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Batman Begins: How Cillian Murphy Batman Screen Test Led to Scarecrow

Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan and star Cillian Murphy reflect on Batman screen test before cast as Scarecrow in Dark Knight Trilogy.

To say that 2005's Batman Begins led to the Caped Crusader's renaissance in the live-action superhero film genre would be an understatement since it's due to director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale leading the way. Despite Nolan already set having Bale in the title role, he wanted to recruit Cillian Murphy to screen test anyway before he ended up playing one of the film's villains in Dr. Jonathan "Scarecrow" Crane. While promoting their upcoming biopic Oppenheimer, the two spoke to Entertainment Weekly about what could have been.

Batman Begins: How Cillian Murphy Batman Screen Test Led to Scarecrow
Cillian Murphy Screen Test as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Begins (2005). Image courtesy of Warner Bros

Cillian Murphy's Screen Test as Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins

"When we had our first conversation, I think both of us knew that you weren't going to wind up playing Batman," Nolan said. "But I really wanted to get on set with you; I wanted to get you on film. We did those screen tests very elaborately, on 35mm, with a little set. There was just an electric atmosphere in the crew when you started to perform." The director set up test screens for both actors before the pitch came. "We did two scenes — there was a Bruce Wayne scene and a Batman scene — and I made sure that executives came down and watched what you were doing on set," Nolan said. "Everybody was so excited by watching you perform that when I then said to them, 'Okay, Christian Bale is Batman, but what about Cillian to play Scarecrow?' There was no dissent. All the previous Batman villains had been played by huge movie stars: Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, that kind of thing. That was a big leap for them, and it really was purely on the basis of that test. So that's how you got to play Scarecrow."

Scarecrow would join Liam Neeson's Ra's Al Ghul in the 2005 film. Murphy would reprise the role in both Nolan sequels, The Dark Knight in 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. The actor only made a cameo in the second film that, centered on Heath Ledger's Joker and Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent/Two-Face as the villains. Murphy's role would be expanded in the 2012 film acting as a judge with Bane (Tom Hardy) taking over Gotham after incapacitating Bale's Batman by breaking his back.

The Peaky Blinders star became one of Nolan's favorites beyond the Dark Knight trilogy with roles in his previous World War II drama in 2017's Dunkirk and 2010's Inception. Murphy plays the title character in the upcoming Oppenheimer, which features an all-star cast including Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman, Jack Quaid, Josh Hartnett, Alden Ehrenreich, Matthew Modine, and Rami Malek. The film comes to theaters on July 21. For more, you can check out the interview here.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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