In the box office blizzard that has seen Barbie and Oppenheimer continually drum up excitement over the past week, it seems as though there never has been more of a worldwide focus on Oppenheimer's lead actor, Cillian Murphy, than now.


The leading star of Christopher Nolan's latest box office hit, which has premiered to critical acclaim, Murphy stars as the titular J Robert Oppenheimer, "father of the atomic bomb".

But it turns out that it may not have been Murphy's only brush with playing the American scientist, as it turns out that Murphy was also considered to play Oppenheimer in TV series Manhattan.

Benny Safdie is Edward Teller and Cillian Murphy is J Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer, with Safdie looking at Murphy
Benny Safdie as Edward Teller and Cillian Murphy as J Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer. Universal Pictures

Speaking about their time on the series, Lila Byock (The Leftovers), a writer on Manhattan and wife of series creator Sam Shaw (Castle Rock), told Vanity Fair: “When we were casting Oppenheimer, we went through a whole series of different ideas.”

Shaw said: “We wanted Oppenheimer to feel both like he possessed a certain undeniable charisma, a presence onstage, but also that he was playing a different instrument. He needed to feel alien, or other, in some ways.”

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He then revealed: “Cillian Murphy was on that list.”

“It still smarts that we didn’t get to tell the story in its fullness as we had hoped,” Shaw added.

The short-lived show premiered on WGN America back in 2014 and was named after The Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic weapons. The show wasn't intended to be historically accurate, but focused on fictional character Frank Winter (played by John Benjamin Hickey), a physics professor who led the Manhattan Project.

Although he wasn't a main character for the first season, J Robert Oppenheimer appeared in the first instalment and held a meatier role in season 2, although that was to be the last run for the series as a whole. Although Murphy wasn't part of the series, the Manhattan TV role was played by actor Daniel London.

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TV series possibilities aside, Murphy continues to be at the forefront of critical acclaim for Nolan's recent cinematic marvel, with fellow Oppenheimer actors Emily Blunt and Matt Damon stating that Murphy was the perfect man for the role.

Chatting exclusively to, Blunt said of Murphy's portrayal: "When I read the script, I found him to have so much duality to him.

"And he was sort of the perfect actor to play him because Cillian is so mesmeric in that way, and I think I was uncertain as to what his feelings on it were, and how much he was atoning for his sins by playing the martyr at the end, or how much he was truly traumatised by it.

"I think it's the delicacy of Cillian's performance when I watched it – he's such a tragic figure to me, that I wasn't expecting to feel so pulled into him and feel for him."

Damon added of Oppenheimer: "He lived the most consequential life and there were no easy answers for him, or for us, in kind of investigating his story. And so yeah, I think Cillian was the exact person to play him for sure."

Oppenheimer is available to watch in UK cinemas now. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


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