared anecdotes about the camaraderie on set and the creative process behind bringing Scarecrow to life. Murphy’s performance added a layer of psychological horror to the film, making Scarecrow one of Batman’s most memorable adversaries.

The collaboration with Nolan proved to be a fruitful one, with Murphy later appearing in other Nolan films, including ‘Inception’ (2010) and ‘Dunkirk’ (2017). Each project offered Murphy the opportunity to explore different facets of his talent, further cementing his status as a versatile and dependable actor.

Recent Acclaim: ‘Oppenheimer’

In 2023, Murphy reunited with Nolan for the highly anticipated biographical film ‘Oppenheimer,’ where he portrays J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist known as the father of the atomic bomb. The role presented Murphy with one of his most challenging and rewarding experiences to date. The film delves into the moral and ethical complexities faced by Oppenheimer and his pivotal role in World War II.

Murphy described the extensive research and preparation required to portray such a multifaceted historical figure. From studying Oppenheimer’s scientific achievements to understanding his personal struggles and philosophical dilemmas, Murphy immersed himself in the character. The actor emphasized the importance of authenticity and empathy in bringing Oppenheimer’s story to life.

The anticipation surrounding ‘Oppenheimer’ has been palpable, with fans eager to see Murphy’s interpretation of this complex character. Murphy expressed his admiration for Nolan’s storytelling prowess and the thematic depth of the film, which explores the profound impact of scientific discovery and the moral responsibilities that accompany it.

Acting Philosophy and Career Reflections

Throughout the conversation, Murphy shared insights into his acting philosophy and approach to selecting roles. He emphasized the importance of versatility and the desire to continually challenge himself as an actor. Murphy’s choices reflect a commitment to diverse and meaningful projects, ranging from indie films to blockbuster franchises.

Murphy reflected on how his experiences in ‘28 Days Later,’ ‘Batman Begins,’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ have shaped his career and personal growth. Each role, he noted, has taught him valuable lessons about humanity, resilience, and the complexities of the human condition. Murphy’s dedication to his craft and his willingness to take risks have made him a standout performer in the industry.


Cillian Murphy’s journey through the film industry is a testament to his talent, versatility, and dedication. From his breakout role in ‘28 Days Later’ to his collaborations with Christopher Nolan in ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Oppenheimer,’ Murphy has consistently delivered compelling and memorable performances. His reflections during the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations session provide a deeper understanding of his craft and the experiences that have defined his career.

As fans eagerly await the release of ‘Oppenheimer,’ Murphy’s contributions to the film industry continue to be celebrated. His ability to bring complex characters to life and his commitment to exploring diverse narratives have solidified his place as one of the most respected actors of his generation.

Call to Action

We invite readers to share their thoughts on Cillian Murphy’s performances in the comments below. What are your favorite Cillian Murphy roles, and why? Additionally, explore the trailers and clips from ‘28 Days Later,’ ‘Batman Begins,’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ to witness Murphy’s transformative performances.

For those interested in gaining more insights from notable actors, follow the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations for more in-depth interviews and discussions. Cillian Murphy’s journey is just one of many inspiring stories shared by talented actors, offering a glimpse into the world of film and the art of storytelling.

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